Making Sauerkraut and Other Fermented Vegetables

The sky is the limit when making sauerkraut. See what other fermented vegetables you can use.

| June 25, 2013

The Peservation Kitchen

Discover the art of cooking with pickles and preserves in “The Preservation Kitchen.”

Cover Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Make homemade preserves that reveal a world of endless flavor combinations with the help of The Preservation Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2012). Author, restaurant owner and renowned chef Paul Virant with Kate Leahy provides expert preserving techniques and sophisticated recipes for everything from salads to cocktails. In this excerpt from part one, “In the Jar,” learn about making sauerkraut and not just from cabbage, but with other fermented vegetables as well.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Preservation Kitchen.

I’ve been making sauerkraut with cabbage for ages, but it wasn’t until six years ago that I started expanding into other kinds of sauerkraut, from batches made with savory Brussels sprouts to leafy, pungent ramps. Curing vegetables in salt isn’t so far from curing meat. With the help of my chef de cuisine, Nathan Sears, we’ve developed a robust charcuterie program at Vie.

Fortunately, Nathan’s cured meats pair seamlessly with most of our mostarda, aigre-doux, and pickles. Down the road, I’d like to expand into fermented fruit jams. For these jams, you mix fruit with salt, let it ferment, and then cook it into a jam with sugar. Yet we’re still in the early days of those experiments.

What sugar is to fruit preserves, salt is to sauerkraut, cured meats, and preserved citrus rind. In fruit preserves, sugar attracts water molecules, dehydrating microorganisms. In curing, a similar effect takes place. Salt draws out moisture, making produce or meat inhospitable to spoilers. But it works slowly. While not hard to make, the preserves in this chapter require time — in some cases, a lot of it.

Fermentation is the other side of the story. While pickles need vinegar to stave off microbial activity, sauerkraut forms its own acidity. The trick hinges on the concentration of salt. You need enough to dehydrate and prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, but not so much that you discourage the formation of leuconostoc mesenteroides, the bacteria that promotes the production of lactic acid. Generally, this amounts to a brine with a salinity level of 3 percent.

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