The Star Tribune in Minneapolis-St. Paul featured an article on making homemade sauerkraut this week, and they wisely consulted the master of fermentation, our very own Sandor Ellix Katz. Here’s an excerpt from the article that features Sandor’s advice on crafting perfectly balanced, tasty sauerkraut. Be sure to have a look at Sandor’s brand new Fermentation Workshop DVD, if you haven’t seen it yet!
Advice from the master
Sandor Katz, author of “Wild Fermentation,” the preeminent book for making your own live-culture foods — everything from kraut to miso to wine — reminds his readers of the simplicity of the process: just salt, vegetables and time. “Fermenting sauerkraut, or anything, is an intrinsically safe process,” he said. “There are no recorded cases of food poisoning.”
Too much poking around in the kraut may introduce bacteria that will produce an unsightly cap of mold on the top layer of the sauerkraut — but it’s perfectly harmless. Just scrape it off and use the kraut below. Once it has fermented, its pH, or level of acidity, will be around 2.6, or well in the safe zone.
I’m still left with the question: How do you know when it’s done fermenting? Is there some sort of general human consensus on what makes sauerkraut, essentially a controlled souring, taste desirable? I like to believe that our taste buds naturally seek deliciousness. Sandor agreed. “Most people can perceive the natural balance.”
But to fermentation authorities, it’s good at any stage of the game. In fact, Sandor found out during his book tour that he could harvest, and enjoy, week-old sauerkraut when he found himself running out of mature kraut. “I like it a lot when it’s six weeks old, but I found that many people prefer a milder flavor.”
His fail-safe approach still doesn’t explain my stinky batch from long ago. By now I’ve guessed that I was too inattentive: Too much time in the barrel (10 weeks) coupled with an unfortunate perch next to a raging wood stove (90 degrees or more) equals two disastrous conditions I will avoid in the future.
Amy Thielen is a chef and writer who lives in Two Inlets, Minn.
Read the full article here.