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I've been making homemade sauerkraut and other veggie ferments for almost 5 years now. I love the fizzy and zippy taste you can only get from homemade ferments. Although I have noticed more lactofermented krauts and veggies popping up on refrigerated store shelves, I have a really hard time dropping 8+ dollars on a quart! I can do it at home for a fraction of the price and adjust the flavors to my liking.
When I first started out, I used Nourishing Traditions as my guideline. I fermented in Mason jars for years, but truthfully it always made me a little nervous. On a few occasions, I had mold develop on the top of the veggies and although I've read that you can skim it off and still consume the ferment, I had a hard time getting past the thought of mold on my food. Plus, I have a hubby that deals with seasonal allergies and didn't like the idea of him consuming any of these bad guys. As I dug a little deeper, I found that even after skimming, some mold may remain within the ferment.
The last time I used Mason jars, I ended up with a very smelly, rotten ferment. I used the same method I had used for years, but something went wrong. This sauerkraut was definitely bad – the smell was terrible (and not in a stinky sauerkraut kinda way). I absolutely HATE wasting food that I've spent my time and hard earned money on, so I decided it was time to invest in some anaerobic fermenting vessels.
Around this same time I was really getting into Jessica's 52 Weeks of Bad A** Bacteria series. She posted this article and I was convinced to make the switch. I purchased 2 anaerobic fermenting jars with air locks and purchased a bunch of regular wire-bail canning jars (also called “Fidos”). This way, I could store my ferments with glass jar lids and move the air lock to another jar, starting up another ferment.
Why do anaerobic fermenting vessels work better than Mason jars? Lactic Acid Bacteria (LABs) favor anaerobic environments and as they consume the oxygen within the vessel, carbon dioxide is produced and the gas is able to escape through the air-lock. The air-lock, however, does not allow oxygen back in. As a result, the LABs are able to increase in number and thrive. The lack of oxygen keeps the bad aerobic bacteria from growing and spoiling your ferment. Mason jars must be “burped” or opened to allow for the carbon dioxide to escape. Because the seal is broken when you do this, oxygen is allowed to enter. You can see why this is a less than ideal situation.
This recipe came about when I found myself with a few beets and a small cabbage – not enough of either to make a full batch of pickled beets or sauerkraut. I love ginger in just about anything, so I always have some on hand. Beets and ginger are a beautiful paring – if you've never tried them together, you are missing out!
I enjoy this ferment any time of year, but I find it particularly refreshing in the summer and fall months. It pairs well with grilled meats or salmon and is a great starter for a heavier meal like roasts or stews in the colder months.
- 3-4 beets, approximately 1.5 pounds, peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor
- Small purple or red cabbage, approximately 1.5 pounds, shredded (reserve 1-2 of the large outer leaves)
- 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated with a Microplane
- 19 grams of sea salt
- This recipe will fit in a 1.5 liter jar. Before preparing the sauerkraut ingredients, throughly wash all components of your fermenting vessel.
- Spread the shredded cabbage into a large flat bottom baking dish (I like to use my old lasagna pan) and sprinkle it with the sea salt.
- With clean hands, massage the salt into the cabbage for a minute or two.
- At this point, I usually let the cabbage rest for 30 minutes to allow the salt to draw out some liquid. This is how you will create your brine.
- After 30 minutes, add the beets and the ginger to the cabbage and mix well. The mixture will look like way too much to fit into the fermenting vessel, but no worries, you can jam in all in there!
- Now start filling your fermenting vessel with the cabbage beet mixture. I like to add a few spoonfuls and then press it down firmly before adding more veggies.
- As you are adding the mixture, run a knife around the edges of the jar to allow small air bubble to escape.
- Once the jar is filled to the shoulder (the point where the jar start to curve in), it's time to seal it up.
- I like to lay 1 or 2 cabbage leaves over the sauerkraut to keep all the little pieces from floating up.
- Place a few clean glass weights or a small pinch bowl over the leaves and press down so everything is submerged under liquid.
- Close the lid and add the air-lock – don't forget to add water to your air-lock.
- Place in a pantry or dark corner for 2-4 weeks. The longer it ferments, the zippier it will taste!
- Store your beautiful ferment in your refrigerator.
Note from Jessica: I personally use the Probiotic Jars for my fermenting. Like Marjorie, I invested in a few of those, and then purchased a bunch of Fido's. This helped keep the cost down considerably since the lids are interchangeable. For lots more ferment recipes, check out this link.