Recently I listened to a radio program with Donna Gates, founder of Body Ecology, and learned how to improve the standard cabbage-based cultured vegetable recipe. One secret to mellowing the tart, strong taste of fermented cabbage is “apple brine”. The other is, of course, adding other vegetables that are mild tasting. Adding herbs such as caraway seed or ginger improves the flavor also. Give this recipe a try—so easy with a food processor or better yet a Magic Bullet. And once it’s made it last for weeks! I make enough to last about 2 weeks with this recipe.
Donna Gates also recommends adding a culture to ensure the presence of very important good bacteria. You don’t need to do this according to other experts who have followed the research from the food industry and say L. plantarum will be a dominant bacteria in the finished product regardless of adding culture because it is dominant on vegetables grown in soil. It is important to use organic vegetables regardless. You may wish to try doing it with or without the added culture and see if you notice a difference. L. plantarum is one of the microorganisms in the culture and it’s available in a blend from Body Ecology or Cultures For Health. Remember, the probiotic microorganisms that grow during fermentation have a powerful healing effect on the gut and are the main reason to make and eat cultured vegetables.
1 large head of green cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, grated
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 red pepper, or 1 cucumber, or 1 zucchini, chopped in small pieces(use 1, both or all three if you have them—all three will result in a milder taste)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 apple, chopped (use a sweet variety)
2 tsp. Celtic salt or other sea salt
1 Tbsp. ground caraway seed (use a blender) or 1- inch piece of ginger root, shredded
1/2 pack of starter culture from sources above, optional
Wash all produce very well. Place apple and salt in blender and liquefy. Set aside. Prepare other vegetables and mix them in a big bowl. Add the apple “brine”, caraway seed or ginger, and the starter culture and stir very well. Let the mixture sit 15 minutes to let the juices develop. If there is not enough liquid, you can encourage the release of juice from the vegetables by pounding them with a wooden pestle, a potato masher or the bottom end of a quart glass jar ( be careful if you use glass!). Pack the mixture in a gallon-sized glass jar or two ½ gallon jars leaving at least 2 inches at the top so juices don’t overflow once fermentation starts. Juice should cover the vegetables to keep them in an anaerobic (no air) environment. I have a smaller glass jar that fits into the big jar (first I fill it with water and cap it) that I use as a weight to keep the vegetables immersed in liquid. I also use it to push the vegetables down into the liquid and to assist in the release of gases on a daily basis during fermentation. Any vegetables not immersed could mold so be sure to push them down every day. Be sure to remove any labels on the small glass jar and to wash it very well before placing it in the vegetables. Cover the big jar(s) with cheese cloth held with a rubber band. Let sit on a counter for seven days—a room temperature of about 70 degrees is good. You can taste them every day if you wish and appreciate how the taste changes. Best to let them get to a softer stage that will be full of good bacteria–6 or 7 days. In the warmer months the fermentation may be quicker–the salt slows the process and prevents mold so you may need to add a little more salt in the summer months (1.5 % salt to vegetables by weight to be precise). Push the veggies down 1 or 2 times a day to keep them immersed in the brine. Refrigerate. Will keep for several weeks.