I had a request for information about lacto-fermentation. Before there were freezers or canning your great grandmother preserved food with fermentation. Fermentation was a magical event that the Greeks called alchemy, the art of transformation.
I would recommend two books to read before starting to make fermented foods: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellis Katz. A third book to read if you are interested in lacto-fermented drinks is Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice. Here are three links that will get you going with lacto-fermentation:
1. This is a primer by Sally Fallon on Lacto-Fermentation.
2. This is a link to Sandor Ellis Katz’s website about how to make Traditional Sour Pickles.
3. If pickles aren’t your thing, and you were thinking about something sweet, Charles Eisenstein will introduce you to Traditional Sodas, a healthy alternative to soft drinks. This essay is a very good introduction to artisan food production. I would like to see small groups of like minded individuals coming together in community cottage industry to produce these commercially unavailable traditional foods.
If you would like to start rather than read about it, go to your kitchen and we will do some magic!
Simple Sour Kraut
1 glass container with lid
1 glass saucer that can fit into glass container
1 small round granite rock that can fit into glass container
1 wooden mallet or spoon
1 large un-sprayed/organic cabbage
1T sea salt
Find a large mason jar or any glass container with a lid. Find a small glass saucer that can fit into the glass container. (I do not feel comfortable using plastic.) Go into your garden and find a small round granite rock. Shred and core one large un-sprayed cabbage. Make sure the cabbage has not been sprayed or the fermentation will not occur. Add one tablespoon of sea salt to the shredded cabbage and put it into the jar. Don’t worry if you have too much. More cabbage than you would think possible will go into the jar by the end of the process. Pound down the cabbage with a wooden mallet or spoon. Let the cabbage stand for 30 minutes.
The water from the cabbage will start to come out. Add and pound down more cabbage. Leave another 30 minutes. In the end, there should be about 1″ of cabbage water over the cabbage. Place the saucer over the cabbage and weigh it down with the granite rock. Any cabbage at the surface of the liquid will rot so remove any pieces. Cover and put in a warm place. Bubbling should start in a day or so. Everyday take a peek and watch the mystery of life unfold in your kitchen. Try the cabbage in about a week. After the cabbage becomes as sour as you like, refrigerate the sour kraut. Eat with meats for better digestion.
This process must have been very mysterious for our ancestors. It is mysterious for me!
Update August 8, 2009: I have just found a new website on lacto-fermented food. The website has recipes, lots of photos, radio links, and short postings on food safety. I hope you enjoy www.awesomepickle.com.