I love my Harsch fermentation crock, I really do! But I do admit that there is a bit of a learning curve to it and at 7.5 liters, it’s best for making large batches. Last year, I made a big ol’ mess of kimchi which was delicious, but after tossing almost a gallon of sauerkraut after my fermentation fiasco of 2012, I decided it was time to work on a smaller scale until I got the hang of it. While browsing one of my favorite sites, Cultures for Health, I found a small quart sized lacto-fermentation jar called the Fermented Vegetable Master. At under $20, I figured I would try it out, adding it to my order of kefir grains. Cultures for Health is a purveyor of all sorts of supplies you need to culture just about anything from dairy to vegetables to kombucha. Not only will they sell you what you need, their site is full of useful information and even better, if you find yourself puzzled as a neophyte fermenter their friendly and knowledgable staff is available through live chat and won’t make you feel stupid for asking things like, “Why are my grains slimy?” and “Is it supposed to smell this way?” Lately, I’ve been chatting with them a lot.
I got my jar in late December and decided to try again with the kraut. I had a small head of cabbage in the fridge that looked like it wouldn’t last much longer so I chopped it up, salted it, and pounded it until it released a fair amount of liquid. I then added it to the jar – pressing down so it was packed tightly and the liquid covered the top – sealed the jar and added a little water to the ingenious contraption on the lid that lets air escape, but won’t let any in. There it sat on my counter for three weeks. I was waiting for something visually spectacular to happen. Mold, perhaps? Or for the jar to explode. But it sat basically unchanged. Until one day I decided it was time for some sauerkraut. I opened the jar, and there it was: perfectly fermented sauerkraut, just waiting for a sausage.
Easy Peasy. These jars are perfect for small-batch fermentation in tiny apartments, allowing one to experiment with just about anything without committing to several gallons. You could make a little kimchi, pickled vegetables, whatever you feel like tossing in. My friend, Helena, just told me about one of her favorite dishes: fermented mushrooms, a Swedish delicacy. Her description of them was so enthusiastic that they are sure to be my next experiment.
In the meantime, I have been reading The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. It is a gorgeous tome – less a book of recipes than a compendium of oral histories and stories about food traditions worldwide. It goes way beyond kraut, kimchi and kombucha and will tell you how to make things like Himalayan Gundruk, Sweet Potato Fly, and Laphet, things I had never heard about until now. It has made a fermentation convert out of me and I do my best to eat something cultured every day. I’m even fermenting my garbage now, but that’s another story, soon to be told.