Wanting to eat homegrown food year-round; loving simple, low-tech ways of doing things; nerding out on food traditions; and prefering to eat food without zapping the nutrients -- for all of these reasons, fermenting things in the summertime has become a big part of my gardening and cooking life.
There's almost always something fermenting in our kitchen. For the past six weeks or so, I've had a 1-gallon crock of garlic scapes pickling in brine on the countertop, and today I started another ferment: the first kraut of the year.
We finally polished off the last of last summer's sauerkraut a couple of months ago, and my mouth has been watering for that sour, salty taste ever since. Our cabbage is not ready to harvest yet, so I am trying to satisfy my craving with an experimental collard kraut.
Though I have attempted fermentation of dozens of other vegetables and fruits over the years, I've never tried collards, strangely. They are such a close cousin of cabbage, the traditional sauerkraut stalwart, that it seems likely that collard greens will make a lovely kraut. I love the spicy crunch of radishes in kraut, and we have a superabundance of radishes and more coming on all the time in the garden, so they were a natural addition.
Radishes on their way to the fermenting crock.
Dilly Collard and Radish Kraut
- 1- or 2- Gallon ceramic pickling crock
- Glass or ceramic plate that fits inside the crock
- Clean mason jar filled with water and screwed shut
- A hefty bunch of collards - I used about a pound
- Radishes to taste - I used mostly daikon, but any kind will do
- 1 large onion
- Fresh dill to taste - I like to use lots of dill flower heads
- A handful of whole peppercorns
- Salt water (1 Tbs salt per 2 cups water)
- Line the bottom of the crock with dill flower heads. Sprinkle in a Tbs. or so of salt and some peppercorns.
- Slice collards into very thin strips and cut radishes into paper-thin rounds. Slice the onion in half and then slice into super-thin slices.
- Fill the crock, alternating layers of collards, radishes, onions, and dill. Start with a layer of collards 2 inches deep or so, sprinkle on a Tbs. of salt and a few peppercorns, and pound with a potato masher. Then layer on radishes and dill, and another layer of collards.
- After each layer of collards, add a Tbs. of salt and pound. The pounding helps release the juices of the greens and gets the fermenting process started.
- Once you've used up all of your ingredients, cover with salt water and press the plate down on top of the last layer. Everything should be submerged. Use the jar of water to weigh down the plate, cover with a cloth tied or rubber-banded around the crock to keep out bugs, and let sit.
- Check every day or so, pressing down the jar.
- After 3 weeks or so, the kraut should be sour, juicy, and ready to eat. Taste it and see. You may want to scoop some out to eat at that point and leave the rest to ferment longer. Traditional krauts sometimes are allowed to ferment for months, getting stronger and stronger tasting and more and more full of beneficial probiotics. Ferment as long as you like, and enjoy!
A fat & juicy fresh onion, which will taste nice and sour after a few weeks in the crock.