Pickle that!

I have discovered a new word. This in itself is an event at this stage of life – I am more forgetting rather than remembering new words.

Perhaps this word is not new to you. Bourdain taught it to me first and I spend a couple of months feeling separate from the group of beings to which it refers. Now it turns out I may be included among their number on account of my pickling proclivities. Due to my attempts at fermenting food products myself – I may actually be a … HIPSTER!

Our Crock Pot!

Why go to all the bother of making yogurt and sauerkraut?

Well … when the wheels have fallen off health wise, usually everything is out of whack – when this happens it is time for a spring clean top to bottom to bring the body back in to balance. We as a collective – have previously relied on fermented food, a lot – to restore and maintain health. Cheese, yogurt, wine, sauerkraut – all fermented food products, all full of good bacteria for the tummy – this is also a sustainable life affirming approach to food preservation that does not use ‘preservatives’ or sugar.

Consuming fermented food such as yogurt and sauerkraut restores balance to the tummy after illness or a general killing off of bacteria you need after a course of antibiotics. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted in to lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria. Lactobacilli are present on the surface of all living things and are especially numerous on the leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground.

Inside the Crock

The proliferation of Lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increase their vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarginogenic substances. Lactic acid is their main by-product and this not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of health flora throughout the intestine. So if you are a bit windy, a bit on the nose, a bit gurgly or burpy, a bit moody – might be time to sort out the tummy. Fermented foods are also alive.

So just how do we make the sauerkraut. We need a cabbage – because well it is a traditional pickling or fermenting vegetable and it tastes delicious. Sauerkraut was first described in Roman texts and was valued for its taste as well as its medicinal properties.

Here is a Miniscule Moment about Caterpillar who also prizes cabbage but not for pickling …

Lacto-fermented condiments are very easy to make. Fruits and vegetables, in our case we used purple cabbage, are first washed and cut up. Second you mix them with salt and herbs or spices. Thirdly we pounded them briefly with the end of a wooden rolling pin that had been cleaned with boiling water. Pounding is necessary to release the juices from the cabbage.

Cabbage Before!

They are then pressed into a tight container or crock pot. Ours was pottery. About 10L capacity. Had clay weights to hold the cabbage down under the salt water and a clever trousers pottery lid with a water moat creating a seal to stop bacteria and trouble wandering in to out previous hoard. Salt inhibits the putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetable for many months.

Lacto-fermentation is a kind of art, possibly a craft, definitely not only a science. It is a process that requires tweaking and therefore does easily conform to an industrialization process design for massive and prolific production. Results are not always predictable. For this reason when the pickling process became industrialized many changes were made that rendered the final product more uniform and easier to sell. However – these changes were not more nutritious.

Sauerkraut After!

One of the most problematic adaptations or changes made for mass production was the use of vinegar in place of salt water. This created a product that is more acidic and not necessarily beneficial when eaten in large quantities. Lastly pickling when produced on a large scale was also treated as in pasteurized which in turn negated the health benefits of pickling by killing all the lactic-acid producing bacteria. No beneficial bacteria – no digestive help! No good!

And now for some final advice … from a pair of Professional Picklers!

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