Fermentation is in. It’s appearing in food writing everywhere moment, I’m not talking about beer here (although I do love beer). I’m talking about lacto-fermentation, which is supposed to be insanely good for you.
What is lacto-fermentation?
Much like the good bacteria so advertised by yoghurt brands, there are naturally occurring strains of Lactobacillus present on the surface of all plants in varying degrees. These bacteria, given the right conditions, convert sugar to lactic acid through fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and so preserves the product for longer. Before refrigeration and canning this was obviously essential. Lactic acid also encourages healthy bacteria to colonise the human gut improving digestive health.
Sauerkraut is probiotic!
How do you make Sauerkraut?
Shred 1 cabbage, add 1 1/2 tbsp of fine sea salt, mix well and place in sealable plastic bag. Try to remove as much air from the bag as you can as this is an anaerobic reaction (absence of oxygen).
Next day give the bag a mix again, there should be plenty of liquid in there. Keep an eye on it, after 4-5 days give it a taste, I wont lie to you, it doesn’t smell great but tastes fantastic.
If sourdough is the new (old) bread, fermented veg is the new (old) pickle. The subtle depth of flavour knocks spots off pickled cabbage and the like, which punch you in the face with their acidity at the expense of the vegetable flavour.
Once the cabbage is to your liking, pot it up in a Kilner jar or plastic container and place in the fridge, the chemical reaction will halt below 10 degrees. It will keep for weeks in the fridge like this.
I generally add a few aromatics to the cabbage while fermenting, think about what you’d serve it with, classically it would be pork in which case a few peppercorns and fennel seeds are a good idea.
To get maximum health benefits (not killing the bacteria) sauerkraut should be served cold but I can understand not wanting a huge pile of cold cabbage on your plate. Add it to sandwiches, (obviously perfect on a hotdog) use in colslaw instead of raw cabbage, or simply (as I have done below), stir through a stew at the last-minute before serving..
sauerkraut/cassoulet mashup for 4-6
6 good quality sausages
a nice piece of gammon
4 onions, sliced
500ml of chicken or beef stock
1 tbsp of your favourite mustard
2 tins of butter beans (or similar)
As much of your homemade sauerkraut as you like.
- Fry onions in a little butter and oil until golden and soft, add the stock and deglaze the pan before transferring to a large oven proof dish mixing in the drained beans.
- Place the gammon joint and cook at 180 for 1-2 hours depending on size of joint, adding sausages for the last 30 minutes.
- Add more stock/water if it is getting too dry
- Remove the meat and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Check the seasoning of the beans and onions (the gammon will have imparted plenty of salt so may not need more)
- Stir through the sauerkraut and serve on a large sharing platter with plenty of crusty bread and some good red wine.