Bacterial cultures that is. After all, many lacto-fermented foods (which utilize lacto-bacteria) contain cabbage as an ingredient. Its the principle component of sauerkraut and a staple for creating kimchi and other curious combinations. So whats so cool about about cabbage? This hardy brassica has a high water content; thus, when combined with salt then pressed, squeezed, mashed, and mauled, the vegetable releases its waters, giving way to a salty brine. Fermenting vegetables requires liquid to submerge the compressed matter, so cabbage is a bit of a celebrity in the land of lacto-fermentation.
After my first shot fermenting hot peppers for a Tabasco stlye hot sauce, I decided to test the salty waters of sauerkraut. A staple of Eastern European cuisine, sauerkraut is a popular sandwich topping or side dish made of 2 staple ingredients- cabbage and salt. I learned a series of simple steps to successful sauerkraut in a workshop with Peter Glantz at Cluck!
Though steps are straightforward, lacto-fermentation doesn’t have a scripted recipe for success. It is the final step of the sauerkraut process (waiting) where things can get interesting. The result of each ferment is characterized by the environment to which it was exposed. A vast multitude of bacterial strains are naturally present in the air around us and certain strains (those able to tolerate the salty brine) are allowed to invade the concoction in order to process the vegetable matter. There’s a wild world of bacteria out there, and you never know what your going to get! This can be a source of fright for some. It often raises the question, “how can I tell if its good bacteria or bad bacteria?!”. Here’s an answer from Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and the Art of Fermentation, at the recent Boston Fermentation Festival:
The festival, which included a number of speakers, delicious fermented foods and beverages, a “kraut mob”, and even a culture sharing table, inspired me to continue experimenting! The day after the festival I created a mighty mash-up of cabbage, carrots, beets, ginger, garlic, horseradish root, dandelion root, wakame seaweed, thai hot peppers, celery leaves, coriander seeds, and SALT.
Submerged below the pink liquid, this majestic mix will sit, allowing time for the bacteria to ferment the sugars of the vegetables. Ferments can sit for a few days or a few months, depending on the desired flavor, texture, and probiotic content. During this process, the vegetable’s vitamins and minerals are also made more bio-available for our digestive systems. With nutrients more readily absorbed, vegetables provide more vitamins and minerals fermented than raw.
Learn more about fermentation and other modes of food preservation at The Good Earth Harvest Festival this Saturday! We’ll have some local experts there to answer your questions and show you the tips and tricks to successful food storage. You too can learn about cultures and cabbage with Peter Glantz- he’s teaching his Sauerkraut Workshop at 1:00!