Sauerkraut, I love sauerkraut! Choucroute braisée à l’alsacienne (Julia Child, Louisette Berthole & Simone Beck) is quietly bubbling in the oven. This is the first time I make it with my very own self-made sauerkraut. The ones in shops are too mild for me. I want more tartness in my sauerkraut.
Last summer I happened to overhear that someone was organizing a course in fermentation. Immediately I booked myself a place. It was quite a large course, middle aged women and young men. The teacher was a retired professor of microbiology who has been fermenting for decades. He is in this because he feels he needs to be friends with bacteria, he’s not that interested in the health aspect.
The course was very liberating. You read recipes and you’re being told to use or not to use a particular kind of cabbage, a particular kind of salt, to filter (!) your water and what else. Ok, there may be areas where you have to be particular with the water you’re using, but up here unfiltered tap water is fine. When preparing your sauerkraut, just make sure the things you are using a clean. Just basic clean. No need to sterilize anything – after all, the point to fermenting is activating bacteria, not getting rid of them.
The teacher said his favourite tool for slicing cabbage is a cheese plane. When you quarter a cabbage and start slicing it with a cheese plane you inevitably reach a point where the quarter starts falling apart. Continue with a knife. I hand-sliced the first cabbage and took out my Kitchen Aid for the second cabbage.
A month later we had a tasting. We brought along goodies we had made and our teacher brought along ferments he had made himself. We were sniffing, nibbling, and sipping rassol like in the best wine tastings. I think cucumbers, cabbage and carrots were the best. There were tomatoes (leathery), green beans (why bother), rutabaga (not bad, but...), cauliflower (why bother). Adding herbs, onions and other flavours add interest. If using sauerkraut in different dishes it might be best to stick to just cabbage and salt as you might not want to have for instance garlic with everything you add sauerkraut to.
Do NOT discard the rassol. Rassol is the brine your veggies have been fermenting in. The taste varies, naturally, with the vegetable it’s been fermenting. It is packed with lactid acid. You can use it as a starter for your next batch. You can also use it in soups, sauces and casseroles to add taste.
I experimented with Chioggia beet, because it is so pretty with its distinct red and white stripes. In a couple weeks it had turned pink and now, well, it’s almost grey. The taste is very tart. I tried hiding some of it in a veggie soup, but I think it will end up in the compost.
Sauerkraut will now be a permanent ingredient in my kitchen. I will try the carrots and there are already some fermented cucumbers in the fridge.
Maybe another two hours until I get to eat my choucroute.
PS This is another thing my grandmother Tyyne used to make. She would fill a wooden tub with sauerkraut to last through the winter. My parents would fill several 10 litre pails.
I'm Piisa and I will be sharing with you my thoughts on this and that, maybe even on whatever.