This week gardeners learned how to make sauerkraut with cabbage and salt. This process of preserving our harvest is called lacto-fermentation. As opposed to canning, or blanching and freezing, where the heat kills bacteria, and as a result many nutrients are lost, lacto-fermentation is unique in that it creates an environment for bacteria to grow and flourish- but only the bacteria which is good for us! In the same way that yogurt has pro-biotics, lacto-fermentation promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions writes, “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” While the gardeners at the teaching garden learned the most basic sauerkraut recipe, lacto-fermentation can occur with nearly all vegetables, with the addition of spices and salt.
What you need:
2 lbs of cabbage (a small head of cabbage)
1 tbsp. of salt
1 quart mason jar
After a few hours begin packing the cabbage into the mason jar. While it is good to be clean about this process, do not be overly sterile- no need to sterilize jars as in canning- because the bacteria is what makes lacto-fermentation occur! As you stuff the cabbage into the mason jar, pound it down so that it is compact as can be. Some people like to add whey to sped up the fermentation process, but it is not necessary. On a counter with a plate beneath (to catch any spillage), leave the mason jar with its top on but not screwed down. Leave the kraut at room temperature, checking on it every day to make sure that the cabbage is submerged in water temperature. Wait until it is bubbly, usually about four days to a week, at which point you may move it to a cool place, either a basement or the fridge.
If you are interested in learning more about recipes and the health benefits of fermentation, a great book I would recommend is Wild Fermentation be Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green Publishing).
Other updates from the garden:
Garlic harvest! We finally harvested the rest of the garlic. In our garden we harvested hardneck garlic, which was planted last October (a gift left by last years garden class!). Fresh garlic is a very easy vegetable to grow and save seed for the next years harvest. After harvesting the garlic you can eat it fresh or use it like regular garlic, though it will be a bit stronger. Most gardeners will cure the garlic harvest so that they can store it for a longer period of time, which means drying it out in a hot, indoor, and dry place for about 2 weeks. Bulbs can store for more than 6 months if cured and stored properly.
As gardeners learned earlier in the season, hardneck garlic sends out a garlic scape, which we break off to promote the energy of the plant to go towards the bulb rather than the scape, and the flower. We must have missed one, however, which provided for a good comparison. The garlic on the left went to flower, and the one on the right we broke off the scape.
One thing to do with fresh garlic if you are eager to use it is to peel the outer most layer of skin off and wrap the bulb in aluminum foil with a bit of oil. roast the head of garlic in the oven for about an hour. Then peel the cloves and enjoy! I have made garlic bread and a roasted garlic hummus with my roasted garlic.