I have been harvesting the last of the winter greens over the last few weeks. It’s summer now, and I need to plant tomatoes and corn, not cabbage. Plus the greens were all starting to bolt, so it was time.
At first I thought I would can some sauerkraut, but I was feeling lazy. A little bumble bee in the back of my brain starting buzzing something about making raw kraut, that it is one of the laziest but also coolest projects to do with extra greens.
The reason that I can’t stop fermenting all my extra vegetables, in addition to the fact that sea kraut and kimchi are totally delicious and incredibly good for you, is that the whole process is so easy.
Mix up greens with salt and any other things that make you happy.
Put the greens into the jar. Wait for awhile.
Salty cabbage greens morph into crunchy sour tasty delicious healthy snack for eating all the time, with everything.
Plus, the fermented greens have superpowers now and can somehow last for months in the fridge (or for quite awhile unrefrigerated as well, though they will keep fermenting and the taste may change, becoming more sour than you want.)
In a nutshell, fermentation is one of the oldest and simplest food preservation methods available. I think part of the reason I am enthralled by the whole process is that you purposely leave food unrefrigerated and let bacteria start infesting your jars. Years of restaurant work have engrained food safety rules in my head, and when I break them I feel like I am robbing a bank or stealing cars.
Rules are made to be broken. They are just holding you down, man.
Go grab that last cabbage in the garden and make some raw sea kraut!
Raw Cabbage and Seaweed Sauerkraut
This sauerkraut tastes like the ocean. The recipe is my own twist off of a basic raw sauerkraut recipe in Liana Krissof’s book Canning For A New Generation. It’s a great book to have in your pantry and I highly recommend it for any preservationist.
makes: 1/2- 1 quart, depending on your cabbage size (mine was small)
cooking time: about 20 minutes of active cooking and then a week or so of waiting
- 1 savoy cabbage
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. dried seaweed, I used wakame (see note for more info. on seaweed*)
1. Wash cabbage, remove core, and slice into thin strips.
2. Sterilize a quart sized jar while you are working on step#3.
3. In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine cabbage, seaweed and salt. Knead the ingredients together, working the salt into the cabbage leaves. Gradually liquid will start to form. Keep going for about 15-20 minutes, and then transfer the mixture to the sterilized jar. It should fit and the liquid should just barely cover the sliced up cabbage. If it doesn’t, keep working the cabbage and salt together (or, in a step which would make this recipe take forever, make a brine, wait for it to cool, and add a little bit to the jar to cover the cabbage leaves).
4. Weigh down the chopped cabbage with something to keep it below the surface of the liquid. Krisoff’s book and a few other sources suggest a ziploc bag filled with water, but I did it like this:
This is a half-pint sized jar with the lid attached and a long string running underneath the ring of the jar. It perfectly fits inside the wide-mouth quart sized jar that I used for the sea kraut. Drape the string over the sides of the quart jar and screw the ring on to hold the pint jar in place.
If you don’t have this perfect jar combo lying around, just use a ziploc bag.
5. Set aside the jar and wait about a week. You’ll see small bubbles forming, which means that the cabbage is fermenting. After the week is up, give the jar a smell and a taste. If should be pleasantly sour and crunchy. If it’s not sour enough, just wait another few days. At this point, I put the jar in the fridge to keep the flavors pretty much right where they were, but the sea kraut doesn’t necessarily require refrigeration.
How to eat this lovely kraut? I put it wraps with sliced fresh vegetables and on salads. You can make little lettuce cups with sea kraut, bell peppers and grilled chicken or tofu. You could use it in a sandwich. Serve it as a side with stir-fry and rice. The possibilities are endless.
For more information about fermenting, read this article from the Washington Post.
*Note: Dried seaweed is often available in the bulk food section of natural food stores. Wakame is delicious and just the right size for mixing into the kraut, but… funny story…. I realized when I was writing this that I had also used hijiki seaweed, and that several governments have apparently issues warnings relating to hijiki since it contains high levels of inorganic arsenic. You learn something new every day, right? It’s still safe to eat, just in small amounts. Read about it here. I think in the future I’ll just stick with wakame or dulse and avoid the hijiki altogether.