Stochastic Sauerkraut, or, My Hands Smell Like Cabbage

making sauerkraut, at secret lentil

My name is Helen and I'm a sucker for gut biome stories. Now you know. Everyone needs a hobby. Yesterday morning I read this article on WIRED about gut biomes. If you don't read it, here's the punchline: It's possible that obesity surgery may work solely by changing your gut lineup. Solely! That has some implications doesn't it?

That led me to reading a few other science-y articles (I had to look up stochastic for the second time this month — randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely —  I think I've got it now) and somehow that led to somewhat stochastically deciding to make some sauerkraut.

You know, probiotics, etc. Delicious lively fermented food. I'm a fan of every one I've tried: kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, pickled anything. I hadn't planned on making sauerkraut but I happened to have a savoy cabbage on hand and the internet said yes, I could use that. I looked up the Sandor Katz recipe, because he's Sandor Katz, and it was pretty much everything I remember from helping to make it once at a friend's farm: slice cabbage, add salt, let rot. Well, there are a few qualifiers but basically that's it. 

Have you ever heard Sandor Katz speak? I've heard him on NPR and he is slower in cadence than 98 percent of interviewees. It is a true delight. You get the sense he is just Sandor Katz, as is, no matter where he is. AND I'M NOT OBSESSED WITH SANDOR KATZ OR ANYTHING but I also happened to see he's on Instagram so I'm following him now and oh! oh! he's been shooting an eight episode series called "People's Republic of Fermentation." He traveled through China talking with people about fermentation. It starts with Mrs. Ding's Pickles. Mrs. Ding's. Pickles. Clear my schedule, people. And it's on the YouTube.

chopped savoy cabbabe for sauerkraut, from secret lentil

So seriously, I just chopped up this head of savoy cabbage, sprinkling some sea salt on it whenever I added a few handfuls to the bowl, then worked the salt in by scrunching the cabbage in my hands until it relaxed down into itself. Then I crammed it like nothing has ever been crammed before, into two mason jars. Cram as you go! Cram as you go!

sauerkraut, Day One, from secret lentil

So there it is, Day One. The whole head turned into what you see here. The mason jars are the quart sized ones, which, for no particular reason, we refer to as Louises at our house. As in "While you're up would you get me a Louise full of iced water?" Sure I will.

I don't have proper weights but I weighted down the top with some drinking glasses filled with water. Will that work? I don't know. Will any of this work? I'll let you know. Even if it gets ugly. Which reminds me: remind me to tell you about the injera some day soon. Oh, the injera.

 

oak cyborgFrom The Sideboard is where I ramble about cooking and eating. We really have a sideboard at our house — but we call it The Cyborg, so if I called this From The Cyborg you might be confused or perhaps even feel cheated. Nobody wants that. I cook extemporaneously and make a lot of spicy pastes, and rarely cook the same thing twice. 

 


5 comments

  • Thanks for this. Although Mr. Katz has done a lot of work with fermentation, the Shockeys’ Fermented Vegetables has more specific recipes involving vegetables other than cabbage. This may be helpful to someone facing his first cabbage. But I really love the investigation into the food ways of China.

    Susan
  • Sarah, I also approve!

    helen
  • Joanna is Bigos stew on the menu? I had that once years ago and I’ve been full ever since.

    helen
  • A few weeks ago I had more beets than I could eat and not the right stuff in my pantry for pickling. So, I ate the last two dill pickles in the jar, sliced up the cooked beets, and dumped them in the existing juice. Husband approved. I prefer my own pickling blend, but this was useful in a food emergency.

    Sarah Stuart McIlvain
  • That is so cool. We, like all good Albertans, enjoy a good Ukrainian dinner on a regular basis. Very tempted to try this, please do let us know!

    Joanna

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