Feeling Like A Fermentista
Our family friend Kirsten Shockey, of the excellent fermented foods blog One Crock Artist, introduced me to this great new term: fermentista. While my last batch of sauerkraut left me feeling more like a mold-and-botulismista (no? No good?), my most recent foray into the world of cabbage and salty brines has been a huge success! I feel like I can now say, with confidence and a wide grin, that I am a fermentista, bebe.
As I’ve no doubt shared before, I am a huge fan of Farmhouse Culture, a Santa Cruz brand (yus!) that makes the best sauerkraut I’ve ever tasted. The founder, Kathryn Lukas, was featured in Martha Stewart Living in 2011 and shared the instructions for her classic caraway recipe (get it here), which is a delectable gem. But my favorite of the FC flavors is the garlic dill pickle kraut. (What can I say, I’m a Claussen gal.) It’s a crunchy, pickly, garlicky jar of deliciousness and I wanted to do my best to replicate it. Using the recipe from Living, and then guessing about the amounts of the other ingredients, I actually managed to produce a kraut quite similar to the FC fave. And it is so damn good.
Here’s how I did it:
- 1 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced or shredded with a mandoline, 3 whole leaves (if you’re using three jars) reserved
- Fresh dill, lots
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced into circles or half circles
- Course sea salt
- 3 glass jars (I used pint-size wire-bale jars purchased at Whole Foods), sterilized (but make sure they’re completely cool to the touch before filling with cabbage)
- Wide-mouth funnel (not at all necessary, but useful!)
- Tongs (again, not necessary, but useful!)
- Large mixing bowl
After twenty minutes, massage the veggies to release the liquid (brine). Do so for about five minutes. If you’re not seeing much liquid, add more salt and let stand for an additional 15-20 minutes, then massage.
Next, pack your jars with the cabbage mixture. As you can see, I used a wide-mouth funnel and tongs. Super efficient. Make sure the mixture is really packed in; you should see the brine start to rise up the jar and submerge the vegetables.
You want the brine to cover the cabbage by at least an inch, so pour any remaining brine into the jars. Aim to leave 1-2 inches of space at the top of the jar. This will keep the liquids from bubbling over and will reduce the amount of brine you need to add in the coming weeks.
Cover the top of the mixture with the reserved cabbage leaves, folding them over until they fit snuggly inside. According to Lukas, the leaves need not be fully submerged in the brine. Their cover will help prevent mold from forming on top of the brine.
Next, close jars tightly and place in a non-reactive container with a lip at least 2-inches high, otherwise you might have a stinky spillage situation on your hands. Store in a cool, dark place for 15-21 days, but be sure to check in on them every five days. At these five-day markers, quickly open and close the lid, releasing any pressure that has built up inside. Do not be surprised if the brine levels have changed. If they are too low, add more brine (a mixture of 1 cup water to 1tbs salt will do the trick). If they are high, be careful not to let the brine bubble out. After 15 days, give the kraut a taste and decide whether to keep it fermenting longer. If you’re looking for a more sour, dare-I-say krautier, taste, let it ferment a few days more. Also, depending on the temperature of the space in which you’re storing the jars, you might want a shorter or longer ferment period. I kept the kraut in a cabinet above the fridge where it stayed around 70-72 degrees. 21 days was a perfect ferment time and the results were sour and crunchy, just the way I like it. I’ll share images of the finished product next week. Your mouth will water!
Thanks to my family, especially Mutti, for supporting me in this endeavor!