Monday, February 10, 2014

The Perfect Pickler

Being a tad over-concerned with stomach health, my ears perked with the recent chatter that fermented foods keep the intestines in great shape. Fostering a disturbing love of cabbage, I needed no further encouragement to research.
The bag of sauerkraut that I purchased wasn't very appetizing; I never ended up consuming it at all. A mere spoonful boasted 20% of the daily value of sodium. Additionally, the internet was quite scornful of store-issue kraut as it is apparently pasteurized, nuking all the good, beneficial bacteria.

Which would leave homemade. 

After some scouring, I happened upon The Perfect Pickler, a doohickey that would prevent the need for me to skim off anything unappetizing from the top of my burbling brew. So far, true to its word, there has been nothing untoward growing atop my cabbage. 

On my first attempt I thought that slicing the cabbage would be sufficient, but it really did not generate sufficient brine no matter how I pounded, whacked, and squeezed. I took advantage of the fact that the ancient food processor could use updating, and ended up with the 9-cup Cuisinart.

I merrily purchased some Ball jars (making sure the lid was the same size as the one in the kit, of course; for wider jar mouths there is an XL version).

I'm not as uptight as the dude in the video about directions, and it seems to work out well. No caraway seeds for me, either. You can pretty much ferment anything, so I also chucked into the below version carrot, garlic, and fresh dill (I had shredded in stages so there is an untintentionally bi-layered look to the resulting product).

1) Place the lid of the jar atop the whole head of cabbage and draw the knife through two layers, resulting in two leaf circles. Those will be layered on top to seal it in later. 

2) Shred the cabbage! Along with a carrot, if so inclined. Or anything else, really.
3) Brine now has to be generated, so transfer the shredded cabbage to a bowl, sprinkle with sea salt and massage it (I added minced garlic and chopped dill at this point). When the cabbage is shredded so fine the brine shows up in no time. I don't measure the salt, just eyeball it.
4) Then transfer it into the jar, packing as you go. This will also pummel out more brine. I use the handle of my trusty silicone spatula. Ram it in!
5) When I get to the bottom of the rim, I layer the two cabbage circles (which have been sliced in half) on top. Then the brine cup from the Perfect Pickler, the lid, and the thingamabob on top with equal measure of tap water as the intructions state.
6) I park it in the basement, someplace cool (but not cold), for a minimum of four days (longer will allow for better taste, though).  It is very important to place it into a bowl. The first two times the brine didn't overflow, but the third time it did.

7) After the desired length of fermentation, replace the doodad with the actual Ball lid, and pop in the fridge for regular consumption. It lasts forever in there. (The Perfect Pickler is not meant to result in pantry-safe storage, only for the fridge). 

The results are not remotely as salty as the store-bought, and certainly more appetizing (it's not the color of snot, like the store-bought version, maintaining a fresh green hue). 

You can use the Perfect Pickler to pickle anything, like, well, pickles. I plan to try those soon. And borscht. Maybe chrein!

No comments: