I've been spending a lot of time with this new and engaging book by Amanda Feifer called Ferment Your Vegetables, which was released a couple weeks ago by Fair Winds Press. No, this ain't canning—fermenting, as Feifer so kindly explains in her book, is kind of the opposite of canning. It is largely a hands-off, wait-and-see kind of process. The time it takes to put something together is nil; like making bread, it's a process that can take place while you go about doing other things. And suddenly, voila, you have a delicious, probiotic-filled, healthy food with a pretty decent shelf life.
Amanda and I came in contact through professional circles (we both have writen for Edible Philly; see her thoughtful essay on fermentation and family ties here). I had a hard time landing on something to feature here on the Dharma Kitchen until Carrot Cake Kraut stopped me dead in my tracks. I think the book opened right to the page on the second or third time I thumbed through it; I am certain it was speaking to me. It's like the health-loving side and dessert-loving side of my culinary brain just met and saw the most clever byproduct, something I would not have ever imagined, as fermentation is not in my regular wheelhouse of expertise. (Which reminds me: I have a scoby that my sister shared with me that I have to stop neglecting and put to good use.) Carrot cake is my birthday cake of choice.
Thank you, Amanda, for writing this book. The level of detail in the instructions will help eliminate any fear in newbies, along with the friendly tone, but more experienced fermentation lovers will find plenty of recipes to savor: think classic dill pickles to kimchi and kvass, plus garlic honey and a fermented tomato sauce. Want more? Buy her book!
Carrot Cake Kraut
A few years ago, I started referring to some of my krauts as "dessert krauts." Some find that funny until, that is, they devour the kraut in question. The concept of dessert kraut may not be fully intuitive, but somehow, it works. Abandon sugar cravings, all ye who make this kraut.
- 1 3/4 pounds (790 g) cabbage
- 2 carrots
- 1 tablespoon (18 g) kosher salt
- 1 inch (2.5 cm) piece of ginger, unpeeled and grated
- 1 teaspoon (2.5 g) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon (1 g) ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup (55 g) pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup (35 g) unsweetened raisins
Remove any unattractive or wilted outer leaves from the cabbage, reserving one. Cut out the core. Shred the cabbage into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) wide strips and grate the carrots. Place both in a large bowl, add salt, and toss and squeeze until the cabbage has a sheen of moisture on it.
Gently massage and squeeze the cabbage, or let it sit for a bit, to make the work easier, until there is a visible puddle of water in the bottom of the bowl.
Add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans and raisins and continue to massage, mixing them in as you go, until the cabbage pieces stay in a clump when squeezed.
Press the mixture into a clean quart (1 L) jar using the top of your fist and your fingers to pack it along the sides and bottom. Stop packing when the jar is full to 2 inches (5 cm) below the rim. If you need more space, press down on the cabbage in the jar and tilt the jar to pour the cabbage liquid back into the bowl.
Use the reserved cabbage leaf to create a "cabbage shelf" (see Amanda's blog for instructions). Pour the liquid from the bowl into the jar to cover the cabbage. Leave at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of headspace at the top of the jar. Using your preferred method (again, see Amanda's blog for more info), weigh the veggies down and cover your jar.
Allow to ferment at room temperature for 2 to 4 weeks. Check weekly to make sure that the brine is still covering the cabbage. If it isn't, press down on the weight to raise the brine level.
Once you're happy with the acidity, remove the weight, secure the lid and place in the jar in the fridge.
Yield: 1 quart (900 g)