Do you know what I love more than pickling? Pickling with other people!
Some of my favourite people and I got together a few Sundays ago to do just that! The beauty of having more people means you don’t end up with a million jars of pickle (you’ll have noticed by now that I use the term “pickle” quite loosely to refer to any kind of grandma style cooking that ends up in a jar) to store because you can share the loving! PLUS with all the extra hands you get a variety of pickles!
Extra plus: more people to share the slightly mundane aspects of pickling. Like sterilising!
Maddness always ensues during pickling.
We decided on four recipes based on current, seasonal produce and the various excess of goodies in our combined fridges. This left us with ingredients for sauerkraut (hello cabbage from the bottom of the vegetable crisper!), brinjal (eggplant) kasundi, quince paste, and lemon curd (with lemons from my mum’s tree, my favourite!). Despite what the photos might suggest about order and organisation, I assure you that 6 people in the kitchen is guaranteed chaos. We were cooking, sterilising, drinking, eating and dancing all at once. It was excellent fun!
Given the number of recipes we made, and my penchant for writing long-winded, meandering posts, I’ve decided to post the recipes individually and in order of relative ease so I don’t lose you all in the process…
Sauerkraut in a Jar
- 1 medium head of green cabbage
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbs caraway seeds (optional but delicious!)
- 4-5 large, sterilised jars
Divide the head of cabbage into 8 wedges then shred each wedge into fine ribbons. Combine the salt and cabbage in a large clean bowl.
Massage and squeeze the salt into the leaves for about 10 minutes until the cabbage becomes watery and limp (according to our chief masseuse, this is QUITE the work out).
Mix in the caraway seeds if you’re using them, then divide the mix into your jars, pressing down firmly to ensure that cabbage is covered by its brine (there’s not a lot of brine at this stage so don’t dismay if yours seems a little dry).
The recipe suggests that you weight the cabbage down to ensure that it’s covered by the brine. We were pretty slack and skipped this stage! Secure a piece of muslin over the mouth of the jar, or, in our case some chopped up tea towel, to allow the mixture to breathe…and to keep bad stuff out.
Over the next 24 hours or so, you’ll need to push the cabbage down (with your hands or a clean spoon works well too!) to ensure that it’s fully covered by its brine. You need to leave the cabbage to ferment at room temperature (so long as it’s not too hot in the room!) for 3-10 days, covered only by the muslin. You’ll notice the mix become more briny and begin to bubble over this period.
The Kitchn’s recipe gives an excellent rundown of the fermentation process that the cabbage goes through to turn into ‘kraut. The science of it is actually quite beautiful in its simplicity. I tried to summarise and paraphrase their description a few times but in the end, The Kitchn describes it best:
Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. To put it (fairly) simply: There is beneficial bacteria present on the surface of the cabbage and, in fact, all fruits and vegetables. Lactobacillus is one of those bacteria, which is the same bacteria found in yogurt and many other cultured products. When submerged in a brine, the bacteria begin to convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid; this is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
The distinctive sour smell will be noticeable after about 3 or 4 days, but the readiness of the mix will be determined by flavour. Check it each day (it’s like a primary school science experiment!) to see if it’s to your liking. Mine has been fermenting for a week, and I’ve only just put the lid on and popped it in the fridge.
Now to get my hands on some good ‘wurst to eat this with!
Next up: lemon curd!!!