After working on a bit of fermentation magic to create my first round of hot sauces, I was feeling pretty spiffy. I figured I could handle something that takes more time, like sauerkraut. I picked up a head of green cabbage and got started.
The process is even simpler than hot sauce. It is just shredded cabbage and 2% salt by weight. No other ingredients, including water, are needed. Mix it together and knead/massage the salt into the cabbage until it is juicy. Simple enough, but I still screwed it all up somehow. I think it comes down to mashing, but I am getting ahead of myself. The shredding and salting went well. I kneaded it until it was well reduced. Everything with into a quart jar with a bit of juice on top to keep it covered.
After 2 weeks I gave it a try. It had the right flavor, but was a little to hard and raw. I put the cap back on, and sucked it down to get the oxygen out. I figured it just needed more time, so I went ahead and made a bigger batch with red cabbage.
Same drill as last time, only a bigger staining mess. Still lots of fun. The two heads barely fit in my largest bowl at the start, but after massaging, they were much smaller. Almost all of it fit in my new 1/2 gallon mason jar.
The red cabbage bubbled like mad and pushed a lot of the fluid out leaving the cabbage a bit more exposed. I had to keep the jar in the sink for days as it seeped and spurted cabbage juice out of the top. A month later both cabbages were rather dry looking. I know they were pushing liquid out early on, but I don’t know how it could have all gone out that far down.
The green one smelled like something had gone wrong. I tossed it immediately. The red one smelled correct and looked decent. It had been in there a month, but still felt way too hard and crunchy to be right. I don’t think I kneaded either of them well enough to break them down properly. Also, next time I will try a head or head and a half in a 1/2 gallon jar, so there is plenty of room for it to push liquid around, but still stay covered. The color of the image below doesn’t do it justice, it is a pretty red color. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
I learned about lacto-fermentation a month or two back and have been experimenting with it since. The principle is pretty simple. You cut up veggies of some sort, put them in a jar, cover with water, then add 2% salt by weight of the veggie and water. You can do sauerkraut and fermented hot sauces amongst other things.
My first attempt was with hot sauce. I owe most of my inspiration here from Ethan Chlebowski’s hot sauce adventures. He made 4 different hot sauces with the same ingredients, but different preparation methods. I am doing slightly different ingredients, and using fresh veggies to ferment.
I started with 3 poblanos(270g), 2 small jalapenos(40g) with some of the center removed and a number of garlic cloves(30g). Those all get rough chopped, thrown into a ball jar and covered with water. Weigh all that minus the glass jar weight and add 2% salt to the mix. I picked up lids that allow the mixture to burp the spare CO2, and prevent oxygen getting in. Also there are glass weights to keep the veggies submerged. It helps prevent mold. 9 Days later the jars were cloudy and smelled like pickly goodness.
I want this to be shelf stable if possible. The salt helps keep a lot of things from growing, and the fermentation part has created acid. If it is at or below 3 on the Ph scale, it should be shelf stable for a while. I picked up some test strips just for this, though I bet Ira and I can have a lot of fun with these in a few years. The strip looks to be 3 or less, so we are golden!
Next, you dump everything out into a blender and blitz like crazy. It whips some air in, but gets the mixture smooth. I strained it with a fine mesh strainer to get the chunkiest parts out.
This is where the most fatal flaw of my first batch came in. It is a really watery mixture at this point, and you want it to stick to your food. Xanthan gum is often used to add a little thickness. Check your favorite hot sauce, I bet it is in there. It can go wrong if you add too much though. I had about 500g of sauce, and it was suggested to use between 0.5 and 1g per 250g of hot sauce. Basically a 2-4% mixture. I did just under 2g, very hard to measure with a kitchen scale, and mixed it up in the blender. All set it went to the bottle.
The final grade is about a C-. It has a few major issues. I love garlic, but the raw garlic in this is really forward. The biggest problem is that it is too thick. Xanthan gum can make things kind of slimy if you use too much. I used way too much. The recommendation was not super helpful for some reason. It was ok at first, but after a day, it was a thick, but pour-able, slime. Time for a second version
Major lessons learned:
I used two pint jars, one quart would have been more efficient. Less room lost to the glass weight up top.
Use less garlic, it goes a long way in this sauce.
~2% Xanthan gum solution is way too much. I need a new way to measure.
Undeterred, I set off with a new batch and tried again. This time I altered the pepper mix used. 145g poblanos, 115g jalapenos, 16g garlic. Less garlic and more jalapenos. It all fit well into a quart jar with a little tamping to coax it all down. Fast forward 9 days of hard bubbling and things are looking cloudy and smell right. Same deal as last time, blend, strain, and measure. I was right at 500g again.
This time I was more careful about the Xanthan gum. I would prefer to have it too thin, than too thick. To get a finer measurement, I would have to go for volume. My scale doesn’t do fractions of a gram. Instead, I took a teaspoon of the gum powder and weighed that. It came out to just about 4 grams. I had to add a tiny amount to get the scale to click over. A 1/4 teaspoon should be a gram. I have 1/8, and 1/16 teaspoon measuring spoons. I used the 1/8 one as a safe start. I slowly sprinkled it in while the blender was on low, and it looks like that did the trick.
My newly minted Green Goblin sauce is spicy without slapping you down. You can taste the peppers and a good serving of garlic. It is a little thin, and I might try more gum next time, but this is a good spot to start. The first one foamed more because of the gum, and less this time prevented foaming. I gave away 3 bottles for people to test, and kept one for my own cooking. The green sauce is good, but I prefer red sauces mostly. I will have to track down more peppers and make something different next time.