Ever-searching for ways to eat more strawberries, I was intrigued by Sandor Katz’s suggestion to use dried fruits in sauerkraut.
Why dehydrate berries instead of using them fresh? Fruits, which are typically higher in fructose, tend to attract yeasts as fermentation microbes. Yeasts create ethanol, which makes great wine, beer, and other boozy libations, and that’s why those beverages typically start with fruit. But we want to achieve a lactic acid fermentation with sauerkraut. By using berries sparingly, and by dehydrating them first, it seems to “slow the yeasts down”, and still allows the berry flavor to come through in a subtle way. This also seems to give the lactobacillus an opportunity to proliferate without having to outcompete the yeasts during the fermentation. We want the finished sauerkraut to be lactobacillus dominant; we aren’t trying to make boozy kraut, after all (that’s an experiment for another day). You could even wait a day or two after making the kraut to add the berries.
Strawberries add just the right amount of sweetness, while still maintaining the balance of saltiness and sourness in the kraut. Strawberry sauerkraut is a great complement to almost any meat dish (grilled fish, pulled pork, bacon, chicken, burgers). You can also toss a spoonful or two into a green salad.
I ferment most sauerkraut batches a month or longer. With this strawberry recipe, I shorten that to about two weeks, to minimize the chance for yeast to form (which could potentially throw off the flavors.) This recipe also does not last as long in the fridge as other krauts– it tends to soften after about a month. I recommend consuming it within that time.
- 2.25 kg (5 to 6 lbs.) red or green cabbage
- 1 pint about 12 oz./340g fresh ripe strawberries, or 2 oz/30g dehydrated strawberries
- 30 g (1 oz. or 3 inches) fresh ginger root
- 15 ml (1 Tbsp.) fennel seeds
- 3 ml (1/2 tsp.) cracked black or mixed peppercorns
- 45 ml (3 Tbsp.) fine sea salt
- Top and rinse fresh strawberries.
- Slice lengthwise into 1/4" slices.
- Place onto dehydrator tray(s). Set dehydrator to recommended temperature for fruits.
- Dehydrate 6-8 hours.
- Use immediately, or "condition" the berries so they'll last longer. Store them in a glass jar. Shake dried berries in jar once a day. Repeat for a week. If moisture is evident in the jar, put slices back into the dehydrator a few more hours.
- Slice cabbage in half lengthwise, so that stem keeps each half together. Shred each half into ¼” to 1/2" ribbons using a v-slicer, mandoline, cabbage shredder or good ol' chef’s knife.
- Add salt to shredded cabbage.
- Mince ginger root. Peeling ginger is optional (when using organic ginger, we like to leave it on, as it adds good bacteria).
- Add fennel seeds and cracked pepper.
- Massage contents thoroughly for a few minutes with clean hands, or pound until brine forms.
- Add dehydrated strawberries, then gently mix until they're incorporated evenly.
- Pack contents into a half-gallon or one-gallon glass jar or ceramic crock (food-grade plastic containers are also acceptable.) Or pack into several wide-mouth quart-sized jars. Leave 1 to 1 1/2" of head space if using wide mouth jars.
- Make sure to pour every last drop of brine that formed in the bowl.
- Pack down contents so that surface is even and flat.
- Place a plastic lid (or ceramic plate) that fits inside the jar or container. Add a weight such as a glass bottle filled with water. Or use small-batch fermentation weights and lids to secure the jar(s).
- There should be enough brine to completely cover the contents when weighed down.
- If not using fermentation tools, cover container with a dish towel or tea towel to keep out flies and dust. Secure with a rubber band, twist ties or elastic strap. Stash it in a cool, dark place– a cellar, under the stairs, or under the sink in the kitchen.
- Label your container with the contents and date started. (I use blue painter’s tape and a permanent marker, and I always stick the label on the side of the container, rather than the lid. (Those lids have a notorious habit of switching jars when you’re not looking, usually in the middle of the night.)
- Let ferment at room temperature 7 to 14 days. Fermentation time varies with the seasons and the climate.
- Yeast and/or mold may form on the surface during fermentation. This is normal, especially when the top surface is exposed to air, and you are using fruit in the sauerkraut. Remove any weight and lids. and rinse them with water. Wipe, scrape, or scoop off surface yeasts or mold from the top and sides of the jar with a spoon, or clean paper towel, getting as much as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t get it all. Then stir the contents and re-pack the surface. Any residual mold will quickly be killed in the acidic environment of the brine. The contents are safe under the brine. If you want to ferment longer, replace the weight and lid, and check again in a few days.
- When taste and texture are to your liking, transfer to jars and store in refrigerator.
- Lasts up to 1 month in refrigerator.
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