The last few weeks I have been busy fermenting some of the veggies I have been harvesting recently. Fermenting is one of my favorite ways to preserve the harvests as well as to add extra flavor to things like cabbage and kohlrabi. And as a big bonus, fermented vegetables are loaded with probiotic bacteria that are beneficial for human health. Later in the year I will be fermenting peppers as well, but for now it is the spring planted brassicas that are getting processed. I will let all these ferments sit on the counter for two to three weeks before refrigerating. Once refrigerated they keep for months, and I think they even improve with age. I do most of my fermenting in wide mouth glass jars, though crocks are also a popular alternative.
It’s been a great year for kohlrabi so far, and we have plenty for fresh eating as well as for fermenting. I started several jars of kohlrabi ‘pickles’, which is one of my wife’s favorite ferments. For the pickles I cut them into spears, pack them in a jar and cover with a 2% brine solution. I also add a few cloves of garlic to each jar to give a little extra flavor.
Next, I made a couple of jars of kohlrabi kraut using the big Kossak kohlrabis from the garden. This is a simple recipe with two ingredients: kohlrabi and salt. I generally use 2% to 3% salt by weight for this kraut. After peeling the kohlrabi, I grate them using a grater with medium to large holes. I usually use an antique one that belonged to my mother and is likely as old as I am. It gets the job done though, and the kohrabi kraut is delicious.
Once grated, I mix with salt and let sit for a few hours before packing into a jar. It takes about two pounds of kohlrabi after peeling to fill a quart jar and leave about an inch of headroom. I do sometimes add a few cloves of raw or roasted garlic to the kohlrabi, but for this round I didn’t. The finished kraut is tasty on its own for a side dish, or added to sandwiches.
It’s also been a good year for cabbage. With the first couple of heads of cabbage I cut, I made plain sauerkraut and a batch of Garlicky Dill Pickle Kraut. For the Pickle Kraut, I added a diced pickling cucumber to the chopped cabbage, a bit of chopped onion, about 3-4 cloves of fresh minced garlic, dill seeds and 3% salt. I let it ferment for a couple of weeks before refrigerating. When it’s done, it tastes just like a Kosher dill pickle to me! Mixed krauts like this are a good way to use odd lots of veggies, and another one I like to make is called Curtido which has cabbage, onion, carrots and a hot jalapeno or two.
Last week I had another head of cabbage that weighed just under two pounds, and I used it to make a batch of the Fermented Curtido, also known as Salvadoran Cabbage Slaw. In addition to the cabbage it has carrot, onion, garlic and hot peppers in it, though this time I made it with sweet peppers since I don’t have any hot ones yet. I add a bit of oregano to it also, either fresh or dried. This was just enough to fill a quart jar.
I also had good luck with napa cabbages this spring, and I turned a couple of those into kimchi. For that recipe, I chop the cabbage into 2″ squares. The size is approximate, and doesn’t have to be exact by any means . The pieces do shrink as the water comes out in brining and fermentation, and I find that size makes for bite sized pieces after fermenting. I let the cabbage soak in a 5% brine for 12 hours or overnight. Then I drain it, reserving some of the brine for later to use in the seasoning paste. It takes about 2 pounds of raw chopped cabbage to fill a quart jar, and I also add about a half cup of grated or julienned daikon radish along with a bit of chopped green onion or flat leaf chives.
Next I make a seasoning paste from onion, garlic, ginger and gochugaru flakes, using a bit of the brine to add moisture and get the right consistency. My full recipe for the seasoning paste is here: Homemade Kimchi Two Ways. I mix the drained cabbage with the seasoning paste before packing into jars to ferment for about two weeks. After that it’s on to the refrigerator, where it keeps for up to a year.
You might notice I keep mentioning that I store the ferments in a refrigerator. I few years ago we bought a small frig that’s dedicated to fermented foods. We keep it in the basement, and it serves as storage for the many fermented foods I make. You don’t need a dedicated space though, and for a long time we kept ours in our big refrigerator along with other foods.
For more information on lacto-fermentating vegetables, I can recommend a couple of books I use for reference on the subject. One is Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer. The other book is Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. and Christopher Shockey. Both address the basics of fermenting vegetables at home, and also have a lot of useful recipes, many of which I have tried. Both will help to make sure your fermentation projects are successful, as well as to give you ideas.
I hope you have enjoyed this update about some of the foods I have been fermenting lately. I’ll be back soon with more from Happy Acres!