Thursday, 3 October 2013

Pit Fermentation: Traditional Sauerkraut Making Workshop at Lakeshore Collegiate !

The Kraut Experiment

Yesterday the culinary class at Lakeshore Collegiate joined forces with the garden to experiment with a traditional method of sauerkraut making in which the cabbage is buried in the ground. Yes, you heard correctly, we buried it! Here's how the process works...

Digging in and Digging out

Students dug a small hole in the ground for the cabbage which was lined with tree leaves, followed by the outer leaves of the cabbage, as well as leaves from turnips, beets, collards and rutabaga. Traditionally the pit would first be lined with wooden planks or stones and ferments are able to be preserved for months and even years. Onions, parsley, carrots, collards and turnips were harvested to add to the cabbage.

Forking out the carrots

Chopping, Shredding, Working Cabbage

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, students practised their knife skills with precision as they finely chopped the cabbage and shred the vegetables. Salt is added to the cabbage to draw out the liquid and help stabilize fermentation. We then work it by hand, breaking the cell walls of the cabbage to further expel the juices. Why so much liquid? The organisms required for sauerkraut fermentation are called Lactic Acid Bacteria which do their job anaerobically, meaning without air. We need to ensure that the cabbage is completely submerged under liquid for this natural phenomenon to occur - any cabbage exposed to air for a prolonged period of time can grow mould - and so we draw out its delicious juices to submerge it under.

The team hard at work !

Cabbage in the Hole!

The hole is line with a bed of cabbage, turnip, collard, beet and rutabaga leaves and is ready for the kraut!

The cabbage goes in and is packed in tightly to push out any air and submerge it under its own liquid.

We add a little water to ensure the cabbage is submerged and an anaerobic environment is created.

So far so good! The Lactic Acid Bacteria lowers the pH of the cabbage, creating an environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria. That's a relief!

The cabbage is covered with turnip and beet leaves, some straw and topped with a wooden board, and we cross our fingers that it doesn't become worm food. We'll leave it for a few weeks and check on it periodically. Stay tuned for updates!

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