Sauerkraut

Winding back a few steps, I’ve been a big fan of Holly Davis since we decided to change our eating habits over a year ago.  In trying to adapt to our new lifestyle, one of my earliest discoveries was Iku Wholefoods.

My previous work life was fairly hectic, with my lunch break consisting of a quick trip to the nearest food court to grab whatever I could to bring back to my desk. And with no time to prepare lunch in the morning or previous evening. I had no idea how I was going to maintain this new lifestyle. Then I found Iku, which was very conveniently located to my old office.  It has delicious, wholesome, fresh cuisine based solely on vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains with an Asian influenced, macrobiotic philosophy.
As I delved into its food, I was curious as to the background of Iku, and discovered Holly Davis and her cookbook Nourish.  With her business partner, Holly established the first store in 1985 (well before the health fads hit the eastern suburbs of Sydney) which has now grown to a chain of approx. 15 stores in Sydney.
Anyhow, I digress.  The short version of this story is that I have been stalking Holly Davis for some time, and was delighted to hear she was back in Sydney and hosting some fantastic classes.  Unfortunately I was away on the weekend she hosting full day workshops at The Lost and Found Department but managed to get a late spot in her 2.5 hour Capturing Cultures in the Colonies class, hosted by Real Food Projects at the stables of Vauclause House.

I turned up to the class, and wasn’t sure what to expect.  Even though I had never fermented anything before, I was sure the part where you put the cabbage into the glass jar wasn’t going to take 2.5 hours.  I was pretty excited to see Holly in person though, and really enjoyed the class: I >watched her massage cabbage, describe her philosophy on lacto-fermentation, get passionate about organic, fresh produce, and patiently answer a million and one questions from the class members on the ins and outs of fermentation, molds (she’s only had to throw out 1 or 2 batches in her 30+ years of fermentation), types of jars and preserving products etc.  At the end, we had a tour of the kitchens of Vauclause House and the most delicious lunch with fresh artisanal produce from local suppliers, including my favourite, a smoky eggplant and roasted vegetable salad made by Holly.  I’m still trying to replicate its deliciousness.  So here is my summary of the important lessons on fermenting sauerkraut that we learnt in that class.  I won’t do Holly justice, but given my sauerkraut made in that class turned out to be pretty good, I hope you’ll enjoy.
One final (and important) point to mention is the benefits of probiotic, lacto-fermented foods which have been covered more recently in the press, ranging from gut health, immunity, allergies, adequate nutrition absorption and even obesity .  For some educated information about these foods, I suggest the following (with the first NY Times article being the most intriguing):

Freshly opened sauerkraut

Freshly opened sauerkraut

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cabbage (we used red cabbage)
  • Celtic sea salt (1% of the weight of the cabbage)
  • 1L glass jar with tight fitting lid
  • Seasoning (optional): choose from 1 tablespoon fresh ginger and/or chilli flakes; 1 heaped teaspoon of each of mustard and fennel seeds; 1 tablespoon of dried arame

Instructions

  1. Boil some water and fill the glass jar and lid.  Leave for 2-3 minutes then discard water.  Leave jar to air dry (do not wipe out jar as this may lead to contamination).  Wash your hands well.
  2. Finely shred cabbage into thin, bite-sized strips and put into a large bowl.  Weigh the amount of cabbage in the bowl.
  3. Calculate the amount of salt , being 1% of the weight of the cabbage.  For example, if the cabbage weighs 1 kg, then you add 10g of salt.
  4. Massage the salt into the cabbage, by rubbing it gently together, for about 5-10 minutes, until the cabbage releases its juices.  You can also knead it using your fists.  There should be a reasonable amount of liquid by the time you have finished kneading.
  5. If using additional seasoning, add the seasoning to the cabbage and mix.
  6. Carefully stuff the cabbage into the glass jar tightly until it is approx. 2-3 cm below the top – its important to leave this space as the cabbage will expand during fermentation and the jar may otherwise leak.  Keep pushing the cabbage down as you go, so that its juices are released.  Once the jar is stuffed, the cabbage should be covered by its own juice.  If not, add more cabbage and push firmly in the jar – you may wish to place something heavy on the cabbage to keep it under the liquid (such as a thick piece of carrot or a (sterilised) glass jar lid).  This avoids mold growing.
  7. Tightly fit on the lid and store in a cool, dry location for approx. 5-7 days (longer if it is cold; Holly mentioned that 18-24 C is ideal).  Place a saucer under the jar in case of any leaking of liquid.  Do not open the jar during this stage, as the fermentation process is anaerobic (ie. it relies on the lack of oxygen, together with the moisture from the cabbage, to encourage growth of the “good” lactic acid producing bacteria on the cabbage and ferment the cabbage in the process).
  8. After 5-7 days, the sauerkraut can then be put in the fridge for another 5-7 days before opening (minimum – they can also be left longer, which will improve the taste).  Once opened, please keep it in the fridge.
Sauerkraut thumbnail image Who ever thought I would be making sauerkraut, let alone writing some instructions on how to do so?! 30min

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