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Workshop instructor Tal Hadani-Pease, at right, and assistant Margaret Hopkins. Photo by Leila Hawken

Krauting class turns cabbage into sauerkraut


Lacto-fermentation in action was the focus of the day at Taghhannuck Grange No. 100 in Sharon, Conn., as attendees learned the relatively easy, but muscular, process of turning cabbage into sauerkraut and using the same salt-brine method to preserve other farm vegetables on Thursday, Jan. 26. Nearly a dozen attended, eager to experience the process.

Not the same as canning, and thought to be easier, the sauerkraut session was led by Tal Hadani-Pease in coordination with Cornwall’s Motherhouse, Inc. The event was one of a life skills series of workshops that had taken a hiatus during the pandemic.

“I started taking workshops at Motherhouse,” Hadani-Pease said. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn, and now I’m teaching,” she added. Motherhouse is a Cornwall, Conn., based organization under the leadership of Debra Tyler of Local Farm who also serves as Grange chaplain.

Lacto-fermentation is a simple fermentation process requiring nothing more than salt and vegetables—no fancy equipment. Participants needed to bring a bowl, knife, spoon, cutting board, and empty jars. Cabbages and salt were furnished. The whole cabbage-to-jar process took about 30 minutes.

The essential workers in the fermentation process are the lactobacillus bacteria, already present in and on all people and all surfaces, absolutely everywhere, Hadani-Pease explained. There are heroes and villains among those bacteria. The bad bacteria cannot tolerate the salt in the process, but the good bacteria can and do. The salt brine eliminates the bad bacteria to enable the good bacteria to interact with the natural sugars found in cabbage and other farm vegetables and proceed with the beneficial work that the lactic acid (natural preservative) is doing to create the delicious product, such as sauerkraut in the case of the workshop’s cabbage.

The salt-brine fermentation process dates back 2,000 years to the ancient Chinese as an early means of food preservation, Hadani-Pease noted.

Diving into the first step, participants sliced and chopped their cabbage. Among the first to complete that step was Peter Jensen of Falls Village, Conn., with experience as a professional chef, working with an appropriately sharp knife and a practiced technique.

“If you curl your fingertips under, you never cut your fingers,” Jensen advised.

Using Celtic sea salt with high mineral content, Hadani-Pease explained the measurements by weight for the right amount of salt at 2% against the weight of the cabbage. She said her kitchen scale remains a valuable tool.

The next step involved vigorous pounding of the cabbage and the salt, intended to bruise the cabbage and beat it down in volume while the salt drew out its natural sugary liquid to create the brine.

Tightly packing and weighing the beaten cabbage into jars was the final step. All were advised to “burp” their jars each day as the fermentation process did its work, lest the jar explode. At the end of seven days, the sauerkraut would be ready for a tasting.

Tyler indicated that more life skills workshops are likely to follow, although none has been scheduled at present.

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