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Recently I’ve been very inspired by all of the possibilities of using natural fermentation to preserve and enhance vegetables. My fridge often looks likes someone’s over-stuffed closet. Some people over indulge with shoes and designer clothing, but apparently I do that with fresh vegetables. This is particularly true this time of year when my garden starts to produce, the CSA I belong to sends home gorgeous boxes full of produce AND the local farmer’s markets call to me each weekend. Fermentation is one way I use all of the veggie abundance.

Today I made this asian-inspired kraut. There really isn’t a recipe in the traditional sense, but here are the ingredients and how I put it together:

Ingredients:

Cabbage (I used three small to medium heads to fill a 1 1/2 litre fermentation jar)
Sea salt (I used 2 1/2 Tbsp, but I’ve ready about using more and using less elsewhere)
Kale, as much or as little as you’d like (I used perhaps a cupful of julienned kale, as I had some from the garden)
Lemongrass, about one stalk
Galangal or fresh ginger, again it depends on your tastebuds but I used about a piece the size of my thumb
Hot pepper, I used two serranos and one jalapeno from my garden (use more if you like it hot)

Instructions:

Note: The amount of each ingredient isn’t set in stone. Also, you can substitute other flavors depending on your taste preference and what you have on hand. Just cabbage and sea salt will make a wonderful sauerkraut in its “purest” form.

1. Slice up the cabbage as thinly as you’d like. Put it into a non-metallic bowl and sprinkle with salt as you go. When all of the cabbage is sliced add the remaining salt on top and press the cabbage down into the bowl. Set a plate on top and let it sit a few hours. This will help to start pull the water out of the cabbage.

2. Come back to the cabbage later and then take a good 10 minutes to roughly “massage” the cabbage with both hands. Really work the cabbage with your hands, giving it a good squeeze. Think about the roughest massage you’ve ever had, really work out those hands in that cabbage. This brings out the juices in the cabbage and will result in a crispier kraut when it is finished.

3. Now add in everything else you are using and continue to mix it and squeeze it with your hands.

4. Pack the kraut into a Pickl-It jar, or into a canning jar that you can fit with a lid that has an airlock. Really push the kraut mixture down into the jar. Leave an extra few inches free at the top. Stop about 2 inches before the shoulder of the jar. The kraut will swell the first few days, so it needs some head room.

5. Push the kraut down into the jar, and you should see juices coming up over the top of the cabbage mixtures. I add a small cabbage leave on top and then use a glass weight to hold the cabbage down. If the kraut mixture doesn’t get submerged after sitting in the jar for a few hours open it up and pour a small amount of salty water on top until it just covers the cabbage.

6. Now put on your airlock. You want gasses to escape, but don’t want oxygen to get into the jar. (Oxygen will mean mold.) If you aren’t sure about what an airlock is, you can read about Pick It jars here or about alternative airlock methods here. There are also some beautiful traditional kraut crocks available online (I recommend Etsy), but they don’t come cheap.  Check them out here.

7. Here is the hard part: put it in a dark place (or cover with a dark towel) and WAIT. I taste mine after about 3 weeks, and I usually let it sit out at least 4 or 5 weeks before I put it into smaller jars in the fridge. Go by your own tastebuds. If it is strong enough for you, then it is ready. It will keep a very long time in the fridge. It will continue to ferment very slowly. The only time to be alarmed is if you notice your kraut has fuzzy mold.

8. Enjoy your delicious kraut and all of the healthy probiotics you have created!