by Diana Zahuranec
Cultures all over the world and for thousands of years have developed fermented foods and drinks. Japanese miso, Korean kimchi, kefir from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, sauerkraut from Germany; yogurt, sourdough bread, and even chocolate are some examples. While scarfing down some quickly “pickled” carrots I had made, I thought, why not make real fermented vegetables? I have a penchant for salty, sour foods, so why not ferment a big batch of it? The nutritional value actually builds and multiplies in fermented foods. I would satisfy my cravings, indulge in a natural, traditional super-food, learn about an ancient practice, and have a project to boot.
To learn the scientific details behind fermenting, I picked up Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. For fermentation how-to, I quickly found an article on Sandor Ellix Katz’s blog (who, before, helped my friends and I make cheese). For a fermentation step-by-step picture guide, I found Recipes from a German Grandma.
I wanted to settle the nagging doubt about using equipment no more advanced than big glass bowls picked up in a used goods store. Pickl-It jars, Harsch crocks , and other crocks aren’t found easily in Italy, my home-away-from-home, or if they were I wouldn’t carry them around on my back while biking from store to store in the sweltering heat. Ideally, I would use Pickl-It jars or a Harsch crock over my open crock method, because I’ve never fermented vegetables and believe I’ve already made a few mistakes (ahem…this I will find out in roughly two weeks). Small batches of fermenting veggies are prone to come into contact with air when using the open crock method, causing you to lose some of the precious little you’ve made.
I don’t know which I would choose over the other, but apparently there are Team Pickl-It and Team Harsch Crock sides to this debate.
Too late now. I’ll find out if my haphazard but enthusiastic open crock method works in about two weeks. That will be the turning point in my brief fermentation career in making a major decision: to buy or not to buy a Pickl-It jar.
Along with growing doubts as I read about fermentation, the more fascinating information I find. This post will be just the beginning of a short fermentation series that sort of follows along with my own method: dive right in knowing the basics, then nervously twist a strand of hair as I read more about it, then fixate on all things fermentation.
Harsch crock. I didn’t have strong doubts about the open crock method. No one 500 or 2,000 years ago had Pickl-It jars or a standard Harsch crock. Unfortunately, and after I already had my kraut for a day and a half, the more I read about it, the more uncertain I’ve become. Sandor Ellix Katz’s directions seemed straightforward, but some other articles worried me.
Let the fermentation begin!
Here are some other links I found useful:
Make your own sauerkraut, by Mary E. Mennes
Comparison of Vegetable Fermentation Methods, by Kimi Harris
Homemade sauerkraut, by Jenny
Vegetable Fermentation Further Simplified, by WildAdmin
Fermented Foods Webinair, by Jenny