Last week on Fermentation Friday we talked about What is Fermented Food and why you would want to eat it. This week we are going to learn a little more about how it all happens and make our very first “recipe” or as the oldest country kid refers to them a “science project.”
And he is right, there is a wee bit of science to fermenting food. Like the amount and type of salt you use. So if you have never really given salt a second thought, today is the day you might just learn something you can use the next time you are on Jeopardy! Okay, maybe not, but it is really useful information when starting a fermenting project.
When your are fermenting veggies, they need to be in a brine. A brine is simply water and salt. But it is not that simple, you need the right kind and amount of salt. Why is salt so important? Because it makes fermenting possible! The salt in your brine keeps the bad bacteria from growing, while allowing the good bacteria, the lactic acid bacteria, to do the job of breaking down the sugars in the food and thus fermenting and preserving it. Too little salt and the bad guys run wild, to much salt and the good guys can’t do their job either.
So now your wondering “how much salt do I use then?” We will get to that, but first you need to know which salt to use. All salt is NOT created equal in the eyes of the fermentation gods.
Table salt – No, no, no, no, no and here is why…. Processed table salt has been “made over.” All the minerals have been removed and iodine added. While you might get table salt to work, trust me, when it comes to fermenting, your Grandma’s salt was NOT this salt. The added iodine can do bad things to the good bacteria.
Canning & Pickling salt – Now we are getting somewhere! You can totally ferment with this guy. We have Morton brand and I love how they say “plain salt, nothing added.” Well thank goodness, because do you really want to mess with Mother Nature?
Sea salt – We have just entered the “luxury car showroom” of salts! These are the guys that have the minerals! While there are different types available, Fermentools sent me some beautiful pink ancient Himalayan sea salt, which has over 80 trace minerals.
So back to the “how much salt do I use” question. Well, it is going to depend on what you are fermenting. If you are new to fermenting, using a proven recipes is a great place to start. For the most part I like my veggies in a 4% brine. I don’t like things overly salty, I like to be able to taste the flavors and the food, not a mouth full of salty food. The nice thing about the internet (and the back of the package of salt I got from Fermentools) is there are charts that tells you how many Tablespoons and teaspoons of salt you need to reach the percentage you want.
Once you begin having success with other peoples’ recipes, you are going to want to start experimenting with your own ideas. Trust me, not every recipe out there is going to be a winner in your book, just because someone else liked it. Just because it is edible, don’t mean your taste-buds will dance. But flavoring your food is different from how much salt you use in your brine. While the salt does impart flavor, it it is there to balance the bacteria out.
Let’s try Fermenting….
So now that you know what fermented food is (from last week) and why salt is so important, are you starting to get the itch to try your hand at fermenting food? Trust me, once you start, it becomes addictive! Well, if you are ready to start your fermenting adventure, let’s start at the beginning with a simple recipe….. and scroll down to enter to win your own fermenting kit from Fermentools so you can join us on our journey!
Salt + Cabbage= Kraut
Making sauerkraut is one of the EASIEST thing to ferment. And even if your not a fan of it (which I’m not, but my hubby is) it is a good first project to try. The nice thing about making kraut is, it is hard to screw up and easy to throw together. To do this ferment you will need a jar, lid, salt and some cabbage. If you don’t have a Fermentool kit with an airlock, you will need to “burp” your kraut every couple days.
Step 1: Get your cabbage cut up into smaller pieces. Some people use a cheese grater, we use our food processor.
Step 2: Put a handful of cabbage in you jar and sprinkle it with your salt (about a 1/4 teaspoon) and take a wooden spoon and “massage” or “bruise” the cabbage so it begins to release it’s liquid.
Step 3: Repeat step 2 till your jar is full.
Now I know you are wondering when you are going to make that brine we have mentioned. Your not, your cabbage is going to make it’s own! The salt you put in will help preserve the cabbage and ferment it into kraut, but it also draws out the moisture in the cabbage, which will combine with the salt to make the brine. How cool is that!?!?
Now if you have a Fermentool kit, you place the glass weight on top of you cabbage, this will help hold it under the brine that will form. Put your lid on your jar and airlock. No Fermentool kit? No airlock? No problem, you are just going to have to open the lid every few days to release the pressure of the gasses created as the cabbage brakes down. While a sealed anaerobic environment is a beautiful thing, we know that they didn’t have them 1000 years ago. The kit just makes it easier to ferment, keeping air out so your salt doesn’t have to work as hard or as long.
Once you have your jar all sealed up, leave it sit on the counter for about 5 days before transferring it to the fridge where it will continue to ferment, soften and mellow over time. Kraut is a “longer haul” type ferment, meaning you can’t open it and eat it in a week. It takes time, but it is so worth it according to my hubby. It takes about 4-6 weeks before your kraut is ready for eating. The photo to the right is our kraut at just over three weeks. The color of the cabbage fades a bit, that is normal.
You know you want a Fermentool Kit!
Well today is your luck day, my friends, because you can win your very own kit to join us on our fermenting journey! The kit includes everything you need to get started. You simply provide the jar and the veggies! Scroll down to enter below the photo of the kit….. Don’t feel lucky? You can buy a kit here.
“Pickling” food uses vinegar as the preserving agent, where as fermenting uses SALT. The salt is the kick in the butt, so to speak, to start the chemical process of breaking down the sugars in the food. Fermenting and Pickling are two different food preservation methods.