30 January 2010

Freaky Fermentation Saturday

Who needs pets when I have several cultures to feed? After brunch at Walnut Street Cafe with Val and Shirley (Shirley is an Astrophysics post doctoral fellow at Berkeley who was a PhD candidate at Princeton when Val and I were undergrads), Carolina called me and we decided to meet at the West-side farmer's market. Inspired by the Farmhouse Culture sauerkraut booth, we bought two heads of cabbage, two onions and a few tablespoons of carroway seeds and headed back to my apartment to start fermenting some "Liberty Cabbage" of our own. It turns out sauerkraut, although we associate it with the "Krauts" (sauerkraut means sour cabbage in German) was originally of Chinese origin, and probably brought to Europe in the last millennium or so. The Ashkenazim (my people!) quickly adopted it as a staple and probably helped disseminate the deliciousness (and nutrition-ness!) through the rest of Europe. The stuff was especially popular among sailors because it prevents scurvy and keeps forever. What's not to love?
The first step is to tease out some of the cabbage juice by sprinkling it with salt and letting it sit. Then you pack the cabbage into jars and wait for various lactic acid bacteria to go to work fermenting the sugars in the cabbage, creating lactic acid. That acid is what puts the "sauer" in sauerkraut, and also the reason it keeps so long.

While the cabbage was secreting juices, we went downtown looking for a book that Carolina had seen before called Wild Fermentation. Wild Fermentation was so chock full of awesomeness that we had to ferment MORE. On top of the two batches of sauerkraut we made a starter for ginger beer (known as a ginger bug), and a sourdough starter. Luckily my apartment was already stocked with fermentation must-haves like distilled water, cheesecloth and mason jars because of my unshakable cheese-making habit.
Then Justin showed up with a fresh batch of home-brewed red ale, that was AMAZING. No joke, it was probably one of the best beers I have ever tasted. I was expecting to have to lie and say "mm this is really great," but I didn't have to because it was truly delicious. So our day continued to ferment.

Happy fermentation Saturday! Carolina pointed out that we should have done this on a Friday just for the alliteration of it, but so's the life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I was just talking the other day about how every one of my favorite foods is fermented. I suppose that's why Alivia emailed me this post.

I'm super jealous of your sauerkraut. I've been contemplating kimchi, so hopefully I'll get on the fermented cabbage bandwagon soon. I'm shooting for a fermentation spring break. With beer and sourdough too.

You should come back to LA sometime soon and we can make cheese again.

- Will