I tend to think about fermented foods in the winter months. Fermentation was a way to have vegetables throughout the year before there was refrigeration. That was a long time ago for those of us in the first world but Father’s Day is coming and, let’s face it, a little kraut on a grilled hot dog or a brat sounds just right. In general, the spunky flavors of ferments are a perfect addition to grilled food or a grill focused menu. They are also a terrific way to preserve vegetables when the garden gives you too much of a good thing. The weather in Spring can be capricious. It is slow to warm up and it feels like nothing will ever grow and then everything tumbles out at once. That trend continues all summer long and when you have tired of making zucchini bread, consider fermenting. Keep those grilled foods company with more than kraut. You can make delicious fermented ketchup! There is a recipe in Mary Karlin’s book, mentioned below. Fermenting was historically a home practice but our modern anti bacterial mind set makes it seem daunting. Like all ferments; beer, wine, cheese and yogurt, bacteria are not the enemy but they do need to be managed. All fermentation experts point out that there has never been a reported incident of anyone getting sick from a fermented food. There is abundant research and evidence that fermented foods and the probiotics they brings to our microbiome are extremely good for us. All long lived, healthy human societies have a history of ferments in their diet. There is evidence that eating fermented food provides a much wider range of probiotics than taking pills that include only a few strains. Ferments are easily digested and can stimulate our taste buds. I have taught fermentation classes and look to three sources for my inspiration and information. Karen Diggs, owner and chief fermentation officer of Kraut Source, is an friend and colleague. Her company makes equipment that simplifies making small batch ferments in a regular mason jar. She has an information rich website and a couple of great books on the topic. Her “Kraut Source” Fermentation Made Simple Recipe Book is, just as it says - simple and very accessible. Sandor Katz, a noted champion of and expert in fermentation, has two books; “Wild Fermentation” and “The Art of Fermentation” that are packed with science, data and inspiration. Mary Karlin has written a wonderful book, “Mastering Fermentation” which is filled with well tested, delicious recipes. How does Agrodolce Onion Marmalade sound on a burger?? So reach out and learn a little about fermentation. It surrounds us every day and influences a tremendous amount of our food - including chocolate! McEvoy Ranch is offering the first in a series of Ranch Social Club Chats “Transformations: The Art of Fermentation” on June 17. You can join McEvoy Ranch winemaker, Byron Kosuge, Cheesemaker Rick LaFranchi of Nicasio Cheese Company and Karen Diggs, chef, nutritionist and fermentation expert to explore the mystery and history of fermented foods. Full information is on the McEvoy Ranch website and it promises to be a great day. I picked up some beautiful cabbage at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday from Coyote Family Farm. The farm has a stand at the Farmer’s Market at the Vet’s Center in Santa Rosa across from the Fairgrounds. The farm also offers a CSA delivery which buys you access to a website “Cook with what you have”. It’s an excellent site, useful in learning how to use your produce and a really nice bonus for joining the CSA. If you are not familiar with CSAs, the acronym stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture. Small farms sell subscriptions and deliver, usually weekly, what they have that is best in season. It’s a great way to begin to understand seasonality, eat well and support your local farmer. Coyote Family Farm at Farmers Market Colby, who runs the farm stand and works at the farm, had beautiful small heads of cabbage that inspired me to make some kraut for some dogs down the road. Cabbage, sea salt and caraway seeds Here is the cabbage sliced and ready for its massage: Here is the cabbage after a 7 minute massage: Here is the set up for filling the mason jar: Here is the jar with the kraut compacted and topped with brine: Here is a photo ready to put away for a couple of weeks - or more to finish fermenting. BASIC STEPS FOR MAKING SAUERKRAUT
- Place shredded cabbage and other vegetables in a large glass, stainless steel or ceramic bowl.
- Massage sea salt into the vegetables for 5-7 minutes, more if you wish. Add herbs, spices or other seasonings after massaging. Mix well.
- Pack the vegetables into a wide-mouth, quart-size mason jar. Use a heavy spoon, rolling pin or pestle to really press down and pack the vegetables in compactly. The top of the vegetables should reach the shoulder of the jar.
- If there is not enough liquid to cover vegetables by one inch, than add enough brine to cover. *Brine: dissolve 1 teaspoon sea salt in 1 cup hot filtered water. Allow to cool before using.
- Place Kraut Source onto the jar. Allow the vegetables to ferment in a cool spot, away from direct sunlight, for at least 7-14 days or longer, depending on your taste preferences. Check every few days that there is water in the moat and top off as needed.
- When the vegetables have achieved a taste to your liking, remove Kraut Source, and replace with a standard mason jar lid and ring. Transfer to the refrigerator.