Friday, September 7, 2012

Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut Redux

Garth and I gave and received utilitarian gifts this year. I was fueled by the irritation of using things not suited to the purpose, and I can't speak to Garth's motivation. So, although we're repeating the same tasks we took up last year, we have gained something from our trials and acquired better tools, which have refined the process immensely. The small things add up. Let me get into specifics.

It is kraut time. Last year the cabbages we sowed directly were destroyed by slugs, and we had to purchase starts at a nearby greenhouse (thank you Sirkos!). Unfortunately, the starts we did buy were begun earlier than we would have wanted. This meant that last year our cabbage crop was splitting open and beginning to rot before we, or the season, were ready. But this year, with the hoop house Garth built, we were able to start them later in soil blocks and grow them larger before planting them out. It has been very successful. Look at how tight these heads are! The variety is 'Storage No. 4', which we chose because it was developed in Cortland, NY.

Last year, we tried using a sealable five gallon bucket to lacto-ferment the cabbage in. We filled a plastic bag with salt water to weight the cabbage down with. The results were tasty, but the process was touchy, and the container was never the same. I cleaned it twice and dried it in the sun before storing anything else in it, but that just wasn't enough. We had a bag of macadamia nuts - double bagged actually, if memory serves - that took on that distinct cabbagey flavor. I sacrificed the bucket to construction purposes. 

For Garth's birthday we bought these polish fermenting crocks. The design is really sophisticated. Leave a comment if you want me to go into it, but the short story is that they are ceramic, non-porous and highly suited to the task (and significantly cheaper than their German counterparts).

And Garth gave me this huge stock pot for Christmas. Although it is too big to wash in our sink, the advantages are obvious. We could both pound the cabbage at the same time without knocking elbows or wrists. 

And that's just what we did. Well, Garth mostly. We used about 4 cabbages to fill the 20L crock - roughly 35 pounds after trimming - which means the cabbages were around eight pounds each. Garth used the smaller crock for shredded beets with citrus and ginger. We've never tried that before. We'll tell you how it is in six weeks!

- Alanna