A bonus part 4 to the vegetable series?? Yup, that’s right.
Fermenting is having a bit of moment, and fermented vegetables are oh so hot right now. Just like yoghurt, vegetables can be fermented to create a unique bacterial signature, which is high in Lacto Bacillus, a bacteria than has been positively associated with good gut health.
So when the opportunity to attend a workshop on fermenting your own veggies arose, I jumped on it.
The event was hosted by work-shop who have a studio right in the heart of Melbourne and featured head pickler Chris from the Picklery. In days gone by, fermenting or pickling vegetables was an easy way to preserve them after a big harvest for times when food was scarce. Their comeback today, however, has a little more to do with their supposed health benefits and a little less to do with storing food for the winter.
After a short introduction it was time to get our (gloved) hands dirty and get right in there to make our own sauerkraut. I haven’t had that much fun in a while! There was cabbage and apple flying everywhere and big smiles on everyone’s faces.
The process is quite straight forward- Get a stack of cabbage and carrot, add some flavorings and sprinkle with salt. The salt draws out the water in the vegetables, creating its own brine in which it will ferment. To help draw the water out, we had to kneed, mix and scrunch the veggies up (good arm workout!). Then pack very tightly into a sterilized glass jar. Top with a cabbage leaf and you’re done! To get the full flavor profile and health benefits from sauerkraut it needs to be left to ferment for 20 days. My sauerkraut on day one of its fermenting journey. White cabbage, carrot and apple sauerkraut with ginger, chilli, mustard seeds and cumin.
I have to wonder though- does the science hold up? Or is this just another hipster friendly trend that will die a quite death?
Remember how I said fermenting is having a moment? There are literally dozens of websites dedicated to the health benefits of fermented products. Treat Irritable Bowel, reduce inflammation, strengthen your immune system, absorb more nutrients, improve your digestion, they say.
But what does science say?
It’s a mixed bag, depending on what form your fermented product takes, how much you eat and how the food was processed. The evidence is strongest for yoghurt and weakest for kombucha, with sauerkraut sitting somewhere in the middle, with unpasteurized varieties coming out on top.
Even though there will be beneficial bacteria in my finished sauerkraut, research questions if it will be enough for a functional dose.
Either way, I think there’s something really special about making your own produce and even if my sauerkraut doesn’t turn out great it was a really fun workshop and something that I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.
work-Shop is a creative concept designed to broaden your horizons and help you unleash your inner awesome. They provide affordable short courses in life skills and alternative art. Visit http://www.work-shop.com.au/
The Picklery is a Melbourne based company specializing in fermented foodstuffs, including these treats! The carrot was my fave. Find them on Twitter and Instagram.