Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fermented Cabbage

About six weeks ago, I started fermenting what I thought was a small batch of sauerkraut. The recipe was simple: cabbage and salt. I chopped the cabbage and massaged it with salt to release the water. I put it in a mason jar and weighed down the cabbage with marbles*, so that all the cabbage was submerged. The kraut has been fermenting in the mid 60s since.

I used a fairly high level of salt (and, stupidly, forgot to take notes), so the fermentation proceeded fairly slowly. After two weeks of fermentation, the kraut was only slightly sour. So I forgot about it for awhile. Four weeks later, I tasted it again. Delicious. Still not super sour, but incredibly complex. Interestingly, this batch turned out tasting distinctly Asian, with flavors of sesame, soy sauce, and anise, even though no such ingredients were added.

It turns out that adding more than 2-3% salt to a vegetable ferment favors different strains of lactic acid bacteria, characteristic of high-salt Asian ferments like tsukemono (Japanese pickles), soy sauce, and kimchi.

I like the result a lot, but it requires different pairings than normal sauerkraut. This experiment makes me want to try high-salt fermentations of more traditional Asian vegetables like daikon and bok choy.

*I do not recommend the marble technique. Although effective in weighing down the cabbage, they're a huge pain to remove whenever you want to sample the ferment. Zip-locs filled with salt water are much more convenient.

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