Ten participants including a journalist from Vogue took part in a workshop to make sauerkraut on Tuesday in Willesden.
The evening was led by health writer and sociologist, Gill Jacobs, who had us chopping and pounding a colourful mix of organic veg from Field to Fork - cabbage, celery, cauliflower, carrots, onions, garlic and jalapeño peppers, along with some ginger to give it a kick.
Gill, from Transition Kentish Town, is also a member of the Weston A Price Foundation, who promote better nutrition through natural foods. She extolled the health benefits of fermented foods: the increased bacteria they produce for better gut health, and the natural enzymes we all need. For many the increased beneficial bacteria in the mouth when eating seems to improve oral hygiene. Investing in manufactured probiotics is unnecessary and a waste of money when you eat living foods which are naturally fermented.
20 kilos of vegetables were cut up or grated, after which sea salt was added to help release the water in the vegetables, aided by pressing by hand in a large bucket and stone crock. This gave off a lovely intense vegetable aroma. We packed spoonfuls of the mix into washed (but not sterilised) jars. To ensure the veg was covered by its own released water and not open to air, which would make it mouldy, we made plugs using cabbage leaf circles and stalks. Gill also brought a traditional German stone crock with its own heavy weight to press down the veg.
The sauerkraut can keep for up to 6 months in the fridge, after fermenting at room temperature for anything from three days to three weeks. I'm sure ours will get eaten a lot sooner! We also got a taste of a ready prepared batch, which was amazingly fresh and full of vitality.
Many thanks to Frances who hosted us, and to Gill, who has a blog which features fermentation at http://wiseuptohealth.com. We hope to invite her back in the Autumn to make kefir and more fermented wonders.