Lacto-fermentation seems to be the rage these days and it’s about time since humans have been preserving vegetables this way for millenia. The term “lacto” refers to lactobacillus, a strain of bacteria common on the skin of most produce, especially those that grow close to the ground. Without getting into a lot of scientific detail, the bacteria convert sugars to lactic acid which then acts as a preservative, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchee are very well known examples of lacto-fermented products. There are also a number of documented health benefits to consuming fermented foods.
This recipe adds red beets and carrots to a classic cabbage sauerkraut. While the flavor remains surprisingly similar to cabbage-only sauerkraut…the color!
Note: Ideally you will want to have fermentation jars but most people don’t have them, ourselves included, and this recipe assumes that. Stainless steel or glass bowls, tongs, plastic wrap, and a clean hand towel are really all you need to follow this recipe.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Fermentation Time: 1 week (up to 1 month or even longer)
Note: The longer the fermentation is allowed to continue the more sour the product becomes so the length of time you choose to ferment this sauerkraut will be a matter of personal preference.
Yields: 4 qts
- 3 lbs cabbage (1 large head)
- 1 lbs carrots (2 large carrot)
- 1 lbs beets (4-5 medium beets)
- 4 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 – 2 qts distilled water
- Wash all containers and tools really well in hot soapy water, rinse with hot water, and allow to air dry.
- Preparing the veggies:
- Wash the cabbage really well in cold running water, remove and discard any discolored outer leaves, slice in half, remove the thick stem core, slice very thin using either a mandolin or chef knife, place in a large stainless steel bowl.
- Wash and scrub the carrots and beets very well, remove the leaf stem and any root, peel, run through a mandolin with the thinnest “julienne” tool if available or julienne with a chef’s knife, add to the cabbage in the stainless steel bowl.
- Add the salt, mix well with tongs (or with very clean or gloved hands).
- Cover with plastic wrap, press the plastic wrap onto the top of the veggie mixture; press firmly to remove as much air from the mixture, cover the bowl with a clean cloth hand towel.
Note: The following steps should be done at room temps between 60F and 70F, so a cool, dark place like a cupboard is preferable. Any lower and the fermentation slows to a crawl, stops altogether, or never begins. Any higher and the fermentation speeds up, not giving enough time to develop the sour or tangy flavor common to lacto-fermented foods.
- Day 1 through 3:
- Twice a day remove the plastic wrap, turn the mixture over several times with tongs, cover with plastic wrap once again, press down firmly to remove any air, place a heavy plate or saucer on top of the plastic wrap, cover the bowl with the hand towel.
- Day 4:
- Remove the mixture from the bowl and place in a smaller but taller and more narrow container like a stainless steel soup/stock pot, bain marie, or gallon glass jar, pour any liquid from the bowl into the new container with the mixture.
- Press the mixture down with a potato masher or gloved hands, pour enough distilled water to reach the top of the mixture, cover with plastic wrap once again, press down firmly to remove any air, place a heavy plate or saucer on top of the plastic wrap, cover the bowl with a lid or a hand towel.
- Day 5-7:
- Inspect the mixture once a day to make sure that the brine is still at the top level of the mixture. If not add more distilled water.
- Day 8 to ?: (We stop ours on day 10)
- The mixture should begin developing the sour flavor we love in sauerkraut. At this point, you may begin tasting the sauerkraut, continue the fermentation until you reach the level of sourness you prefer.
- When you have reached the flavor you prefer use tongs to remove the mixture and place it in plastic or glass storage containers, lightly pressing it down as you pack the storage containers.
- Pour the brine into the storage containers to just cover the kraut mixture, cover with a lid, store in the fridge for up to six months.
Summer is just around the corner and that means hot dog (of your choice of course) time! Try using our lacto-fermented takuan, watermelon radish, and cabbage, red beet, and carrot sauerkraut as toppings! No boring hot dogs at your party!