Can I be real with you right from the get-go? I’m feeling directionless for this blog. The truth is that most days I work, come home, make a really quick rice or pasta dinner, and watch Netflix all night. Not the most inspiring content.
I have always been a really busy person. Despite most days and nights being lackluster, I do make it a priority to find little ways to enjoy life. And I think that blogging about these experiences will keep me accountable to do them at a higher frequency. So that’s what I want my blog to be about:
Busy, tired person finding ways to make life enjoyable.
OK, let’s do this.
Waiting for the “pink moment” on Meditation Mount
Earlier this month, I went to Ojai, California. It was such a beautiful place to rest and find inspiration. Every person I met there was kind. And because Ojai is less than 2 hours from my home, I know it won’t be the last time.
We were fortunate to have this cozy beer/wine bar right next to our room at Ojai Rancho Inn. Some other culinary highlights included Knead Baking Company for breakfast sandwiches on fresh, homemade bread, and The Farmer and the Cook for organic, very locally grown fare.
I felt like the room was decorated with me in mind
What really impressed me about Ojai was the beautifully-curated stores there were. My favorite was Shop Summer Camp, where I was as excited to look around at the summer camp-inspired displays and vignettes as I was to bring home my purchases from there.
Oh. And snacks were built right into our hikes.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been into shit that becomes trendy far before anyone else I know. She’s been fermenting vegetables for their probiotic properties for quite some time. Of course, I don’t become interested until I see a pretty cookbook with some good handlettering on it (pictured). Anyway, I purchased the cookbook by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey, grabbed my cabbage from a recent trip to the Ojai Farmer’s Market, and went to work on my first batch of lacto-fermented vegetables.
OK, so I don’t necessarily just jump on every well-branded bandwagon that rolls by. So why lacto-fermentation? For me, its the immune system benefits. I work with kids and am exposed to illness on the regular. A full list of benefits can be found here.
Fermenting vegetables does not require much fancy equipment, but can be made much easier with tools such as weights, cabbage tampers, and crocks. I used my hands, a knife, a jar, and a shot glass for my first batch.
Some people ferment their vegetables with culture starters. My mom and the cookbook by the Shockeys recommend simply using a mineral-rich sea salt, such as this. Additionally, lacto-fermented vegetables are ideally fermented in their own brine, brought out by the salt and massaging the vegetables, so it is important to choose fresh vegetables that will release a fair amount of water. The key to a successful ferment is keeping the vegetables under the brine, where good bacteria forms and bad bacteria cannot survive.
The vegetable combinations that can be fermented are endless, but here is a basic kraut recipe. Paraphrased from Shockey and Shockey’s aforementioned Fermented Vegetables.
- 2 medium cabbage heads, finely shredded
- 1 cabbage leaf, whole
- 1-2 tablespoons sea salt (I use Redmonds)
- Put cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and toss. Taste the cabbage. Salt can be added to taste, but there must be enough to ensure proper preservation of the cabbage as it ferments.
- Knead the cabbage, releasing the water to create a brine. If the cabbage is not producing enough water, you can let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes and knead again.
- Layer the cabbage in your crock or jar, pressing it down as you go with a tamper, muddler, or whatever non-metal tool you have in your kitchen to press the cabbage into the bottom. Don’t worry if your brine seems to disappear between layers. Once all cabbage has been layered in, continue to press down to cover as much cabbage in the brine as possible. Next, you will want to add a “primary follower”- something to keep all of the little pierces of cabbage below the brine. Then you need to press a weight into the container. There are weights that are designated for fermenting. but you can use any non-reactive material (non-metal) that fits close to the size of your vessel. For my mason jar, I used a shot glass. Some people like to used plates pressed down with rock-filled mason jars. Feel free to be creative with your weights.
- Now, you wait. My first batch was ready in 2 weeks. However, some of determining readiness of your kraut is personal preference. Taste it daily to determine what this point of readiness is for you.
- Now you can pack your saurkraut into jars and store in the refrigerator for up to a year. But I guarantee you will grow to love and crave the tangy vegetables, and it won’t last nearly that long.