The Joy of Wild-Fermentation: Methods

In the corner of our blog, we talk about the fundamentals of fermentation.

What is fermentation: Fermentation is the process of breaking down of carbohydrates into simpler nutrients by the means of microbes. Fermentation is desirable, makes the food nutritious and safe to eat.

Fermentation can be broken down into 2 categories - wild fermentation and starter/culture based fermentation. 

Wild fermentation: All the surfaces on earth are covered with lactic-acid bacteria, including the fruits and vegetables we eat. Wild fermentation method relies on these microbes to eat the carbohydrates/sugars in the vegetables and produce lactic-acid and CO2. The lactic-acid presence helps drop the pH of the vegetables and act as a self-preserving agent. During this process the vegetables go through tremendous changes, taste-wise, appearance-wise as well as nutrition-wise. 

We will learn this with the help of Sauerkraut example-

Sauerkraut a.k.a naturally fermented cabbage is fermented in its own juices over a period of time that makes the cabbage sour in taste. The naturally occurring lactic-acid bacteria are encouraged in the presence of salt and its own juices to grow exponentially that makes sauerkraut a potent probiotic, self-preserving and a powerhouse of nutrition like B-vitamins, amino acids, Vitamin A, C, K, Magnesium etc.

Tools and equipments needed:
Big mixing bowl
Chopping board
Sharp knife
Glass jar or any non-reactive food-safe jar with lid - capacity 1.5L-2L

Ingredients:
1 big head of cabbage - 700 gms to 800 gms in weight
Salt - to taste
Note - recipe can be doubled


Method:
Wash and save a whole cabbage leaf for later
Cut the cabbage head into half and quarter, remove the core
Chop it as per your liking, finely or roughly - all works
Transfer to the bowl and start adding 1 tsp of salt
Mix the salt. Bruise the vegetable so the cabbage start releasing water at least for 5-10 mins
Set aside for 10-15 mins for most of the water to drain out in the bowl
Start transferring the cabbage along with the liquid into the glass jar. Press the cabbage with force to release air pockets. Use hands or rolling pin/tamper
Fill the jar till its shoulder and leave headspace for CO
Use the whole leaf and use it as a blanket to cover the vegetables and keep them from coming on the surface
Use a weight (also called primary follower) to keep EVERYTHING under the liquid
Close the jar lid loosely and keep it on counter-top away from sun-light for 3 days
Do a taste-test after 3 days. Signs of fermentation includes a slight discolouration of vegetables just like when they are cooked, a pop-sound of escaping Co2 and a distinctively tangy taste
Transfer the jar to refrigerator if you like the taste. Keep fermenting on the counter if you like it more sour

Use sauerkraut as a condiment to your sandwiches, salad or as a side for your dal-chawal, dosas. Top-it on your soup bowls just before eating. Eat it as it is for maximum probiotic benefit.

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