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Making fermented pickles requires us get friendly with bacteria.

As discussed in my previous post, a pickle is nothing more than a vegetable preserved in an acidic brine. Acid is the silver bullet against botulism and also gives pickles their signature tangy taste. For quick pickles, often called vinegar pickles, the brine is acidified with vinegar.

In making fermented pickles, also called brined pickles or lacto-fermented pickles, the brine acidifies naturally, thanks to the activity of beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. The microbiology is fascinating and complex, but all you really need to know is that the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria occur naturally on the vegetables you’ll pickle, and the fermenter’s role is to encourage them to do their thing. In one sense, fermenting is akin to gardening. Gardening requires patience, diligence, and careful attention, but you don’t actually make the garden grow. Instead, you create the conditions for the garden to flourish as nature takes it course. Likewise, with fermenting, you don’t make the ferment bubble, but you do tend the microenvironment of your ferment in order to foster conditions favorable to the beneficial bacteria. And, just as the gardener takes steps to discourage weeds, you take steps to discourage undesirable microorganism such mold and yeast.

Some people prefer the unique, rich flavor of traditionally fermented pickles (kosher dills, for instance) to the sharper flavor of vinegar pickles, but to me the most significant difference between the two classes of pickles is that fermented pickles are a raw, live, pro-biotic food. (See Michael Pollan’s New York Times Magazine article here for an overview of research linking our bodies’ microbiome, including gut flora, to health.) In my experience, the effect of fermented pickles on digestion is noticeable and beneficial.

Many firm vegetables—including cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, turnips, and green tomatoes—can be fermented. The only essential ingredients apart from the vegetables themselves are sea salt and bottled water.

The 6 Elements of Successful Fermenting

The six basic elements of all successful ferments are: vegetables, water, salt, aromatics, time, and care. At the bottom of this post, I’ll give you my Universal Fermenting Recipe, which is basically a simple ratio of salt to water with some added aromatics.

But the real secret to successful fermenting lies in your attention to the Six Elements, so I’ll start with each in turn.

Vegetables: As with all preserving, good results begin with good ingredients. Choose fresh, crisp, young vegetables picked at the height of the growing season. Rinse well, and trim the blossom end of cucumbers and squash to remove enzymes that can cause the pickle to soften. Vegetables can be sliced (zucchini spears), chunked (large cucumbers or squash), or left whole (green beans, small cucumbers, small green tomatoes).

As for greens: many dark leafy greens will develop an unpleasant chlorophyll taste. But when fermenting turnips I’ll sometimes add a handful of the tops, and trimmed chard stems make a good pickle.

Water: Tap water from municipal water systems has been treated with chlorine or chloramine to kill microbes. It will disrupt the beneficial bacteria you’re trying to encourage in your ferment. Always use bottled spring water instead.

Salt: Salt adds flavor, hardens the vegetables’ pectin to make pickles crunchy, and regulates bacterial growth. The brine will taste quite salty at first, but a portion of the salt is absorbed by the vegetables, and everything comes out right in the end.

Unrefined sea salt is the best choice. Salt’s weight-by-volume varies substantially with flake size, and sea salt will come closest to the recipe measurements. (Kosher salt, which is much flakier, will under-salt the brine.) Unrefined sea salt also contains trace minerals that yield a crunchier pickle.

Incidentally, there is no “right” amount of salt in a brine. The standard ratio of 5% salt by weight is a useful guideline, not a fixed rule. A less-salty brine will ferment faster, and extra salt will slow down a ferment. In summer’s heat, stick with the recipe below.

Aromatics: Be generous with aromatics, such as whole garlic cloves, sprigs of fresh dill and whole dill heads, and whole spices including black peppercorns, dill seeds, and caraway seeds. My recipe below gives suggestions, but don’t feel constrained by them. Other options include fresh horseradish, dried red chilies, and pearl onions.

Incidentally, one often sees the advice to add grape leaves or oak leaves to a ferment, the idea being that their tannins help crisp the pickle. It’s a nice touch, but not at all necessary.

Time: As mentioned, fermenting is a natural process, and it requires time to work. Warmer temperatures accelerate the process, and colder temperatures slow it down. In a comfortable room, around 70 degrees, the brine will begin to cloud in two days. Within three to four days, it will start to bubble and sour. The pickles will be half-sour in about a week, and fully sour in two weeks. At 80 degrees, the whole process might happen in a week. In a cool cellar, it might take three weeks or more. In a cold refrigerator, fermentation occurs imperceptibly over the course of months.

Care: Because of the variables inherent to each ferment (salt and temperature), the only way to judge your pickles’ process is to inspect them carefully. You can’t leave a crock or jar unattended for a week and expect good results. Instead, look at the pickles daily. Make sure they stay submerged (more on that below). Expect to find a thin film of yeast to form on the brine surface and maybe even tiny pinheads of mold. Don’t worry about these signs of life. Skim off the floaters and wipe the wall of the crock or jar if necessary. As long as you keep the micro-garden of your ferment well “weeded” by skimming daily, everything will be fine.

Once the pickles start to sour, taste daily. Once they are soured to your liking, put them in the fridge for keeping. They will last a month or longer.

Universal Fermented-Pickle Recipe

Yields about 2 quarts

2 pounds sturdy vegetables, such as Kirby cucumbers, small zucchini, green beans, baby turnips, or green tomatoes
• 6 4-inch sprigs fresh dill (including seed heads, if available)
• 6 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
• 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
• 1 tablespoon dill seed
• 6 level tablespoons sea salt (2.25-2.5 ounces)
• 2 quarts bottled spring water

1. Wash and trim the vegetables, and pack into a one-gallon jar or crock. Tuck in the dill, garlic, and other aromatics as you go.

2. Dissolve the salt in the water, and pour over the vegetables to cover. Weight the vegetables with a plate so that they remain completely submerged. Alternatively, fill a Ziploc freezer bag with brine, and use it to submerge the vegetables. (Make extra brine using the same proportions if necessary). If using a jar, loosely close the lid. (Do not seal it so because gases produced by the ferment need to escape.) If using a crock, cover it with a plate or board to keep out unwanted visitors.

3. Store the ferment in a cool, dark place, and check daily. Skim any scum or flecks of mold. Insure that the vegetables remain submerged. The pickles will begin to sour in less than a week. You can eat them at any point in the fermenting process. Once soured to your likely, transfer the pickles to the refrigerator, and keep submerged in brine. They will keep for a month or longer.

Click here for previous posts from Home Canning 101.

Click here for more information on blogger Kevin West.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.




After filling jars with delicious foods it's sometimes hard to find ways to use them. Last year, we raised and butchered 75 chickens. We have favorite ways to use it, such as chicken & dumplings, chicken pot pie, and chicken chunk gravy over mashed potatoes. But when you stare at more than 70 quarts of chicken in the pantry you start wishing you had more ideas for using it.

It begins with cooking the chicken. I boil the whole chickens in my five-gallon kettles for about an hour. While the chickens boil I round up jars and make sure they're clean, and get out lids and rings. I simmer the lids in a small sauce pan.

After the chickens are cooked I let them cool a bit, then lift them carefully out of the hot water into a strainer basket placed over a bowl. When they're cool enough to touch, I pull the meat off the bones. The meat goes in a bowl and the bones go back into one of the kettles to be simmered for broth. Later I strain out the bones and can the broth.

Spoon the meat into jars and cover it with broth, and add a teaspoon of sea salt. Then I run a narrow rubber scraper down the insides of the jar, up and down all the way around the jar, to release trapped air bubbles. I wipe the rim of the jar with a damp cloth, then use a fork to raise the edge of a lid out of the simmering water and place the lid on a jar and screw a ring over it. (There's a magnetic stick you can use to fish the lids out of the water).

My two pressure canners were on the stove with water steaming in the bottom of them. I set the jars in the canners, 7 quarts to a canner, then secured the lid on the canner. Before canning I always inspect the rubber seal in the lid where it sits on the canner pot, and the rubber safety relief valve, to make sure they're in good shape. Mine were, so with the lid locked in place I turned up the heat and in a short while steam started coming out the center post. After ten minutes of steaming I set the weight on the post.

The canning times for chicken are 75 minutes for pint jars and 90 minutes for quart jars, at 10 lbs of pressure for elevations under 1,000', and 15 lbs of pressure over 1,000'. Start timing when the canner is at the correct pressure. For a canner with a “jiggler”, begin timing when the weight jiggles a few times a minute. Try not to let it get too active at jiggling or it releases too much water from the canner in the form of steam. Not enough jiggling could mean the pressure is too low and it won't raise the heat inside the canner high enough to kill all the bacteria and pathogens that can spoil food.

On a canner with a gauge, stay nearby and check frequently to see that the pressure stays within a pound or two of the required pressure. After the time is up, turn the canner off and leave it sit for about half an hour. Lift the weight carefully off the post (if you have a canner with a weight) and see if pressure comes steaming out. If it does, set the weight back down on the post and wait until there's barely any (or none) steam coming out. On a gauged canner, watch the needle until it drops to zero or close to it.

Now I open the canner, lifting the back of the lid up first to direct steam away from my face. I used a jar lifter to carefully remove the jars and set them on a towel on the counter. This is to keep the jars from experiencing a drastic temperature change, which could cause the jars to break. Jars can handle a lot of change, but going from a hot canner to a hard cold surface is a lot of stress on the glass.

As the jars cool I listen for the “ping” as the lids suck down. The purpose of this seal is to keep any new bacteria from getting into the jars. The meat inside is basically sterilized at this point, and as long as nothing gets past that seal, it should stay safe to eat for a long time. Shelf life is determined in part by how and where you store the jars. A cool dark place with a steady temperature (no big daily or seasonal swings) will result in a longer shelf life. Officially the shelf life is one year. Although the quality may deteriorate after that, they can remain safe to eat for considerably longer.

ALWAYS inspect jars carefully when you open them. Tap the lid to see if it's still sucked down. If it bounces up and down, throw the contents away without touching them and sterilize the jar. Color changes in the food don't mean it's bad, but if it smells funny or for any other reason you aren't sure it's safe, throw it out. It's better to not take a chance.

Next post I'll share some of the other ways I use home-canned chicken, and if you have any ideas of your own to share, please do!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



In this post, I promised to go over pros and cons of the two food dehydrators I own: a Nesco™ and an Excalibur™. Both dehydrators are great and I'll start with the stackable Nesco™.

Nesco™ Dehydrator Pros and Cons


• Can add as many trays as necessary
• Affordable accessories


• No timer
• No on/off switch

When you're first starting out, you may wish to opt for the model with the fewest trays for the cost factor. Due to the Nesco™s stackability, please be aware that you must not run the Nesco™ with any less than 4 trays. Why? Four trays ensure enough height for proper warm-air circulation. If you find you love dehydrating (and why wouldn't you?!) you can purchase more trays online and expand your Nesco™ dehydrator's capacity. (If you only have enough food for two trays, simply insert another tray above and below one of the trays to make up the four tray total.)

Electric Outlet Strip

The great part about being able to stack as many trays as you need is just that! This way, you won't be running your dehydrator with empty trays as could be the case with a fixed-amount-tray unit — you'll be drying just the amount you want to dry.

On my Nesco™ dehydrator the temperature dial is right on the lid, making it very convenient to use. To start it, you simply plug it in. This is one of my peeves. If you're at all like me and don't like the idea of plugging something in and out of the wall socket to turn it on and off, then plug the dehydrator into a outlet strip first, and use the on/off switch on that.

The Excalibur™ Dehydrator Pros and Cons


• Take out alternate trays for taller foods
• Affordable accessories
• Use as a bread proofer


• A little more expensive
• Spend more and get a proper on/off switch, and timer

The Excalibur™ model I purchased was the "starter 4-tray" dehydrator. To access the trays, you lift out a very lightweight front flap and then you simply slide the trays out. The temperature dial is on top of the machine, towards the rear.

Just like the Nesco™ model, this also only works by plugging it straight in and out of the wall socket — so use the outlet idea here too. If you opt for a pricier Excalibur™, you will more than likely find that they did include a proper on/off switch-along with a timer — now that's handy! After you've filled your dehydrator in the morning, the timer will turn the machine off later on — if you're at work or out shopping or digging in the garden!

Another great use for the Excalibur™ is as a bread-proofer! Yes, you can use it to raise your bread dough. How? Take out the top trays, leave the lower one in. At the very bottom of the dehydrator, partially fill a foil pan with clean water. Put in your bread dough on top of the lower tray in its baking pan, cover the bread with a cloth to keep the dough from drying out. Follow your bread recipe after proofing. A 4-tray dehydrator is fine for proofing hot dog buns, but for a loaf of bread? A 9-tray unit is better suited as you'll get the required height to proof a full loaf.

A pro for Excalibur™ dehydrators is the ability to take out alternate trays. This is a great feature for foods that would otherwise get squashed between the trays such as broccoli and cauliflower florets which tend to be a bit on the "tall side."

For either machine that doesn't have a built-in timer, consider purchasing a timer that is used for turning lamps on and off. If you know you're not going to be home on time to turn it off, the handy timer will do it for you.

Dehydrator Accessories

In my next post I'll go over some of the accessories available to both the Nesco™ and Excalibur™ electric dehydrators such as mesh screens that keep your dehydrator trays clean(er), and a tip or two on affordable accessory substitutions that you may already have on hand.

To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies toofor long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry fullwhatever the reason or season!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Dried Strawberries

My strawberry patch just exploded this year, so much so that I could barely keep up! After harvesting several flats, I froze half of them (see my post on how to freeze strawberries here) and sliced up the other half for Dried Strawberries with Black Pepper.  Dried strawberries are great on their own, but I like the kick of black pepper to spices things up. The fragrant berries pair beautifully with pepper, particularly when you add them to salads, cheese plates and yogurt. Cream cheese on toast with peppery dried strawberries?  Perfect.

Fresh Strawberries 

Dried Strawberries with Black Pepper Recipe


• 2 lbs strawberries
• freshly ground black pepper


1. Use homegrown or local berries when you can, as the flavor is far superior to store-bought berries. Wash and hull the berries, then slice them a 1/4 inch thick.  Lay them out on dehydrator sheets and sprinkle them lightly with freshly ground black pepper.

2. Set your dehydrator to 120 degrees and leave the strawberries to dry over night. Dry them only until the strawberries are flexible and not wet.  They should be the texture of fruit leather, with just a bit of moisture. Store in airtight jars or glass containers.  Makes one quart.

Photos by Tammy Kimbler

Tammy Kimbler is the blogger of One Tomato, Two Tomato. A cultivator at heart, Tammy’s passions lie with food, preservation, gardening and connecting to her local community through blogging and urban agriculture. She eats well and love to feed others as often as possible. She currently resides with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


No relation to the tropical, banana-like plant with the same common name, plantain is a common weed with edible leaves and seeds. It is also one of the best herbal remedies for scrapes, bug bites, and bee stings.

Where to Find Plantain

If you have a sunny driveway, you probably have some plantain growing along it. Plantago (plantain’s scientific name) loves sunny places with disturbed soils and is common in lawns, parks, and gardens.

Identifying Plantain

All of the plantains have in common that their leaves grow in a low rosette, and that the leaves have prominent, stretchy, parallel veins. If you pull off one of the leaves from the plant you’ll often see those veins sticking out of the stalk like threads (think celery). The leaves have smooth edges or a few soft teeth.

Plantago major (common plantain) has wide, oval leaves. P. rugelii (Rugel’s plantain) leaves are the same shape as common plantain’s, but with red or purplish coloration on the leaf stalks. P. lanceolata (narrow-leaved or English plantain) has narrow leaves that can grow anywhere from a few inches to a foot long, but are almost never more than an inch wide.

All three species have flowers and seed heads that emerge from the center of the leaf rosette on leafless stalks. Plantago lanceolata has 1- to 2-inch seed heads with tiny white flowers. The seed heads of both P. major and P. rugelii. cover most of their stalks and start out with green, scale-like seeds that eventually turn black or brown.

Harvesting Plantain

Plantain is an invasive plant and you do not have to worry about over-harvesting it. Gather the leaves spring through fall.

Harvest the seeds after they’ve turned brown or black. I don’t bother trying to winnow the chaff from the tiny seeds - just think of it as extra fiber.     

What to Do with Plantain

Use the smaller leaves raw in salads. Use the larger leaves to make chips. You can substitute plantain leaves for kale in any kale chip recipe: those stringy veins actually become an asset, adding extra crunch to the chips once they’re dried.


Plantain Chips

Add the seeds to crackers, breads, muffins, etc.

Plantain leaves are anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. They are an herbal remedy that works wonders on mosquito bites, bee stings, and minor cuts and scrapes. The simplest way to use them is to crush up a leaf and rub it on the bite or scrape. You can also turn the leaves into an herbal ointment. But by far the most effective way to use plantain (if you aren’t grossed out by it) is to make a spit poultice. Chew one of the leaves for a moment and then applying the wad of chewed up leaf.

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.


The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review, Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, University of Oslo, Norway, accessed July 2, 2015.

Health Benefits of Plantain Leaf, Global Healing Center, accessed July 2, 2015.

Photos by Leda Meredith

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Community Intelligence 

The local food movement – whether centered in a CSA, a co-op or a farmers market – is no fad or whim, but is driven by acutely real economic, environmental and health concerns. For a host of compelling reasons, there is a growing understanding that good food and a clean, non-toxic environment are foundational, and must be in a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.  

Because CSA possesses so many inherently beneficial dimensions in a time of troubling circumstances, I continue to regard CSA as a way of building a clean, stable agrarian foundation for the fast emerging high-tech digital-wave culture. The digital culture can in reciprocity connect, network and sustain the agrarian initiatives which give it roots. In this regard the element of community is just as important as the practical and economic arrangements that take place in a CSA.

The dynamic of farmers and consumers in free will association via community farms creates the potential for the kind of phenomenon that philosopher Rudolf Steiner termed “social intelligence.” In the particular case of CSA, that construct naturally extends to include economic and environmental intelligence as well.

Rather than an agriculture supported by government subsidies, private profits, or martyrs to the cause, CSA pioneers envisioned organizational forms that provide direct, free will support for farm and farmers from the people who share in the harvest they have made possible. Much more needs to happen on that front now.

That clean, sustainable farms flourish must be the concern of everyone, not just the human beings working as farmers. The core CSA idea is not a marketing scheme, but for the community to support the whole farm, not just to be occasional consumers buying boxes of carrots, lettuce, strawberries and squash. When CSA shareholders support the whole farm, the farm is in better position to reciprocate with support for the community.

The community supports the farm out of intelligent recognition of what is happening in our world and out of free will choices to associate; the farm supports the community out of the bounty of the land.

Writing in the journal Biodynamics, Jeff Poppen once observed that CSA has its roots in the recognition of the fundamental difference between growing something and selling something. "When a group of people cover the farm’s annual budget, as in CSA,” Poppen wrote, “the farmer is able to put his or her attention into developing the farm’s unique possibilities..."

The core ideas of CSA – the sparks that have defined it and made it so immediately understandable and appealing for people – are about supporting a whole farm, and having the whole farm support and nourish the web of people who support it. Ultimately, this is what makes a CSA a CSA.

By supporting the whole farm rather than just buying some food the farm has produced, shareholders are more fully invested and involved. They come to know the full scope of what their investment and participation are accomplishing.

Photo by curiouslee, Creative Commons

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Fermentation is wonderful way to experience and enhance the benefits of foraged foods—let me explain. Truly wildcrafted greens or roots from forest, field, and stream often yield small portions of nutrient dense foodstuffs. Some people believe the untamed nature of these resilient plants create a more vital food. Fermentation is not only an age-old method of storing a bounty, but in the case of foraging is also a way to “stretch” the essence and vitality of your favorite wild greens, roots, or shoots. Small doses of wild vegetables will enrich an entire batch of sauerkraut.

Finding wild edibles definitely strikes deep at our core—after all, our species foraged, as in hunting and gathering, most of its existence.  I like to think that a relationship with our food is nourishing on a whole different level than the act of simply putting something in our mouths. Just as our gardens or connections with our local farmers provide connectivity to place, so does picking a handful of miner’s lettuce at the base of a cedar tree. Collecting wild foods forces us out of our routines not only when we tramp through the wild spaces but also when we put that food on our plates. As soon as we ask the question what is there to eat, we must pay attention and look deeper—a “weedy” vacant lot can suddenly appear instead as a succulent crop of Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album).

Foraging can’t, and shouldn’t, replace or be the sole source of any part our diet. This planet of ours is too populated to sustainably serve up found food all around—think overgrazing.  Practically speaking (and this is the big thing on an individual level) is that our lives are not arranged to spend most of our waking hours procuring calories. Instead, foraging is an amazing way to punctuate our plates with beauty, unique flavors, and enriched nutrients all while cultivating our connectivity. And fermentation is an ideal way to capture each of these benefits.

In the following universal recipe you can enliven kraut by adding a “dose” of foraged vegetables.

Kraut Base for foraged greens

Yield about a half-gallon

This recipe starts with a trip outdoors. (See the list below the recipe for some common edible “weeds”.) Following a few simple guidelines for foraging foods will ensure these gifts from nature are safe for you to eat and will maintain the patch so the plants will be there year after year.

• use three different characteristics to identify the plant
• if you are unsure don’t pick it
• pick only what you need
• collect only where plants are abundant
• leave no trace
• be mindful of how those plants reproduce so that you can make sure that you help scatter seeds, or leave sufficient roots, bulbs, or rhizome as to not deplete the source.
• enjoy

Foraged-Greens Sauerkraut


• 1–2 heads (3-1/2 pounds) cabbage, shredded
• 1–1-1/2 tablespoons salt
• about 2 cups foraged greens, chopped and lightly packed
• 1 sweet onion (or a bundle of spring onions with the greens), sliced thinly
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• Juice and zest of one lemon


1. To prepare the cabbage, remove the coarse outer leaves. Rinse a few of the unblemished ones and set them aside. Rinse the rest of the cabbage in cold water.

2. With a stainless-steel knife, quarter and core the cabbage. Thinly slice with the knife or a mandoline, and then transfer the cabbage to a large bowl.

3. Finely chop foraged leaves and add them to the cabbage. Add the sliced onions and garlic.

5. Grate the zest from the lemon, then add the lemon juice and the zest to cabbage.

6. Add half the salt and, with your hands, massage it into the leaves, then taste. You should be able to taste the salt without it being overwhelming; add more salt if necessary. The cabbage mixture will soon look wet and limp, and liquid will begin to pool. If you’ve put in a good effort and don’t see much brine in the bowl, let it stand, covered, for 45 minutes, then massage again.

7. Transfer the cabbage mixture, a few handfuls at a time, to a jar or a crock. Press down on each portion with your fist or a tamper to remove air pockets. You should see some brine on top of the cabbage when you press.

8. When the vessel is packed, leave 4 inches of headspace for a crock, 2 to 3 inches for a jar. Top the cabbage with one or two of the reserved outer leaves. Then, for a crock, top the leaves with a plate that fits the opening of the container and covers as much of the vegetables as possible then weight down with a sealed water-filled jar. For a jar, use a second smaller sealed water-filled jar, or a water-filled ziplock bag as a follower-weight combination. Then cover it all with a kitchen towel or muslin. Set aside on a plate (to catch any overflowing brine) to ferment, somewhere nearby and out of direct sunlight, in a cool spot for 7 to 14 days.

9. Check daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged, pressing down as needed to bring keep the brine throughout the submerged vegetables.

10. Using a utensil, you can start to test the kraut on day 4 or 5. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s pleasingly sour, pickle-y tasting without the strong acidity of vinegar. The cabbage will have softened yet retain some crunch. It will also look somewhat translucent similar to the color of cooked cabbage and the foraged leaves will be a very dark green.

This kraut will keep, refrigerated, for 12 months.

Getting started: A few common foraged N. American wild edibles for use in fermentation


These are best harvested in winter months when they are sweeter.

• Dandelion
• Chicory
• Yellow Dock
• Burdock


Leaves can be harvested during the growing season.  Most are better when younger as they are tender and have better flavor.

• Amaranth
• Dandelion
• Yellow Dock
• Lamb’s quarters
• Mustard
• Purslane
• Nettles
• Red Clover
• Watercress
• Plantain (Plantago)

Kirsten K. Shockey is a post-modern homesteader who lives in the mountains of Southern Oregon. She writes about sauerkraut and life—but not necessarily in that order. She’s written a complete book of Fermented Vegetables and maintains the website Fermentista’s Kitchen.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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