ISOLATION FERMENTATION – SAUERKRAUT

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By Alex Dance

We’ve been spending a lot of time in our homes the last few months and, based on the baking related spike in Google searches, a lot of people have already watched their way through Tiger King and are looking for something else to occupy their days.

Well, there is no better way to pass time than the very, very slow hobby
of fermentation.

There are plenty of places to start when it comes to exploring the wonderful world of bacteria, yeast, and microorganisms but sauerkraut is a fantastic place to start.

In a pinch, you can make it with two ingredients (cabbage and salt) and five simple steps.

Step 1: SHOP IT

You’ll need a few things to make sauerkraut:

• Cabbage (red or green) – 2kg

• Salt – 60g

• 1 tsp of caraway seeds and 1 tsp of mustard seeds (or whatever other flavouring you want)

• A large bowl.

• Mason jars.

Step 2: CHOP IT

Chop the cabbage in half and put the flat side of one half down and slice the cabbage into straight strips. Try to cut them a quarter inch thick for substance and crunch when it gets to its final form.

Step 3: SALT IT

A lot of complicated bio-chemical reactions happen during the fermentation process. They are fascinating and worth looking up, but for your first time round all you need to know is that the whole process is handled by this step.

Add the salt to the chopped cabbage and toss to coat. Leave it for 15 minutes to sweat, as this will make the cabbage more pliable and easier to work with.

Soon you will see a difference in the cabbage and you can now start pounding it to get the water out. Most types of fermentation require you to make a salty broth but cabbage releases enough liquid that it can ferment in its own juices. To pound, you just need a blunt instrument (or your fists).

You will know it’s ready when you pick up a handful and water runs steadily out of it when you squeeze (roughly 10-20 minutes).

Step 4: JAR IT

Now you need to get your cabbage into a jar and let the funky fermentation process take place. Mix with any flavours or aromatics you are using. Anything works here, from caraway seeds or juniper berries, to raw ingredients like grated beetroot or chopped jalapenos.

You can buy specialised fermentation crops but $5 mason jars work fine. Airtight jars can shatter as the pressure from the gas builds up so it is a good idea to buy jars with hinged lids so your sauerkraut can ‘burp’ itself (although this part is a lot less messier if you get to it first).

Pack all the cabbage and liquid inside. It is important to make sure the cabbage is completely submerged. Use weights to keep it down if necessary because having your sauerkraut exposed in the early stages of the ferment is the one thing that can cause it to go bad.

Step 5: JUST WAIT

Put the jar in a cool place out of direct sunlight and wait for the lactic acid bacteria to do its work.

How long should you wait? Well, your sauerkraut won’t actually spoil, but in terms of flavour developing over time, there is a point of diminishing return. That point will change based on different factors but there is one way to be sure. When the lactic acid bacteria have done their job they will stop producing gas. So once the bubbles stop – your sauerkraut is good to go. 

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