How to Get Started with Fermentation
Fermentation is so much fun but it can also be daunting! You don’t want to do the wrong thing and make yourself sick, but you definitely want the amazing benefits that homemade ferments have to offer.
Fear not, fermentation isn’t nearly as scary as it seems. The great thing about fermenting your own food is you can tell immediately when something’s not right. It’s not a guessing game like traditional canning.
Once you get the hang of it you’ll be hooked. Making your own ferments is an art, because no matter what you do every batch will turn out unique from the last.
The Basics: Salt + Vegetables + Environment
The role of salt is both protective and purposeful. It protects against harmful bacteria while also stimulating osmosis. In order to make ferments like sauerkraut, salt is needed to draw the liquid out of the cabbage so that it has a brine to make magic in.
A common mistake beginners make is to not leave enough liquid above the vegetables to protect them from the elements of the outside world. I like to make a separate brine of 1 tsp sea salt to one cup of water and add some on top of my packed down vegetables.
Every fermented food relies on the same principles of salt, vegetables, and an environment free from oxygen so those healthy bacteria can grow.
Basic Sauerkraut Method
The easiest way to get started is with this basic method. You can alter it by adding spices, different vegetables, garlic, ginger, green onion, carrot etc. Get creative!
- One head of cabbage approx. 5lbs
- 3 Tbsp sea salt or other non-iodized salt
- Spices, garlic, ginger, or other vegetables you want to add
- Chop the cabbage finely, you can use a food processor, a mandolin or do it by hand.
- Liberally coat the cabbage with salt and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Mix, pound, and squeeze the cabbage to get as much water out of it as possible.
- This is when you would add your other vegetables and spices.
- Stuff mixture into mason jars. Push it down as much as you can to get rid of any air bubbles and make the salty brine rise to the surface. You want at least an inch of water above your vegetables at all times.
- You can use a weight to keep the kraut submerged. Some people used the actual “butt” end of the cabbage itself, a clean rock, or you can get fancy and buy a proper fermentation weight.
- Check your kraut every few days to ensure it’s still submerged.
- Let it ferment to your liking, I usually let mine go for 2 weeks to a month before popping it in the fridge.
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