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Fermentation

I seem to start most of my recipe preambles with a tragic food story.

I studied German for 5 years in a private girls’ secondary school in the 80s (yeah… so useful). Anyway, the text books were stuck in the 70s and the teachers were stuck in the 50s. Probably the best thing about German was that I wasn’t in a science or maths classroom. Something I now regret, but I was one of those kids you couldn’t tell anything. The other good thing about German was the giggle factor. That language just IS funny (mein Vater *snigger*). It sounds funny and depending on how you interpret some words, you can get some pretty funny translations. “Sauer”, for example, is really what it sounds like (sour), but you can also interpret it as “angry”. “Kraut” refers to the cabbage, but it can also be a herb in a broader sense. Angry herb? HAHAHAHAAHAAAAAAA… no? Maybe it’s just me.

I remember one teacher bringing in some German food from time to time and it was all, without exception, awful. Pfeffernüsse? What the…? This is a biscuit?? And sauerkraut… I can’t even… The stuff we ate came from the supermarket and looked, smelled and tasted gross. I think it had a lot of vinegar in it.

As a result, I’ve never really been keen on making sauerkraut, even though I’ve since eaten sauerkraut and it was really yum. No vinegar, for a start. Just salt. That’s it. Salt. And not much salt either.

I’ve had some veggies backing up in my crisper lately, so I’ve finally taken the plunge, put aside my fear of botulism and made some angry herb. As I started googling around, I realised it doesn’t just have to be cabbage. You can whack any old thing in there (just about) and so I did.

I used up my last watermelon radish, half a bunch of carrots, a whole Sugarloaf cabbage and then some and even one of the beetroots I’ve had loitering at the bottom of my crisper for weeks. Man, they keep well. The beets meant my sauerkraut salad is very red and I would have liked the pretty colours of the carrots and radishes to show through, but what the hey. It still looks great. Just very red.

I won’t know the results for another week, so this recipe isn’t fully tested. But I hope it will encourage you to give fermenting a go at home. It’s super easy. Just don’t poison yourself.

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Serves: 2 x 550ml jars Prep Time:

Ingredients

  • 1.5 - 2 Sugarloaf cabbages
  • 1/2 bunch of carrots, scrubbed
  • 1 watermelon radish, scrubbed
  • 1 beetroot, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon Murray River salt (or any salt, I just like using Australian salt)

Instructions

First, sterilise the lids and jars.

  1. Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly in hot water, drain a bit, then put upside-down in a cold oven. Heat oven to 100ºC. When it reaches temperature, leave the jars in for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove. They need to be completely dry. Turn off the oven when you remove the jars.
  2. Wash the lids in hot soapy water, then boil them in a saucepan of water for 5 minutes. Drain and let dry. You can put them in the cooling oven for a bit to make sure they are completely dry.

While the jars and lids are drying, prepare the vegetable mix.

  1. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbages, wash and set aside.
  2. Cut the cabbages in half, remove the heart and thinly slice. Place in a large bowl.
  3. Grate the carrots, radish and beetroot and add to the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables.
  5. Make sure your hands are clean and massage the vegetables and salt until they are soft and very watery, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. When the jars are cool and the mixture is quite mushy, tightly pack them with the mixture and pour the liquid evenly between the two jars, leaving a small gap at the top.
  7. The liquid should completely cover the mixture. If there isn’t enough liquid you can top up the jars with a brine made with a ratio of 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon salt.
  8. Fold up the outer cabbage leaves you put aside and squish them on top of the vegetable mixture to help it stay tightly packed and covered by the liquid.
    Wipe the rims (with something clean and dry, like a fresh tea towel) and loosely seal with a lid, so the air can escape as it ferments over the next few days.
  9. Leave the jars on a shelf somewhere cool and away from direct sunlight for 7 days. Check periodically to see if you need to release some air from the jar as fermentation progresses.

After a few days, the cabbage on top might start to look a bit erky. If so, remove it and replace with fresh cabbage leaves (or something else vegetable-y, like carrot or beetroot tops) to keep the mixture pressed down and submerged in the brine.

If you see any scum develop, remove it with a spoon.

After a week, you can eat it! Remove the cabbage leaves (or whatever) on top and keep in the fridge. It should last a few weeks.

1 March, 2018 0 comment
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