I’ve done this twice. So, I’m not a pro. But it worked both times so my homework paid off and my approach seems sound.
One of these is probably a reason why you’re interested in lacto-fermentation:
- The health benefit.
- Longer term storage.
- The flavor.
What to Ferment:
My motivation is to ferment a badass salsa to have with my backyard scrambled egg breakfast. I’m not there yet, but to learn I started with sauerkraut. I think you can pretty much ferment whatever you want but study up on it before try something unconventional.
While in a state of mind that you probably wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain it, I ordered my wife, well, me, a 10 liter fermentation crock while I was deployed to Djibouti. My wife gave me a raised eyebrow ‘thanks’ when it showed up at the doorstep, but regardless, that’s what I’m fermenting in.
My neighbor just dove into fermenting using ball jars with specialized lids available from Amazon. A tad easier than the investment in a big crock, but at the rate we’re going through the sauerkraut, I’m glad we have the bigger vessel.
For reference, the 10 liter crock was less than half full with 3 cabbages and 3 beats on my last batch. That batch made 2 quarts and 3 pints, or a pint shy of a gallon of ‘kraut.
Naturally occurring bacteria tag a ride on lots of veggies. The good kind thrive in an oxygen depleted environment with just the right concentration of salt.
So, to lacto-ferment you need to submerge vegetables in a salt water solution called brine.
The trick is to nail that salt concentration in the brine. The best way to do that is by measuring the weight of the food and the weight of the salt. In reality, though, few kitchen scales have the precision low in the operating band to weigh the salt, so the process turns into a ratio of weight of veg to volume of salt.
For example, for sauerkraut, I use 1 Tablespoon of salt per 1.75 lb of cabbage. (1.75 lb = 800 grams)
For extra brine I use 1 Tablespoon of salt per 2 cups of water. I warm the water to help dissolve the salt, but I’m careful not to put hot water on the cabbage because I don’t want to kill the little bacteria buddies.
For reference, the weight of the last 3 cabbages I did, that were store bought, were: 710g, 890g, 885g.
That weight is after processing the cabbage, i.e. cleaning, cutting, shaving, etc. So if you want to try it, and just can’t find a scale, you’ll probably be fine with 1 Tb of finely ground salt per cabbage.
- Gather all your goods.
- A vessel – super clean.
- Mandolin (cutting board and knife will do)
- Big mixing bowl
- Kitchen scale
- Clean and cut up your cabbage.
- Put the cabbage in a big mixing bowl. (I do batches, 1 cabbage at a time.)
- Weigh the cabbage.
- Sprinkle the right amount of salt on it.
- Massage the salt into the cabbage. It will begin to release entrained water.
- Pour all the cabbage and brine into your fermenting vessel.
- Repeat for all the cabbage.
- Place weights or stones on the cabbage to keep it submerged.
- Close up the vessel such that gases can get out but not in.
- Check it weekly for texture and flavor keeping sanitation in the forefront.
- It should be done in about 3 weeks.