by Mireille Bourgeois
A few months ago, my brother and I took a Food Preservation Workshop through Transition Bay, an interesting group that helps look to the future by way of the past, for feasible techniques to sustainable living, agriculture, and the family kitchen (and cold storage as it were). You can find some of the recipes and handouts given at the workshop here. Since that workshop, my brother gifted me a food dehydrator, and my boyfriend’s parents gifted me a pressure canner. I am all happy and set for the new garden season. Bring it on I say. Since I canned my tomatoes (in salsa) last year, I’ve been enjoying some of the fresh taste of the garden all winter. I’m looking forward to trying this in a more expansive way with my new garden this year, by drying some beans, and canning everything I don’t want to over-salt or vinegar.
One of the speakers at the food preservation workshop spoke about fermentation. It’s widely known that fermentation has important nutritional value. From what I’ve read, we as the amazing biological feat that we are have our own eco-system and its core is mostly in our gut. I’ve posted about good bacteria in my yogurt making post, but lactofermentation of vegetables goes one step further.
So, I bought a large cabbage, and then there was kimchi and sauerkraut. Lactofermentation is the process in which lactic acid bacteria converts sugars and starches in food into lactic acid. It is this lactic acid which preserves the food and prevents it from spoiling. The process makes food easier to digest and apparently increases vitamins and important enzymes that benefit our bodies. Food that you can ferment are: vegetables, fruit, milk, grains, legumes and meat.
For most fermentation processes you’ll need salt. If you don’t like or want to use salt, you may substitute whey in fermenting recipes. Whey can be collected from yogurt by pouring the fresh, plain yogurt through a cheesecloth, and suspending for a few hours. The liquid which separates out is the whey. Whey can be kept in the fridge in a glass jar for quite a while (6 months!). The general recommended substitution for salt to whey is: 3/4 of the salt in a recipe can be replaced by whey, do keep in mind however that whey is a dairy bi-product so if you’re lactose intolerant, it may not be your best option. This article is an interesting read on other substitutions for salt or whey. All this being said, if you’re not eating a ridiculous amount of fermented product (maybe once a week is recommended to get the good nutrients from it, although some believe eating fermented foods everyday is the healthiest way), then personally I wouldn’t worry about the salt content, but your own health is your decision! One thing about the whey however is that it speeds up the fermenting process so your ferment will need to be eaten quicker, and the salt usually helps keep the veggies more crunchy.
SO, here’s the food preservation workshop recipe for fermenting vegetables (you can replace the cabbage with another type of veggie below if you choose).
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 TBS of caraway seeds (this adds a really lovely flavor to your ferment)
1 TBS of sea salt (use salt that is high in minerals like himalayan salt. If using a corse grain salt use 1.5 more than with fine grain salt.)
a couple of sterilized glass jars with lids
two small saucer or plates
one large bowl
one pestle or meat pounder
In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt and whey. Pound with a wooden pounder or pestle until juices are released (about 10 minutes). Place cabbage in quart-sized, wide mouth mason jars and press down VERY firmly with the pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The important thing is not to leave any air bubbles which can make your mixture mold (oxygen is not the fermenter/canner’s friend). The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. I saved some of the larger cabbage leaves and the core to press down my shredded cabbage and make sure it stayed submerged in the liquid.
I first put the lid on it but the lid expanded so much that the bottle started leaking. I then remembered that in the workshop, the instructor said it was ok to put a dinner plate on top of the ferment (to make sure the cabbage is submerged completely) for the fermenting process and then, when the bubbling stops, to put a lid on it and transfer it to cold storage. We’ll see what comes out of it, it’s been fermenting for a week, the liquid still looks healthy and it’s not stinky at all. You want to let it ferment between 3 to 10 days at room temperature and then between 3-6 weeks in cold storage. Really, the ferment can be eaten as soon as it’s made, but it improves with age. I’m not an experienced fermenter (is that a word?) but I’d bring the sauerkraut in the fridge after it’s finished fermenting. Any other tips, feel free to comment!
I only used half of my cabbage so I decided to make my first kimchi too. I didn’t experiment much it being my first kimchi, I used this kimchi recipe straight up, except that I used anther type of cabbage. The initial taste is SO GOOD, I can’t wait to taste it when it’s done fermenting.