Monday, February 22, 2016

I'm going to try to more active again on this blog.  I have become more interested in home preservation of Market produce and intend to make more posts like the last series on sauerkraut.

I received a comment on the sauerkraut post asking if using a stopper to seal an air lock in a plastic Ball jar lid was a good as using a grommet.  I have used both and I believe the stopper provides a better seal.  In either case it is important to get clean cut circular hole by using a spur type drill bit. If you fill the fermentation vessel to near the top I strongly recommend placing it in a non reactive pan to catch any leaks. 

I remember my parents fermenting sauerkraut in an open crock.   The cabbage was covered with a plate or some disk.  The disk was weighted to keep the cabbage below the surface of the brine and the crock was covered with a towel to keep out bugs.  The brine and the CO2 trapped below the towel was enough to prevent aerobic fermentation

The crock method is still used so it is not necessary to use an air lock.  Still, I have never  lost a batch to mold so I consider it inexpensive insurance and I intend to keep using them.  Since the leaks I have observed have usually been between the plastic lid and the glass jar I have started using a rubber gasket between the lid and jar.

My preferred system is a 1/2 gal wide mouth Ball jar with a plastic lid fitted with a wine makers air lock.  I cover the shredded cabbage with a large cabbage leaf and press it below the brine by inserting a 1/2 or 1 cup Ball jelly jar inside the wide mouth jar.  Use a gasket and screw the cap on.

Glenn Thompson

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Here is a jolly fellow I saw at the market.

I am not certain how good a marketing strategy this is; but  the people I saw stopping to look were amused and wanted to take photographs.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring 2014

The market is back in Spring mode. Here is a photo from last week.   There really are a lot of vendors coming; early plants and flowers, salad greens from the greenhouses and hoop houses and of course apples and root veggies that store well.

The first real crop of 2014 may be the sprouts. Here is photo from a week or two before.

 The earliest native outdoor flowers are the pussy willows. They are now at the Market too.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sauerkraut Saga - Part 6 - The Red Cabbage Results

I fermented the red cabbage for about 2 weeks.  In the first week little fermentation was observed.   In the second week there was evidence of fermentation by action in the air lock bubbler.  This demonstrated that the plastic lid on the mason jar was a sufficient seal to force the excess carbon dioxide to be released through the air lock. 

After about two weeks I opened the jar.  The cabbage had a sauerkraut smell so I transferred the contents to several smaller mason jars and placed them in the refrigerator  The cooler temperature will stop, or at least greatly reduce the rate of fermentation.  I also sampled the sauerkraut. 

The sauerkraut was a very beautiful bright red color.   It was mild by commercial sauerkraut standards.   Also, it was fresher tasting with a cruncher texture than most commercial sauerkraut.  The taste was between commercial sauerkraut and a coleslaw with a vinegar dressing.

I gave some to the neighbor that provided the cabbage.  I also gave some to a vendor at the Market that grows cabbage and expressed interest in the process of lacto-fermentation.  Both my neighbor and the Market vendor stated that they liked the sauerkraut.

I will do this again next year, but I may do things a bit differently. For example; I will ferment the cabbage longer.  I will also try fermenting additional vegetables.

I like to experiment in making traditional ethnic foods.  If this is also interesting to you, I encourage you to try lacto-fermentation of cabbage and other vegetables.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sauerkraut Saga - Part 5 - A Recipe and My First Attempt

There are many recipes for sauerkraut on the web. The books and website of Sandor Katz are very good sources of information; 

The most common recipe is 3 tablespoons of non-iodized salt for every five pounds of cabbage. The cabbage is shredded and then mixed with the salt. The cabbage releases water to form a brine. The cabbage and the brine are packed into a vessel and allowed to ferment anaerobically. 

I started with the two heads of organic red cabbage supplied by my neighbor (Part 1 of this series).  I removed the outer, slightly dried leaves and discarded them.   I removed and reserved several more leaves. 

I cut the cabbages into quarters and removed the hard center core.  I then shredded the cabbage using the slicer blade of a food processor.   You can use a knife or a manoline if you prefer. 

I weighed the cabbage after slicing.   If you have a kitchen scale this is the best approach.   If you do not have a kitchen scale and there is a scale where you purchased the cabbage, weight it there and note the weight; but the weight as used will be slightly less.  If you grow your own cabbage and do not have a scale; the two average sized cabbages I used yielded about 2.5 lbs of shredded cabbage each. 

Place the sliced cabbage in a large non-reactive bowl and add the non-iodized salt (Part 4 of this series).   After you add the salt to the cabbage, mix well and then let it sit for about 1 hour. The cabbage will release a lot of moisture.   That water combines with the salt to create the brine. 

Pack the cabbage tightly into the fermenting vessels using a wooden spoon or other implement.   I used 2 quart wide mouth mason jars.  Do not fill the containers completely because the cabbage will expand during fermentation.  The two cabbages I used sufficiently filled two of the large mason jars. 

I folded the cabbage leaves I had reserved so that they would just fit in the mason jar and placed them in the jar over the shredded cabbage to keep it from floating up out of the brine.  I placed a small jelly jar in the mason jar over the cabbage leaves to keep everything submerged in the brine.  The cabbage and salt did not create quite enough brine to cover the cabbage so I made up a small amount of additional brine by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to a cup of water.  I used this to be certain that the cabbage was completely covered and would ferment anaerobically.

Finally, cover with a cloth, or screw on a cap, but keep it a loose fit or use an air lock.  I used the air lock shown in Part 4 of this series.  Place somewhere at cool room temperature. I suggest placing some container under the fermenting vessel in case there is sufficient expansion to cause the brine to overflow.  

Next the results.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sauerkraut Saga - Part 4 - Controlling the Air, Salt and Water

The primary variables that a home sauerkraut maker can control are; air, salt and water.  The secondary variables are temperature and light.   Here is some information I have collected from the web.

The lacto fermentation process is anerobic; that is, you do not want oxygen in the air to have access to the cabbage. The primary barrier is simply to submerge the cabbage in a brine (salt water) solution.  This has been used for centuries. Traditionally the cabbage, salt, and water are placed in a crock.  A weighted plate or other disc is used to keep the cabbage submerged. A cloth or other barrier is used over the crock to reduce air, insect, and possibly rodent access to the fermenting sauerkraut. 

The modern home sauerkraut maker has several approaches for lower risk production of small volumes.   The first is to use a mason jar as the fermenting vessel.  One average cabbage will be enough to fill one 2 quart mason jar. This is a very nice batch size to use to experiment.  You can also use any similar container like a large empty mayonnaise jar.

The traditional cloth over the crock is a poor barrier for undesirable items entering the fermentation vessel.   If you seal the mason jar tightly you risk that the carbon dioxide from the fermentation process can develop sufficient pressure to explode the jar.  I do not personally know of anyone that has exploded a mason jar, but a friend has exploded a few wine bottles making kombucha.  Messy at best, dangerous at worst. 

My suggestion is to use an air-lock system, a wine makers bubbler, to allow carbon dioxide to vent from the fermentation vessel without allowing air to enter.  One company, , sells a complete system of this type. You can make a very similar system by purchasing the components from a local home brew or wine making supply store.

Here is a photo of the system I used.  A plastic mason jar lid from Ace Barnes Hardware in Ann Arbor. A wine bubbler and rubber stopper from Adventures in Homebrewing in Scio Twp.  All I did was drill the hole in the plastic lid. Use a wood bit with an outside spur to cut a clean hole. 

The salt you use should be pickling salt, kosher salt, or sea salt. The important thing is to avoid salt with iodine or other additives that might discolor the fermented sauerkraut. 

Finally the water.   Tap water contains chlorine or chlorine compounds to prevent bacterial growth. For home made sauerkraut we want to encourage the lacto bacteria to grow.  In most cabbage fermentation you will not need to add much water.  When you do add water it is best to use carbon filtered water, well water, or water from other sources that that does not contain chlorine or chlorine compounds. 

The best fermenting temperature is cool room temperature.  Direct sunlight should be avoided since light in the ultra violet spectrum is antibacterial.  The traditional fermenting location is a basement. 

Next: A recipe and my results

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sauerkraut Saga - Part 3 - The History and Some Theory of Lacto fermentation

The sauerkraut method of preserving vegetables has been used for centuries.  It was a method of keeping some of the fall harvest late into winter without refrigeration. In central and eastern Europe; it was sauerkraut or a similar dish by a different regional name.  In the east, the dish is kimchi, similar to sauerkraut, but usually spicier. In central America the dish is Curtido; and is usually milder and fermented for a shorter period of time.

The practice in all the regions was the same.  Members of the cabbage family are fermented using the naturally occurring bacteria.  A salt brine is used to encourage the growth of the desirable bacterial while suppressing the growth of undesirable forms.

Very little has changed in many centuries.  We now recognize that the bacteria we want are anaerobic; that as, they do live in the presence or air and the ones we do not want are aerobic.  This gives us a few better ways to protect the fermenting batch.  We have isolated the bacteria and have names for them.  Little else has changed for the home sauerkraut, kimchi, or Curtido maker.

Next - Controlling the primary variables, air, salt and water.