My favorite section in my cool room holds fermented goods! This includes varieties of kraut (sauerkraut), grated root vegetables preserved in vinegar and salt, and also vinegar itself!
Let’s talk basics today. What is necessary to begin this process?
For both sauerkraut and vinegar preserved root vegetables, its all the same!
A). A Pounder: The fermenting method I prefer includes the squishing and pounding of vegetables to release their juices. The goal? To release enough juice to cover the actual vegetable pieces. I have a hand-carved trusty poplar pounder, but I’ve used water bottles filled with water, winebottles, squishing with my bare hands (that’s a workout!) and even a baseball bat (not recommended)! Smile. It doesn’t have to be anything special!
B). Durable container to pound vegetables in. Gulp. I broke my mother-in-law’s crock due to my pounding with a metal baseball bat (not recommended!). A container with straight sides works best: a food-safe bucket, stockpot, crock (see post about crocks). Make certain its deep or vegetables will be flying!
C). Salt (or vinegar). Use sea or himalayan varieties. Avoid table or ionized salts. Salt helps release juices and enables the good bacteria to get a head-start on the bad stuff. Vinegar is also a natural preservative. Root vegetables don’t release enough juice by themselves, so instead of making a salt-water brine, homemade, live culture apple cider vinegar can add a delicious flavor to fermented roots!
D). Good fermenting containers. I use 1 gallon and 1/2 gallon glass jars with their sealing lids. Fido jars are also a great option. I’ve never had luck with open ferments. Inevitably, mold or slime appears. I gave up. I don’t mind releasing gas pressure for the first week!
E). A cold spot to keep them after they’ve begun the initial fermenting process. And that’s when they are transferred to the cool room to wait all winter!
A). A pressing or steaming process to extract juice from fruits. My personal favorite is apple and plum. Apples are raw pressed and plums are steam-juiced!
B). Exposure to air. Absolutely!
C). More surface area (air exposure) makes for a quicker ferment. I prefer to keep vinegar in wide crocks, covering the mouth with a cloth.
D). Adequate fermenting time. It will take at least 3 months for vinegar to begin ripening.
E). When the smell begins to ‘flow’, vinegars can be moved (in original containers) to the cool room, keeping good cultures live until spring.
So there y’are! Basic, yes. But totally necessary, every last one!