When people find out that I have gurgling vats of fermented things in my kitchen, the first things they say involve safety and food poisoning. I think there is a misconception that aging food or fermenting food equates rotting food. Although fermented food is aging, I like to think of its as aging with style. What I mean, is that fermenting is controlled decaying of the food you start with, into a completely different food, that is healthy for different reasons.
My advice to anyone trying to eat fermented foods is to start slow. A tablespoon of real sauerkraut alongside a richer food, like a piece of beef, will not only benefit the flavor of the dish, the sauerkraut will help your body digest the meat itself. Possibly, there is nothing valid in this, but it’s how I think.
If you ferment, there are some things you should know.
1. Fermenting is bubbly, smelly and sometimes kind of creepy.
2. Fermented food has a tingly feeling on your tongue and many times a natural carbonation. It’s yummy, but weird if you don’t expect it.
3. Your family and friends will think something has dies or gone terribly wrong in your kitchen if you even dream of letting a vat of sauerkraut work on the counter.
4. Once you start to like fermented food, you will begin to crave it. I think that is a basic and natural part of us being human.
If you want to get started with fermenting, its not hard. Try to make something easy, like sauerkraut
Glass jar to make it in
Something to seal out the air, like a bag filled with water that will squeeze down onto the top of the cabbage and keep it under the brine.
Shred cabbage fine and place a layer in the glass jar.
Sprinkle canning salt over it
Mash down cabbage as you go, to sort of bruise it and help release the juice.
Repeat until jar is full, with juice covering the cabbage
Fill bag with water, seal and press that onto the top of the shredded cabbage, salt,juice layer.
Every other day, remove bag, clean off scum that formed on the bag and the top of the liquid if any. Check that cabbage is under the liquid at all times. Add salty brine to keep it that way if needed.
Wait for a couple of weeks and your sauerkraut is done. Don’t leave it in the main part of your kitchen or it will smell unholy-this is good and means its working but your friends and family will not understand. Enjoy!