Sauerkraut- just say no

I’ve always been put off from producing sauerkraut because of its seriously freaky appearance. All that greying vegetable matter suspended in its glass jar reminds me of a specimen  on a laboratory shelf. However four weeks ago, finding myself landed with a ridiculous quantity of cabbage and no evening plans, I have decided to this fermented vegetable preserve a chance.

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Note that this picture was taken directly after jarring and prior to the grungy stage.

I will admit that this is not my first attempt at fermenting cabbage. I am still scarred by the memory of my ill-fated dalliance with kim-chi last spring. I inadvertently left it unrefrigerated in a cupboard for 2 months and then spent another week psyching myself up for the disposal. I made it out relatively unscathed, aided by a pair of rubber gloves and a face-mask fashioned from a  tea towel, but the stench of fish sauce and decay will haunt me until my dying day…

Background

Sauerkraut is produced by a process called lactic acid fermentation, a popular method of preservation since time immemorial. There are regional varieties of this cabbage dish all over the world, although it is most strongly associated with central and northern European cuisine. The word sauerkraut is itself Germanic in origin and translates as ‘sour cabbage’, not a particularly imaginative name but never mind.

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American sauerkraut producers briefly relabeled their product ‘liberty cabbage’ during the first world war,  which I think has a certain ring to it. I wonder if they tried expanding their range of goods to include other fermented vegetables. Fancy some freedom sprouts? Anyone for unleashed brocoli?

Usage

You can flavour sauerkraut with caraway or juniper and serve hot or cold as a salad. Take a vat of it on your next long sea voyage to avoid scurvy.

The process

Ingredients

  • Cabbage(s)
  • Salt (1 tbsp of salt per cabbage)
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A fine specimen of  Brassica oleracea picked at Hogacre Common community garden

Method

  1. Remove the core and outer leaves of the cabbage and shred the remainder.
  2. Tip into a deep bowl and cover with the salt.
  3. Macerate with your hands for about 10 minutes until the mix has reached a half-chewed consistency and is surrounded by its own juices. Yum.
  4. Tip into a glass jar and pack down so that the cabbage is fully submerged. You may need to put  glass jar in to weight the solids down.
  5. Cover but do not seal for 2-3 days.
  6. Seal and leave for 2-4 weeks waiting and watching as the contents of your jar slowly becomes less and less visually appealing. Skim off any crusty white residue that rises to the surface (this is a variety of yeast and is apparently harmless).
  7. Take a deep breath, picture your happy place and tuck in.
  8. Store in the refrigerator and consume within a year.

The moment of truth

The cost

I picked the cabbage for free and the salt amounted to about 1p. I think it’s fair to say that this project was pretty cheap

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The taste

Well it looks like vomit and smells like the abyss but I will try to give it the benefit of the doubt. Hmmm…yep… I imagine that athlete’s foot would taste pretty similar to the contents of this jar. I have created pure evil

“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” 
― T.S. Eliot

The verdict

It’s the culinary equivalent of athlete’s foot. I anticpate that my liberty cabbage will soon make a bid for freedom, straight into the bin 1/10

Greek of the week slot

Sauerkraut is not only  good for the gut, it also leads to a beneficial byproduct. According to Cato the urine of cabbage-eaters has a wealth of medical properties and is especially useful for rinsing infants. My friends with small children were all sadly reluctant to help me corroborate this.

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Cato aka VOLDEMORT!!! (I think this might actually be the wrong Cato but never mind…)

 

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