How can just cabbage and salt taste so good?!? Even the simplest fermentation creates miraculous transformation, so it's no wonder people become obsessed with the process. If you're thinking of dabbling, sauerkraut is a great place to start. It's so easy you don't even need a proper recipe, just follow these basic steps:
- Cut up cabbage, saving a few of the outer leaves.
- Massage salt into it the chopped cabbage, about 1 teaspoon per pound.* This will release water from the chopped leaves.
- Press the chopped cabbage into a jar, food-grade bucket, or fermenting crock until enough water comes out to cover the cabbage.
- Put the reserved leaves on top of the chopped cabbage.
- Weight this with something clean and nonreactive (I use a jar of water or small plate) to keep the cabbage submerged in it's own liquid.
- Put a cloth or loose lid over the top to keep dust and bugs out.
- Let this ferment at room temperature for 3-10 days, until it tastes sour enough for your taste.
*If you don't have a kitchen scale, weigh the cabbages in the supermarket (or check your receipt). An average head is about 3-4 pounds.
To get a nice rosy hue, mix red and green cabbages. The batch pictured came from one red cabbage and three green ones (which yielded about four quarts). If you want to learn more about fermenting foods, I recommend reading Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation, the best and most thorough book on the subject.
Simple Science: The salt you add, and lactic acid produced by the fermentation process create an environment hospitable to the "good" bacteria that are doing the fermenting and inhospitabale to "bad" bacteria. That's how you end up with something delicious and safe to eat!
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