Meet the NEW GEN ER AT IO N of sauerkraut. It’s naturally fermented, it comes in audacious flavors, and it isn’t just for hot dogs.
German-style sauerkraut, above, is made on a small scale at Farmhouse Culture, in Santa Cruz, California. But the cabbage condiment is simple to make at home. Owner Kathryn
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Lukas, right, shares her classic version on page 80. Although sauerkraut is traditionally made with white cabbage, Lukas prefers green, which is less sweet and grows yearround in California.
KATHR YN LUKA S FOUNDED Farmhouse Culture, a small organic sauerkraut business, in Santa Cruz, California. Appropriately enough, the city is halfway between two world bastions of fermented cabbage— Munich, Germany, and Seoul, South Korea— both culinary muses for Lukas. Sauerkraut is also, of course, “as American as apple pie,” says Lukas, a third-generation Californian and a professional chef. But in this country, “it’s ripe for rediscovery.” To make the company’s classic version, seeded with caraway, Lukas sticks to a traditional Bavarian recipe. For some of the more unconventional flavors—including sauerkrauts spiked with horseradish and leeks or smoked jalapeños—she draws inspiration from kimchi, the fiery fermented cabbage beloved in Korea, or curtido, a spicy cabbage salad that’s a favorite in El Salvador. All Farmhouse Culture sauerkrauts are naturally fermented (see page 82 for a crash course on the process) and righteously tart, with a distinct crunch often lost in massproduced versions of the condiment. Although Lukas founded her business in 2008, setting up shop at a historic mill built in the early 1900s, her interest in sauerkraut goes back more than a decade. After a stint running a restaurant in Stuttgart, Germany, in the mid-1990s, Lukas returned to the United States and took a course on fermented foods at Bauman College, a holistic nutrition and culinary school in Santa Cruz. Later, she studied at the New College in San Francisco, writing a thesis titled “Reclaiming PreCorporate Food Traditions.” So it’s not surprising that Farmhouse Culture products have a composition in keeping with the artisanal-food ethos. The green cabbage and even the coarse salt are locally sourced. And the sauerkrauts are barrel-fermented much like traditional German renditions. Perhaps most important,
the sauerkraut isn’t pasteurized. This helps the cabbage retain crunch as well as potentially gut-healthy probiotics that are destroyed when heated. For Lukas, though, traditional methods also leave room to experiment with sauerkraut. “In this country we’ve been eating it the same way for the last 200 years,” Lukas says. To break out of the hot dog routine, she suggests adding some smoked jalapeño sauerkraut to a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich. Or combining Farmhouse Culture’s classic version with shredded carrots, scallions, and olive oil for a light side dish. And when you’re down to just juice in the jar, add a shot to a Bloody Mary. FARMHOUSE CULTURE’S CLASSIC KRAUT WITH CARAWAY A C T I V E T I M E 3 0 M I N . T O TA L T I M E A B O U T 3 W E E K S MAKES 3 PINTS
Making kraut can be a bit of a science. Follow the fermentation tips on page 82 for best results. 1 head green cabbage (3 pounds), shredded (14 cups), 3 whole small leaves reserved 1 tablespoon caraway seeds Coarse sea salt
BRINE AND DINE
Massaging the salt into the cabbage, middle right, helps the vegetable release moisture. A cabbage leaf tops each batch, left, keeping kahm yeast, a harmless but
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bitter white fuzz, in check. Caraway seeds and salt are the only things added to the classic version, above. Farmhouse Culture also sells apple-fennel kraut, above middle.
1. Combine cabbage, caraway seeds, and 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes. Massage to release liquid from cabbage (forming a brine), about 5 minutes. 2. Pack cabbage mixture into 3 pint-size canning jars, making sure brine covers cabbage by at least 1 inch and leaving 1 to 2 inches of space at the top. Fold and push 1 reserved leaf into each, filling the top space (leaves do not need to be fully submerged). 3. Close jars tightly, and transfer to a glass baking dish or a nonreactive container with 2-inch-high sides. Let stand in a cool, dark place (64° to 70°) for 5 days. 4. Slowly open and quickly close jars to gently release built-up pressure, being careful not to let the liquid bubble out. Let stand for 5 more days. Reopen jars to release pressure. 5. Let stand for 5 more days. Taste to determine if kraut is sour enough. Let stand until kraut is to your liking (we like a 21-day ferment), continuing to open jars every few days to release pressure. STORAGE KRAUT CAN BE REFRIGERATED SUBMERGED IN BRINE FOR UP TO 6 MONTHS.
Naturally fermented and not pasteurized, Farmhouse Culture sauerkrauts have much in common with T R A D I T I O N A L G E R M A N V E R S I O N S .
natural fermentation 101 CABBAGE PATCH K I D
Lukas and her team make six varieties, including a spicy sauerkraut with smoked jalapeños, a classic caraway version, below, and seasonal specials.
Letting the cabbage ferment at room temperature invites beneficial bacteria to grow. These microorganisms feed on sugars in the vegetables and raise levels of lactic acid, giving fermented foods their tang while also preserving them. 1. GET THE GEAR
For avid picklers and sauerkraut makers, a Harsch Fermenting Crock—a German-made clay vessel with an airtight lid—is a good investment. But for smaller batches, wire-bale glass jars (the ones with toggle clasps and rubber gaskets) work just fine. Harsch Fermenting Crock, $115, canningpantry.com. 2. EXPERIMENT WITH F L AVOR S
For a straight-up sauerkraut, you need only cabbage. But Lukas and her team also regularly add other sliced vegetables or fruit, including carrots, fennel, and apples. She suggests a mix of 75 percent cabbage to 25 percent other produce. She also suggests skipping cucumbers or zucchini; enzymes they contain make the kraut lose its crispness. 3 . W A TCH T H E T E M P E R A T U R E
Sauerkraut ferments best in a cool, dark place at a temperature that is consistently 64 to 70 degrees. In hot weather, let the jars stand in a dark corner in the back of a closet. At cool times of the year, a cupboard above the refrigerator is a safe bet. 4 . CH E C K ON T H E B R I N E MOR E W A Y S W I T H S A U E R K R A U T
Hear Lukas talk about the versatility of sauerkraut and you’ll start to wonder why you’ve always limited the condiment to hot dogs. She features creative serving ideas (and recipes) for her krauts at farmhouseculture.com, including: 9_T \V^eTgfi\f[V[XWWTeV[XX XTaW bgeWbgà[ rye (and a glass of dry white wine) 9_T \V^eTgffb XWi\f[VTeebf " VT__\ba "TaW olive oil, and then with buttered boiled potatoes 7cc_X#YXaaX_^eTgfi\f[cbe^V[bc or chicken sausage >be XeTW\ [#_XX^ TgXe^eTgf`\jXWi\f[ stuffing ingredients `b^XW]T_TcXb^eTgf\aTV[XX XdgX TW\__T
It is important that the cabbage stay submerged in liquid. If the brine bubbles out during fermentation, replace it with a solution of coarse salt dissolved in filtered water, using a ratio of one tablespoon to one cup. 5 . OP E N T H E J A R
After five days, open and close the lid quickly to release air (specifically, carbon dioxide) from the jar. Repeat every five days or so during the three weeks of fermentation. Farmhouse Culture’s krauts are sold at farmers’ markets and some supermarkets in California (farmhouseculture.com lists locations) and through foodzie.com.