"Kraut" and other styles of lacto fermentation with salt

Any vegetables can be used for Kraut style, they must just be finely shredded.Any vegetables can be used for salt ferments

Kraut style fermentation

I did not know ‘kraut’ was a generic term to describe a type of salt fermentation, but thought it only designated German lacto fermented cabbage, till a few weeks back I went to a beautiful workshop at Cape Point nursery. The workshop was presented by Zayaan Khan, whose fields of interest embrace among others, seed sovereignty, the surplus people’s project, and preserving food with fermentation.

Kraut style involves adding approximately 2% salt by weight to vegetables which have been finely cut up. They are then, as is also found in German tradition, pounded until they release their juices, which is the only liquid which covers the vegetable or fruit.

Kraut from 2 large white cabbages on the left, Kombucha, a sugar and tannin ferment on the rightMy take home from the workshop: left is Kraut from 2 large white cabbages, right is Kombucha, a sugar and tannin ferment

Brine fermentation

lemon and dill in brinelemon and dill in brine
garlic and honey fermentgarlic ferment

In brine fermentation you basically add about 4% salt by weight to the vegetable and then top up with water or other liquid, whereas Kraut style ferments in its own juices. This method is great for chunky pieces or whole fruit or vegetables like olives, sweet peppers, chilis, beans, carrots, cucumbers and so forth. It is better to weigh the vegetable matter and base the salt quantity on that, than to make up a brine of a particular concentration first and pour it over the vegetable. If there is a lot of airspace you will have a strong brine and if there is little airspace for the brine to run into you will end up with too little salt to preserve it.

I presume the liquids added to brine ferments can be things like water, wine, vinegar, and starter mixes like liquid taken from other ferments, whey, which is full of lactobacteria and so forth. However, as Zayaan frequently underlined there are so many ways of doing this its hard to generalize.

fresh and not so fresh produce into the jarfresh and not so fresh produce into the jar
typical flavourings for picklestypical flavourings for pickles

Getting in a creative ferment

Zayaan explaining some off the digestive benefits of picklingZayaan explains some of the health benefits of pickling

Zayaan encouraged us to play, and play we did. Zayaan has been known to try anything, and her pickling skills extend to trying out preserving insects in hot spices ! With such a fab and creative mentor, we could not help but have our flame lit, and I don’t know about the other attendees, but I came home and pickled for two days and have been pickling stuff regularly since then. 

We make kombucha, kefir, pumpkin and dill flower pickle, achar, numnum in whey brine, and in sugar, peach done with sugar fermentation, in the shade and in full sun and my own invention, the residue from wild fruit vinegar making, a pear mousse that is really ancient and alcoholic by now, dark brown and still fruity. But my favourite preservation technique is not even really a pickle, it is the Moroccan style salt and lemon preserve that Zayaan gave us a recipe for in the large beautifully illustrated download we were sent after the workshop. But it’s a simple recipe anyway, once you’ve seen it and done it you will remember it.

Some of the crazy stuff I've started making at home, from left to right: pear paste, Moroccan lemon preserve, sweet peach pickles, numnum in brine, pumpkin in brineMy eccentric home brews: from left to right: alcoholic pear paste, Moroccan lemon preserve, sweet peach pickles, numnum and pumpkin in brine and the kraut and kombucha pictured before
The thing that looks like chicken is a scoby, a gelatinous body build by yeast and bacteria in kombucha. We are sharing this precious gift to take home.This thing is a scoby, a gelatinous body built by yeast and bacteria in kombucha. It was shared out between us to take home.

The beautiful Veld and Sea
kitchen classroom

foods of the wild and west onto our pizzaswild and west on pizza
the glowing pizza oventhe glowing pizza oven
our exquisitely delicious lunchour exquisite lunch
some of the lovely people at the workshoplovely happy people having fun at the workshop

The workshop was spent with lovely people some of whom had a lifetime of experience of pickling and shared a lot of this lore. The nursery was gorgeous, an island of green in the burned landscape. They must have been through scary times this past year. 

The venue at the nursery, known as Veld and Sea  kitchen classroom,  was in a little low beamed cottage with shelves bulging with delicious and diverse ferments. The host, Roushanna is an expert on indigenous foods and foraging, and we used wild rosemary and russ among other native spices, to flavour our pickles, while Roushanna spent the day preparing one pizza after another for us, each more delicious than the last. I couldn’t help myself when I saw the plants in the nursery, and splashed out on fynbos edibles which traveled home in the boot of my car with the new pickles. 

We are not the only ones eyeing the foodWe are not the only ones eyeing the food
smokey kombucha and spicey chai flowedsmokey kombucha and spicey chai flowed
The nursery is an oasis of green in the gray Cape Point firescapeThe nursery is an oasis of green in the gray Cape Point firescape



home page for lots of links to easy natural gardening methods


growing vegetables the natural low cost way


another article on Zayaan Kahn's food and activism

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