Canning, pickling, and freezing are all worthy methods for preserving your garden’s bounty, but fermenting your gorgeous surplus of vegetables is even better. When performed correctly, raw fermentation is a miracle of nature with infinite possibilities for nutritional therapy – all in a delicious, tangy side dish perfectly paired with your favorite meats or eaten alone. Like kefir and other fermented foods, fermented vegetables provide highly concentrated sources of probiotics with a wide range of benefits from naturally lifting one’s mood to strengthening the immune system and boosting gut health. Done correctly, fermented vegetables can be stored up to 8 months. Since probiotic strains vary with the vegetable, this recipe is especially healthful (and addictive) because of the array of vegetables included.
This week’s fermentation is a gourmet spicy kraut reminiscent of kimchi but easier to make and fun to improvise with new variations. It is DELICIOUS! Other fermentation recipes call for using whey, but I believe it’s unnecessary and worth avoiding. Enjoy our other fermented food recipes, including German Sauerkraut, Organic Ginger Beet Kvass, Lacto-Fermented Garlic, and Traditional Korean Kimchi.
1 small green cabbage, outer leaves removed, 1” wide slices, coarsely chopped
6 bok choy, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
3” diakon radish, sliced into thin rounds, then in half (half rounds)
4 big garlic cloves, chopped
1½” length of ginger, peeled and grated
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/8 to 1/4 cup Korean chili powder (gochugaru) to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons sea salt to taste
Gallon fermentation jar with airlock system
Weights for keeping spicy kraut immersed in its own brine
Mason quart jars for storage
Please note fermentation jars with airlocks and glass weights can be purchased online from Cultures For Health or The Probiotic Jar.
- Clean and sanitize kitchen surfaces; the cleaner your environment the better.
- Clean and sanitize the equipment (fermentation jar, weights) to ensure the absence of pathogenic bacteria. Be sure to rinse off the equipment after sanitizing it so doesn’t kill off the beneficial bacteria needed for fermentation.
- After washing and prepping the produce, add it all to a large mixing bowl.
- With latex gloves on, hand-mix together the kraut with the Korean chili powder and salt until thoroughly mixed together. The salt will draw moisture from the produce, which is essential for developing the brine.
- Pack the kraut salad tightly into your fermentation jar. Add any leftover juices to the fermentation jar.
- Add weight on top of the packed kraut to ensure the produce is well submerged in liquid –the anaerobic environment is critical for proper fermentation and preventing contamination. Spicy kraut wants to be suffocated!
- If the kraut is light on liquid, then add salted water as needed. (Over the next 24 hours, the kraut will produce more liquid as the salt pulls moisture out of the vegetables.)
- Tighten the airlock lid and fill the airlock with water to the fill line. Make sure the lid is on tight and the airlock is screwed in securely – we only want gases leaving the container. When properly sealed, the airlock lid makes contamination or spoilage practically impossible.
- Ideal fermentation temperature is around 68-72 degrees and ok up to 75 degrees. Technically, the kraut is ready in 2 weeks, but is at its best in terms of flavor and probiotic content when it ferments for 3.5 to 4 weeks. More than 4 weeks, the kraut can turn mushy.
- A little bit of white froth or a white film may form on the liquid surface; this is harmless and will resolve itself. If black mold develops on the surface, then don’t eat it. For information on common mistakes and troubleshooting, read Food Renegades blog on the matter.
- After 3.5 to 4 weeks of fermentation, move the spicy kraut into quart mason jars, pack it down, top off with brine, and store in the refrigerator. It’s good for up to 8 months.