Ideas can take a while to develop their flavour.
Inspired by the exhibition and demonstrations I went to back in January, I have started my first try-out at making sauerkraut. This (like the eventual sauerkraut) has been a long time in the making.
What started my interest was when I heard a Food Programme (BBC R4, of course) about the growing interest in fermented foods, including an interview with Sandor Ellix Katz – broadcast in April 2012. Like I said, a long time in the making.
The next thing was when oldest son and daughter-out-law cooked us a Polish-style meal based on a jar of sauerkraut. I don’t recall ever eating it before, it was delicious, and I started to wonder if I could make some myself.
After that, I came across one of Katz’s books in the local Oxfam bookshop. I bought it, I read it. I read it again.
Then on our local Freegle site someone offered a German sauerkraut pot (that’s a pot for making it in, not a pot containing it) which they no longer wanted. I was lucky enough to be offered it. It’s a handsome beast, complete with weights to put on top of the cabbage, larger than I need (but who knows where this journey will take me?). It sat on a shelf waiting its moment to arrive. The lid needed some gluing, and Malcolm did that for me a couple of weeks ago.
In the meantime, Malcolm bought an e-copy of Gut, by Julia Enders (you couldn’t make her name up could you!). Daughter-in-law had read it and recommended it too, so I read it. To my surprise, I enjoyed it, and found it convincing (I can be a bit of a sceptic, especially about new food ideas. Though of course this one is far from new).
Along the way I came across a fascinating blog (KitchenCounterCulture – obviously I couldn’t ignore such a brilliant punning/multi-meaning title!) through a comment on my blog. Reading Annie’s blog piqued my interest in fermenting foods, so when by chance I came across information about the House of Ferment exhibition and workshops not far from home, I booked myself in immediately.
I read a few other recipes, and came across one that recommended using some whey to start the lacto fermentation. I made some by straining some yoghurt. I was left with lovely yoghurt cheese (like cream cheese but with more flavour), and a jar of whey. (I’ve had the yoghurt maker and strainer pictured below for about 25 years. They are simple, and work very well).
I went to the shops and came across a decent sized white cabbage reduced.
Clearly the moment had arrived.
So. Now I’ve made my first batch of sauerkraut. I have no idea what it will turn out like. It needs the final ingredient – time – before I find out. I had to improvise a bit – the recipe said to use a wooden ‘basher’ to get the juices flowing. I didn’t have one of those, but I did spot a clean (empty) beer bottle nearby that looked like it would do the job, so I used that instead. Seemed rather appropriate – a locally brewed (fermented) beer.
It took several years for the ideas to accumulate and develop their flavour. 30 minutes or so to shred the cabbage, add in the few other ingredients (a small amount of sea salt, a few spoonfuls of whey, some caraway seeds), and bash it all about. I don’t yet know how long it will take for it to become sauerkraut, or even whether I’ll like it.
Time will tell. But I’ll let you know.