16 October 2008

Fun with fermentation

I made some sauerkraut yesterday using a recipe from Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, a book about traditional food preservation methods. There is a recipe for 70 cabbages in a wooden barrel but I thought I'd try the recipe for 1 cabbage in jars first. Lactic fermentation has beneficial effects on food's nutritional value and digestibility not to mention the bacteria that make the cabbage really alive.

The lactic microbial organisms convert the vegetable's natural sugars into lactic acid which causes the environment to become too acidic for the nasty organisms to multiply. Considering the process involves simply submerging vegetables in a brine, it's a remarkable method of storing vegetables for long periods of time without using a lot of energy.

I enjoy commercial sauerkraut but it is generally pasteurized and sometimes contains preservatives, which completely negates any health advantage. I hope my homemade sauerkraut is palatable, because I really love the idea of it.

Another great resource for making sauerkraut and other fermented foods is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, who calls himself a fermentation fetishist, and appears to know what he's talking about. The next batch I make will probably be this recipe, from his web site.

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