Monday, February 17, 2014

Sour Grapes (and Cabbage)

Last weekend, I attended a party on fermentation hosted by the Anchorage Taste Buds club. Because now that I'm an adult, I live life on the wild side. Coincidentally, the prior weekend I had learned about making sauerkraut at my permaculture class.* In fact, I almost didn't attend the fermentation party, because I thought I had already learned everything. What a dumb idea. The party was terrific. Gdaiva (pronounced Godiva, like the chocolate) showed us how she ferments all kinds of vegetables -- not just sauerkraut, but carrots, lemons, olives, you name it.

So what exactly are fermented veggies? Well, essentially, they're pickles. You pack a jar full of of veggies and salt, and depending on the type of veggies, sometimes water, and let it sit on the counter for a week. This encourages natural bacteria to grow, which produce lactic acid, and sour the food (in a good way). The benefit of this method is that it produces good bacteria your body needs -- like the stuff that you think is in yogurt. Unfortunately, shelf stable products are all pasteurized and have lost those beneficial bacteria. Yogurts like Activia actually add those bacteria back in.

We also learned about kefir, which is a bacteria you add to milk to make a yogurt like substance. I didn't try that one because I don't care for yogurt, but I hear there is something called water kefir, which makes a soda like drink. I'm eager to try that. And we learned about kombucha, which is tea fermented from a fungus (mushroom) that also makes a bubbly drink. The sample I had was delicious, just like a carbonated tea! There was enough interest in the drinks alone that I think Gdaiva is going to host another party just for drinks.

My sauerkraut. I actually eat it from the jar, because it is that good. And I also don't want to wash a plate.

So then on Sunday, I tried out the sauerkraut I had started in class a week prior -- and it already had a nice tart flavor! Not quite sour enough for me, but I'll let it sit a couple more days and then put it in the fridge. Who knew sauerkraut was so easy to make?

Now that I know more about it, I'm excited to try fermenting more things -- including pickles! Remember those pickles I made back in the fall? They were delicious, but I used vinegar. Then I purchased fermented pickles in Sydney at a Polish deli, and I was surprised that they tasted exactly like vinegar pickles. If I can get the same taste with beneficial bacteria? Even better! I'll let you know how my experiments turn out.

*So apparently, making sauerkraut is the latest cool thing to do. My friend Erica told me she went to another party where a lady brought her own homemade sauerkraut, and everyone was like "oh, I've been meaning to try that!" I've always been on the edge between "super nerdy" and "early adopter". Except for PBR. I never drank that.


Anonymous said...

Whenever you decide to try your hand a gold mining, give me a call as I am not too far away from retirement! With your expertise in weather, gardening and cooking, we could definitely set-up camp for the summer and try gold mining!

Tennessee Jim

Andria Crowjoy said...

Yay for fermentation!! I haven't fermented anything at all this winter, but we're still noshing the garlic scapes from the summer! I swear a fermented garlic scape a day would probably prevent death. :)

Carlw4514 said...

Linda was making some really good Kim Chi for a while there ... isn't that fermented?

uncle C

L said...

Uncle Carl, Kim Chi is fermented, I think. And yes, I'd definitely like to try that at some point.

Jim, I'll let you know if I go gold-mining. It's not as glamorous as it seems! :)

Andria, now you're sounding like one of those "garlic will cure everything! Even cancer!" people. ;)

Andria Crowjoy said...

Hahah, can't prove me wrong yet! :D

We made injera (Ethiopian flat bread) which took 3 days of fermenting to sour. Came out pretty well and has me considering more fermented breads.

L said...

That sounds tasty! I'll have to look up a recipe.