With the heat of summer upon us, celebrating Christmas in July (now August…) fulfills some folks’ yearning for the coolness of winter amid the scorching heat! Despite this humidity, some of us might be craving comfort foods this time of year like sauerkraut!
As a kid growing up with a German grandfather, sauerkraut and spare ribs was always a yearly winter meal, stinking up the house, but none the less filling us up on cold days for sure. One of my favorite stories and memories of my dad’s dad, or Dedo as we affectionately called him, was telling me that the reason why I have red hair is because I love dill pickles so much that they turned my hair red! I smile and snicker to myself every time I tell someone at the market this story.
A year ago this June, I started working for a local farmers market vendor, plug to Number 1 Sons, slinging all things fermented – including cucumber pickles, sauerkrauts, kimchi, kombucha and other seasonal veggie ferments, such as Gorlami radishes (“vegan meatballs”), daikon radishes and gardineria.
Photo Credit – @number1sons via Instagram (c/o Caitlin)
In addition to the food memories I have growing up with sauerkraut and cucumber pickles, I now have a new found love for them, mostly because I keep finding new ways to eat and combine these yummy products into my meals, as well as the opportunity to introduce them to others at the market every weekend.
Furthermore, there are some pretty cool and good-for-the-gut bacteria in these products that I have been enjoying since childhood. Here is a quick science lesson from Scientific American on the fermentation process of cabbage to make sauerkraut.
Stage 1 = Anaerobic (Leuconostoc) bacteria – Sauerkraut starts its fermentation process when cabbage is shredded and packed in an airtight container with salt. The good bacteria at this stage produce CO2 and lactic acid, which are byproducts of anaerobic respiration. This basically means that the lid of the container holding the kraut may puff up or even pop off, but that is just the natural, active fermentation process.
Stage 2 = Lactobacillus bacteria – The longer the kraut sits, the more acidic it will become, killing off the anaerobic bacteria, leading the way for Lactobacillus, giving the kraut its signature tangy taste. The growth of the lactobacillus further ferments any sugars remaining in the cabbage, using anaerobic respiration, leading to softer sauerkraut.
The bacteria required for kraut fermentation is found on the cabbage leaves themselves, which makes sauerkraut a very easy and healthy dish to produce. All you need is cabbage and salt! Here is a quick pickle recipe I like, especially when summer veggies are in season and the heat is on in July! Enjoy!
Makes 2 pint-sized jars
- 1 pound fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, green beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes
- 2 sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill, or rosemary (optional)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons whole spices, such black peppercorns, coriander, or mustard seeds (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried herbs or ground spices (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced (optional)
- 1 cup vinegar, such as white, apple cider, or rice
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons pickling salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- 2 wide-mouth pint jars with lids
- Canning funnel (optional)
- Prepare the jars: Wash 2 wide-mouth pint jars, lids, and rings in warm soapy water and rinse well. Set aside to dry, or dry completely by hand.
- Prepare the vegetables: Wash and dry the vegetables. Peel carrots. Trim the end of beans. Cut vegetables into desired shapes and sizes.
- Add the flavorings: Divide the herbs, spices, or garlic you are using into the jars.
- Add the vegetables: Pack the vegetables into the jars, making sure there is a 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jar to the tops of the vegetables. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing.
- Make the pickling liquid: Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (if using) in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. You might not use all the brine.
- Remove air bubbles: Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if necessary.
- Seal the jars: Place the lids over the jars and screw on the rings until tight.
- Cool and refrigerate: Let the jars cool to room temperature. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open.
Storage: These pickles are not canned. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. If you process and can the jars, they can be stored at room temperature unopened.