Not much more than 100 years ago, we didn’t have refrigeration and other modern preservation methods available to out fingertips. Salt used to be well known for it’s food preserving abilities and was used in several ways. If fermented foods were a big part of our diet not that long ago, the fact that we don’t consume them regularly anymore could have a bit to do with our health recent problems.
I made a 30 minute video about how to make sauerkraut and a bunch of info that goes with each step.
I use cabbage, salt, water and a glass jar with a lid and never have failed batches.
Bookmark Fermeter.com so you can calculate brine
Fermented foods might help our gut run properly
We have as many bacteria cells as we do human cells, we require a proper balance of bacteria to live in balance with our ecosystem(planet earth is full of bacteria and such). As we eat an improper diet for generations and centuries, the wrong bacteria can setup shop in our body and start creating a lot of trouble. If our body is a good enough home for a bad bacteria, it can reproduce out of control, this is where we depend on antibiotics. But, If our body’s bacteria wasn’t out of whack, we would be able to fight these bad bacteria off without drugs.
As we eat foods that aren’t a part of our natural diet, a different set of bugs take over our gut and produce different brain chemicals and toxins and everything. When we consume a decent diet that has a lot of veggies and we consume fermented foods which contain a massive amount of good bugs, our gut can get back on track and feed us the things our body is used to. After I ate store bought kimchi for 3-4 weeks, I had about 5 days of digestive discomfort and then after that passed, I had a little clearer cognition and I started pooing a little more regularly. Pooing regularly is a very important part of getting/remaining healthy, otherwise we just recycle toxins our body would otherwise attempt expelling.
Seriously healthy stuffs
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Various B vitamins
- Plus iron, manganese, copper, sodium, magnesium, and calcium, as well as a moderate amount of protein
Kraut is possibly the simplest ferment
I hung out in fermentation forums for close to a year before I finally consumed something I let rot in a jar of salt water. The concept seemed simple enough that a book seemed like it might be overkill. But trusting a group of strangers that are gung-ho on eating rotten food is definitely odd. I got a little scientific on it for a few months and threw out a few batches till I felt comfortable with what I was doing.
Are there any dangers?
People have eaten fermented foods for an unknown really long amount of time. There are no reports of anyone getting sick when eating ferments that are not contaminated with mold or anything. There are a few precautions though:
- Do not use oil in ferments, they can trap food particles and increase the odds of botulism. Chances of botulism when not using oil is not common at all, just don’t use oil.
- Do not eat ferments/kraut that has an ammonia smell, smell the jar right when you open it, you’ll know if it’s bad. Ammonia burns our nose.
- Do not consume ferments with fuzzy mold growing on the surface, this is easy to avoid once you understand where it’s coming from. Kham yeast is a thin white layer that usually has a few large bubbles, this is usually fine and only produces a slight off taste. Once fuzz or colors start, ditch the batch and try again. My video explains how to avoid these issues.
- Do not start consuming ferments at a rapid rate, give your body time to adjust. We only need a few bites per meal.
- Ferments are high in histamines. Histamines come from bacteria, which any preserved food will give more time to continue making more histamines. Some people have a hard time processing histamines and are already overloaded on them. If we are already overloaded with them, and eat more, we tend to have a reaction. Most people do not even associate this reaction with histamines because high histamine foods are not obvious. Histamine reactions can be anything from headache to fatigue to seizures etc. This does not mean just eating histamines causes those reactions, it means if our body is already going though reactions like that, histamines can cause them to happen if we are already overloaded with histamines and eat more of them.
What do I need?
- Glass jars with lids. I use 3 or 4 half gallon jars per 5 pounds of cabbage
- Fresh cabbage(check your backyard), red ones are healthier
- Unrefined salt (pink salt or celtic)
- Mandolin slicer or knife and cutting board (power tools optional)
- Large mixing bowl (not metal, which reacts with salt)
Slice your cabbage almost as thin as possible
Using a knife would be difficult to chop an entire cabbage consistently. A mandolin slicer makes this much easier. How ever you do it, chop the cabbage up into small pieces but do not use a blender or anything that will turn it into tiny tiny pieces.
Dry Salting – Add salt directly to the cabbage
You can be pretty approximate with this, but the calculation is 3 tablespoons of unrefined salt per 5 pounds of veggies. Add the salt as slowly as you can while mixing it into the shredded cabbage. The idea is to get all of the cabbage in contact with the salt/salt water. As you mix the cabbage and mash it a little with your hands, the liquid in the cabbage should be released which will be used to submerge the cabbage as it ferments. Sometimes the cabbage does not release enough liquid, or any liquid at all, this is ok, make up for it with 2% brine water.
Lightly mash it into the jars
Don’t mash the cabbage into the jars too hard, as the bacteria do their thing, the cabbage will expand and the liquid could(will) overflow when we burp the jars. I lightly pack it in there and make sure there are no large air pockets. Leave about 2-3 inches from the top of the jar, that way when you add water there is still some room. Once you do this a few times you can see where the best levels are for you.
Top-off with 2% brine water to submerge the kraut
Once the kraut is close to submerged, more water will just cause the cabbage to float more and more, you’ll never add enough to make the kraut stop floating. As long as you follow my next few steps, anything sticking out above the water level, will not turn funky. Try to leave at least an inch of air at the top of the jar, 2 inches is best. Clean off the neck of the jar so there isn’t dry cabbage stuck there as the ferment ‘cooks’. Find a location about 65-70 degrees that isn’t in direct light. Place a plate or something under the jars so they do not leak on anything when you burp them.
Fermeter.com can help you make 2% brine.
Understanding what an ‘air-lock’ does
Some people use products called air-locks, which are just one-way valves. Some people use weights and bags full of brine. I use the space in the top of the jar ‘properly’ and have avoided all issues. The reason air-locks work is because they allow pressure to escape as the CO2 builds up from bacteria action without letting oxygen and outside air back in. I do the same thing with the mason jar lids manually. I tighten the lid and only open it enough to let the CO2 pressure out which only happens for the first 3-5 days or so. After about a week, the pressure stops and opening the lid will usually result in the jar sucking air from outside back in, which is bad. As long as the top of the jar stays full of CO2, bad stuff has less of a chance of growing and contaminating the batch.
Tighten the lid and check it in the morning
In the morning, feel the lid of the jar, if it feels like it has pressure, loosen the lid a bit till the hisses and releases the pressure, then tighten it back up and do the next thing tomorrow. Pay attention to how much pressure there is each day and stop opening it once there is no more pressure to release. This should be about a week.
Go for three to four weeks total
Once you burp it for a week and seal it up, you’ve got another two to three weeks before this stuff starts having a good set of bacteria. Some people let it go for 3 and 6 months, some throw it in the fridge after 1 month and let it go for a year or so in there. Once you get the hang of this and see how to keep funk from festering on the jars, this stuff can last almost indefinitely, especially under refrigeration.
Having a garden is great for fermentation experimenting. I learned that Kohlrabi is pretty amazing fermented last year when I had a bunch of extra. Most veggies are fine, just ask google real quick if you aren’t sure. Things with sugar get pretty weird because that likes to turn to alcohol.