Fermented foods are all the rage these days but did you know how easy it is to make your own? The Allergic to Salad STEM curriculum includes many fermentation recipes such as this seasonal sauerkraut. Our students learn about the importance of keeping their hands clean so we can create an environment that is hospitable to the microbes that help our bodies but keep out the germs that can make us sick.
Fermentation is a process whereby anaerobic bacteria such as lactobacillus consume the sugars inherent in the food present (such as vegetables in this case), creating a more acidic environment that keeps food fresh over a long period of time. What we are doing by adding salt to our vegetables and packing them in a container is creating an environment where these specific microorganisms can thrive. Students are often simultaneously grossed out and fascinated by the concept of these microscopic creatures taking up residence in our gut.
Having a healthy gut microbiome is proven to reduce risk of obesity and other diet related ailments. Reducing stress also has a powerful impact on the city of microorganisms living inside us but in the meantime, eat more sauerkraut!
Sandor Katz’s “Kraut-chi” Sauerkraut
a basic guide & recipe:
Veggies (carrots, radishes, broccoli, cukes, kohlrabi… + some ginger and garlic for flavor! You could use leftovers, like broccoli stalk, from slaw last week)
Salt (2 tbsp per quart of veg)
A clean jar
Your clean hands
Chop or grate your veggies to uniform size in order to create more surface area for the liquid to be drawn out. The sooner the liquid is drawn out, the sooner the veg is submerged, and that is the goal.
Put the veggies in a big bowl and salt lightly. The salt will help draw out the water, keep the vegetables crisp by slowing the action of mushy-making enzymes, and creates a “selective environment” which the lactic acid bacteria can tolerate, but other food-spoiling bacteria cannot. Taste throughout the mixing process to see if you want more salt. Easy to add, not so easy to lessen, so err on the side of caution.
With your extremely clean hands, massage and squeeze the salted veg to get ‘em juicy. Kids will like this part, and it’s a good way to get the hand washing thing across. Dirty germy hands will significantly decrease the likelihood that this ferment will turn out correctly.
Once the vegetables are moist, pack them into a clean crock or jar. Really pack it in there, trying to get all the air bubbles out, and remember the goal is to have the veg submerged in their own juices. You can use a fermentation weight to keep ‘em submerged, or get a ziploc baggy and fill it with water or rocks or whatever to weigh the vegetables down under their juices. Seal the jar with a lid or a cloth. If you’re using a lid, remember to burp the jar every 8 hours or so for the first couple days of the ferment or risk it exploding! After the first few days, carbon dioxide production will slow down.