Dionysios Touliatos, a fermented food fanatic, writes about Sauerkraut.
Last summer Claver Hill was invaded by a horde of slugs during our peak cabbage growing season. We had slugs of all shapes, sizes and colours; brown and bright orange, small and large. The slugs roamed freely across Claver Hill’s fields and loved to chew on the cabbages, c causing crop damage to such an extent that some cabbages ended up in the compost heaps.
In the UK, we throw away seven million tonnes of food each year, of which 30%-40% is lost in the field. There are two key ways to address this problem: find ways to reduce crop damage caused by pests and disease, or find an alternative use for the food that is being wasted.
I noticed that a number of the half-eaten heads of cabbage in Claver’s compost heaps still had a lot of useable leaves. As I always find it disheartening to see food being wasted, especially when I have grown it, I started to explore options for using this partially damaged cabbage glut.
I recalled a salty cabbage I was regularly served when I was living on a biodynamic farm in Austria- a dish called Sauerkraut. I had never made Sauerkraut before, but I thought I’d give it a try.
I got a dozen free Kilner jars from swapshop; used sea salt I collected in Greece, and shredded the useable cabbage leaves into strips. I mixed the cabbage and salt in a bowl, and then smashed it with a wooden spoon to help the cabbage create its own brine (a salty liquid). I then packed the shredded cabbage into the kilner jars, making sure the cabbage was submerged in the brine. I then sealed the jars with their lids to keep them air tight and waited…
Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. This happens when the beneficial bacteria present on the surface of the cabbage convert sugars into carbon dioxide, lactic and acetic acids. These prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
I could tell that the cabbage was fermenting by the bubbling in the jars. I made sure to check the jars daily and once the bubbles had stopped, the sauerkraut was ready!
My first attempt at making Sauerkraut was a great success. In the months that followed I made even more Sauerkraut and experimented with adding other ingredients, including carrots, mooli, turnips, garlic, chillies, ginger and miso paste.
I am now looking forward to the next glut of cabbages and the next batch of Sauerkraut!