Friday, June 5, 2015

Fermenting

If you all remember this year I was going to learn to ferment/culture a few things. The first one was kefir. I've been doing it for months now and it is just too easy. Kefir has grains that when it is done you sieve out and use them to start the next batch. I've elected to just use a slotted spoon and transfer it to the next jar to make more. As you can see I don't make much every day. But about 3/4 of a cup per day is certainly enough for me. I go one farther though and add lactase into my jars. Goat milk kefir doesn't have a lot of lactose, but even a little upsets my system, so I make sure all that lactose is gone. Then it sits on the counter for the day to ripen and put in the fridge for another week before it is used. It takes about three minutes of my time each morning. Easy.

In addition I've started making cultured buttermilk. I LOVE the taste of buttermilk. Goat buttermilk is thinner than cow though. I tend to use it in my homemade salad dressings and in my baked goods. It too is cultured at room temperature, so very easy to make. I started with a powdered culture and mixed it in and just put the jar on the counter for a day. Then I used the lactase drops again and put in the fridge. It tastes better after abut a week in the fridge. So good. The company I bought it from says that you can keep the culture going about four times without trouble then you should probably start again with more powdered culture. To reuse the culture I use up the jar until it just has about a quarter of the amount in and then fill it back up and put it on the counter again. I've just started doing this. And so far so good. I've found that I like having two pint jars though instead of a single quart jar. I use one until it gets down to a quarter then take it out of the fridge and culture more. While that is happening I still have the other jar that I can use. And I rotate.

They look deceptively small but they are pretty large leaves

The third one had me out picking the Michihili cabbage. Aren't the leaves just beautiful? The heads aren't full sized yet. I debated with myself on and off yesterday until I finally convinced myself to start picking them. There is that little devil's voice in my head that tells me if I wait longer it will get bigger and I'll get more. But the reality is that I can't deal with six cabbages all at once. These things are tall and hard to fit in the fridge when they are full sized. Though I've kept them a couple months in the fridge, they just wouldn't fit.

Once it was picked the question was what to do with it. I still have bok choy that I'm eating at lunch every day. So I decided to make sauerkraut. I've never made this before and to me it is more daunting than the milk cultures. I'm not sure why. As a kid I saw my parents make both kefir and sauerkraut. They had a big crock for the job. I'm using a quart mason jar. I brought out my "The Art of Fermenting" and read over again how to do it. He said five pounds of cabbage for a gallon of kraut. I wanted a quart so I weighed out 1.25 pounds and 2.25 teaspoons of salt. It wasn't enough by far. I think I added another half pound to the mix. And more salt. He and others that I've read say to pound it down and let it sit for a couple hours and pound again. Keep doing it until the water covers the leaves. This can take 24 hours. Well Chinese cabbage seems to be wetter than European cabbage. I had no trouble making enough liquid before I put the lid on for the first time.

I had bought some airlocks and lids off of Etsy. And some glass jar weights. I'm supposed to keep all the cabbage off the surface, but how the heck do you keep those little tiny floating ones off? My next issue is when do I decide to try it? Some people think it tastes best after three days. Some go for a week. Some a couple weeks. And then there are those that say four weeks is best if you want to have all those good bacteria. If I keep it closed, the mold won't grow (or so I'm told). If I open it to test it at various times I might have more contamination. And then there is the issue of taste. Will I like it? I hated sauerkraut as a kid. But then I hated zucchini as a kid too and I'm growing three zucchini plants. I even bought some zucchini from the store this spring when I ran out of my preserved (it isn't nearly as good as what I grow). Maybe I'll love it. Maybe I'll hate it. Maybe I'll like a sweet kimchi style better. I've got a lot of experimenting to do this summer. Both with the Chinese cabbage and our typical ones.

9 comments:

  1. I'll be waiting to hear how you like the fermented Chinese cabbage! I love regular cabbage kraut, plus kohlrabi and turnip kraut and 'pickles' made with kohlrabi. Right now I've got a batch of fermented radishes going. I generally taste after 3-4 days and then decide whether to let it go longer or not. I tasted one of the radishes today and it tasted salty but not fermented, so it has a ways to go yet.

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  2. Hmm, yes I'll be interested to see how that cabbage turns out too, i did gherkins last year and will be trying again this year, recording more closely what I do differently in each batch, as some worked but others didn't. Two of my gherkin plants were decimated by snails recently but luckily I had a couple of spare plants. The kefir looks really good, a friend has started making this recently, I need to pop round hers to have a taste.

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  3. I hated saiuerkraut too the only time I tried it in Germany

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    1. I also hated sauerkraut without the i

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  4. We seem to be on the same track this year. I really like my first ever batch of sauerkraut, something that I have been indifferent to, neither loving nor hating it. My first batch of kimchi is in the fridge, it's supposed to improve with a bit of age. I want to try some lacto-fermented onions when I start harvesting those. And perhaps some zucchini pickles. The airlock systems make it so easy to experiment with small batches.

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  5. My ex used to take care of fermenting - making sauerkraut and kimchi. Haven't tried it myself. But I LOVE both of them (in small amounts). Luckily I have some friends who share theirs with me now and then. Might have to try it myself some time.

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  6. Hope you like the kraut. I made kimchee last year and it turned out pretty good (less hot pepper next time!). Bought one of those Kraut Source doohickeys Michelle wrote about, but they are expensive. I may have to pick up some airlocks like yours if I plan on having more than one ferment going at a time.

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  7. A tip for keeping the small pieces submerged is to use a bigger leaf on the top layer before the weight (for traditional sauerkraut I use an outer cabbage leaf).

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  8. Experimenting is so much fun - can't wait to see what you think of the sauerkraut. I don't eat it very often, but have enjoyed it in the past as a topping on a sausage - it was really yummy.

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