Happy Monday, and happy Autumn Equinox! As the weather changes, it gets harder to remember to eat fresh vegetables. Remember to listen to your body: it knows what you need to eat more than you do. As an example, I was making mulled cider this weekend and using citrus fruits. When I licked the lemon juice off my fingers and immediately thought “yeah, I could go for a lemon right about now…” that was a good sign I was missing Vitamin C!
One tasty way to get Vitamin C during the winter is with lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut. It’s ridiculously easy to make and I guarantee you’ll make a tastier version than the ones you buy in the store.
This hardly counts as a recipe at all, honestly. Make it the way sounds good to you: add other vegetables, use different herbs and flavors, ferment it for a longer or shorter time…you’ll be the one eating it, follow your taste buds!
Start with a cabbage, chopped into small pieces. Add other vegetables if you like: onions, carrots, garlic, or radishes, for instance. Chop everything up, put it into a bowl, and add sea salt. You’ll want a fair bit: the salt acts to draw moisture out of the vegetables, so they effectively sit in their own juice. Mix the veggies and salt with your hands, then let it sit for a while, until moisture starts to collect in the bottom of the bowl. At this point you can add other seasonings, such as caraway, thyme, oregano, or red pepper flakes (my personal favorite!)
Get a mason jar (or a pickling jar if you’re feeling fancy!), preferably with a wide mouth. Start adding the mixture to the jar in layers, pushing down the vegetables each time so they pack densely. As you pack, you’ll notice the liquid starts coming up to cover the vegetables. If you get to the top of the jar and the veggies are not submerged, add some water to cover them. This is key for lactic acid fermentation: the bacteria involved like an anaerobic environment, without any oxygen, so it’s important for the vegetables to remain under the water. Otherwise, mold can grow (note if you do get mold, it’s not a disaster: just skim it off the top and make sure everything else is submerged).
Get a rock, glass plate, or container of water to push down on the top of the vegetables to keep them submerged. Then, put your jar on the counter and wait! You might see bubbles forming in the jar: that’s a sign that fermentation is going on and the bacteria are producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Taste the sauerkraut every few days until it tastes good to you. Then, you can stop the fermentation by putting the jar in the fridge.
And that’s it! Feel free to experiment with other vegetables and seasonings. Fermentation is one of the easiest kitchen experiments to do: it takes very little set up and the results are delicious. Enjoy your sauerkraut this winter!