I am very familiar with the fermentation process. Introducing yeast to a sugar, in my case, malted barley and other grains to produce an alcoholic beverage, beer. Which I have done on dozens of occasions. I am in no way an expert or authority on the subject, it is however, a fairly simple procedure if you pay attention to sanitation practices and have fun. But this post is about a fermented product you can eat as apposed to drink.
Sauerkraut. You know, that stinky, shredded cabbage you buy in a can or bag and heat it up to serve with wieners. Now I don't have many requests for serving it at parties, I do enjoy a nice snappy frank, piled with kraut and some whole-grain mustard but I wouldn't say that I go nuts for the stuff. That is until my last batch of kimchi got me thinkin about pickling & fermenting other types of veggies and around the same time I happened to catch a video on Basic Brewing with James and Steve making sauerkraut with sausage & beer. Wow, couldn't believe how easy it was, salt and cabbage, that's it. More important, I get that "Kid on Christmas Morning" feeling every time I start projects like this, no matter how simple or complex they are. Call me crazy, it's just fun!
Every recipe I found online, including the method used on Basic Brewing was simply to sprinkle salt onto the cabbage in layers in a large glass or ceramic container and pack it down well. The salt will pull the moisture from the vegetable and create a brine and in time will ferment it. OK, leave it to me to buck the trend(yes, I went with a Zune instead of the I-Pod). I decided to go with a recipe from the book "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman which is in the "on-deck circle" on my stack of books to read.
His recipe calls for making a brine(just salt and water) and submerging the cabbage totally until fermentation is complete. I will definitely be trying the salt only method as well, to compare because my concern is that the water brine might dilute the flavor. My thinking is that when only salt is used, the liquid turning into brine is cabbage juice, producing more flavor. We'll see.
The hardest part is ahead of me, the wait. Patience doesn't agree with me. And right now I have this massive craving for smoked kielbasa sauteed' with onions, house-made kraut and a splash or two of my favorite brew.