So growing up I didn't like fall, I thought it was cold, wet and sad as hell for being the end of the summer. Now I see it in a whole new light- the garden is hearty, the leaves are beautiful, work is less sweaty and the markets are FILLED WITH CABBAGE.
I love cabbage, it is like the most economically awesome vegetable. A giant cabbage, almost too heavy for me to walk home from the market, is 4 DOLLARS.
They don't even go bad very quickly, if I forget about it, the cabbage will wait super patient for me, "just take your time Samantha" it says to me from the fruit-fly infested corner of our kitchen, and it will be there almost in the same condition as the day I bought it.
This is a go-to process in my kitchen right now- preparing sauerkraut and pickled veggies for the winter months when fresh is less available but you still want that healthy *crunch*.
First chop the cabbage and veggies
When Brian makes our sauerkraut the result is a luxurious pickled masterpiece with thinly shaven, long strands of cabbage. When I do it, it's chunky and a bit frantic.. lol who cares, unless you care. Chop the veggies thin enough to extract flavour but we can't all be chefs..lol.
I like to separate my cabbage into bowls so then I can make some jars flavoured. So in this case I made batches of:
Regular sauerkraut with just cabbage, cracked pepper
Cabbage, parsnip, onion, caraway, cracked pepper
Cabbage, jalapeno, apple, coriander and cracked pepper
No particular reason for those flavour combinations, I was just using the foods going bad in our fridge and then matched them up accordingly, and added some corresponding spice.
Mix it up
Once all the veggies are chopped in their bowls, give them A GENEROUS salting. Don't know how much? Salt it, mix it and then taste it, and remember that the saltiness gets enhanced with acidity, but also remember that salt is the major reason why this product is going to be preserved and not go moldy, so it's very important to have enough.
I use sea salt and pink himalayan salt. Salt here is used to extract the juices and PRESERVE the freshness of the food, it is a traditional technique and works very well to even preserve vitamin C content.
If you are attempting to watch your salt intake, choose your salt wisely, use a mineral dense salt to balance out the sodium and ultimately once the product is done, don't eat the whole jar at once. To omit salt from this recipe and instead use more vinegar, it is not optimal because the final product doe not yield the best enzymatic and bacteria outcome. There are many other foods (like processed foods, take-out) to eliminate or reduce in the diet, versus homemade pickled veggies to reduce sodium consumption.
Next, add a drizzle of pickling vinegar. You can adjust this at the end if you need more, but with enough salt and hand power you should be able to extract most of the water out of the veggies.
Make a mess and pound it out.
This is my favourite part. I purposely make a giant mess because it's just fun to sometimes! Remember when I made sauerkraut in your kitchen Mum? (I almost became homeless that weekend...) Mess aside, it is relieving to literally beat the juice out of something that just took up like 15 minutes of your life chopping -OM- very stress relieving!
Push, squeeze, mash and stir the ingredients. Once you start to feel the juice extracting and the fibres softening, wash your hands and take a break for 15 minutes. Here I usually get my jars ready, clean up a bit and go do whatever for a bit while the salt absorbs into the veggies.
Once the mix has had time to rest, give it another good pounding to gather a bunch of juice at the bottom of the pot. This is the liquid you will use to fully submerge the product as it ferments.
Load up the jars, pressing the veggies down to the bottom, and you will see liquid come to the top. Fill the jars and make sure always that there is liquid covering the top of the veggies. Leave a little bit of space at the top of the jar, like 1 inch or so for air expansion, and seal them tight.
I recommend only using jars that have a double latch, so mason jars or jars made for fermenting, since this helps with air expansion and air-tight seals. Label & date, and then place them in a cool, dark place. I put mine in the bottom cupboard of my kitchen with some long lost appliances and stale chips.
Check on the jars after one week to ensure they are not going to explode (this can happen with a temperature fluctuation or if you pack them too tightly), if so burp them, a.k.a allow some air to escape the jar. This is a good time to check on how they are doing too: maybe use a clean fork to try a bit, see if you mastered your intended flavour and how much longer they need to reach the crunch you want? You can also adjust things here too. I have literally dumped a whole jar back into a bowl to adjust spices, realizing I totally messed up.. but I am sure you did great! Lol, it's really not that hard!! :)
Store and eat
Eventually you will see bubbles and at this point I usually put the jars into long-term storage. So into the fridge or some place real cold like the basement to prevent them from continuing to ferment rapidly. The best part about fermented veggies is they basically last forever! Even once opened in the fridge they last for months.
I hope you enjoy,