There are times when you want to get out your giant ceramic fermenting crock – and then there are (more) times when you really don’t. Over the holidays I was reading up on small batch fermentation and the pros and cons of doing it in mason jars. I have a lot of mason jars.
One of the suggestions that kept coming up was to use an air lock, the same kind used in various homebrew applications, to make sure that you weren’t letting any gross stuff get into the mason jar. Apparently some people find that the shape of the mason jar makes it hard to keep contents fully submerged – and leaving food stuffs exposed to air isn’t a great idea if you don’t want to dry out and/or get mould on everything you’re making.
I went online and ordered two 2-piece air locks and two #13 bungs. (*tee hee*) The #13 fits nicely into the top of a standard mason jar (not wide mouth).
Since I just started this batch today, I have no idea how well it’ll turn out, so I’ll write another post in the future when I get to taste it. In the meantime, I kept it nice and simple and here’s how I did it.
Small Batch Fermented Sauerkraut
A small green cabbage
1.8-ish teaspoons of plain salt – no iodine added (kosher salt is good!)
- Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. Chop or shred the inner portion into the size you want.
- Weigh 1 pound of shredded cabbage, put it into a bowl, and add the salt.
- With clean hands, squish the salt into the cabbage. Grind it! Crunch it up! You want the salt to get into the cabbage and start pulling out the water – this is not the time to be gentle and delicate. Show that cabbage who’s in charge!
- Put the cabbage, and any juice that you made during your squishing of it, into a 1 quart mason jar. Using anything you have handy (like the handle of a spatula), press the cabbage down firmly into the jar. Pack it in there!
- Wipe the rim and put the bung (*tee hee*) in place. Add water to the air lock and put it in the bung hole (oh, come on).
- The cabbage will start to make its own brine overnight (if not, see below). Your job is to watch the bubbles start as the fermentation process gets going. In 2 or 3 days, taste it – use a clean utensil (people seem to prefer chopsticks) and don’t double-dip.
- If it’s yummy, and you’re satisfied with it, remove the bung (ha!), put a normal lid on, and store it in the fridge. If it’s not ready yet, put the bung back in and give it another day. Or two, or three.. It’s a matter of personal taste.
Plenty of Notes:
If your cabbage doesn’t make enough brine to be mostly submerged, you can add brine by dissolving 1 tablespoon of salt into 1 cup of water. The important difference between fermentation with an air lock vs without is that you do not need to keep your food fully submerged with an air lock (you do need to keep it fully covered with brine in the regular fermentation process.) Airborne bacteria or moulds or whatever can’t get into the closed-up jar – so you can cheerfully thank your bung for making this entire process easier. Ha!
Also, I am clearly five years old. My apologies.
Double-also, you can also refer to the bungs as “drilled stoppers”. Y’know, if you’re not 5.
While most recipes note that the sauerkraut is ‘ready’ in a few days, inasmuch as it tastes good, there is research showing that the probiotic cultures aren’t fully active and happy for at least 4 weeks. If you are making the sauerkraut solely because you want to toss some on a grilled-up Reuben sandwich, well, 4-5 days is okay (if the taste is good to you)! If you’re more interested in eating it ‘raw’ because you want more of the health benefits, leave it longer.
To learn more about fermentation and other good things, you should visit Well Preserved.
I ordered my supplies (other than the mason jars) from Canuck Homebrew Supply. They are not paying me to write this post – I was just really impressed with how quickly they got my package to me, and how fast they replied to my email inquiry. So, if you’re looking to buy online, they’re my recommendation!