I grew up with home-pickling and fermenting as the norm. Food in the Soviet Union was not only scarce, but also highly seasonal, so if you didn’t take care to preserve some tomatoes or cucumbers for the winter, you wouldn’t be able to taste any until the next summer. My mom made sure to stock our cool basement with jars of pickles, tomatoes, and fruit preserves every summer, as did pretty much every woman around. Other common fermentation projects included kombucha (or the ‘tea mushroom’ as we call it) way before it was cool, kefir, and of course sauerkraut.
I can’t say that I’ve continued all these traditions. I do make my own kombucha, but I can’t motivate myself to do a big batch of pickles, and you can buy such good ones in the store anyways. Same goes for tomatoes, especially since California grown ones are available all year round, and will do if a big craving hits. Sauerkraut is a different story though, because it takes very little work, and the return is so good. I’ve fermented sauerkraut in jars and in big pots, inventing weighted contraptions out of any appropriately-sized object I could find, but what I’ve always dreamed about is a nice, clay fermenting crock with custom weights that fit inside perfectly.
The two things that have stopped me from getting a proper fermenting crock were the hefty price tag and the considerable size that they usually come in, which is not very countertop-friendly. I was incredibly excited when Raw Rutes reached out about their Yaozu 2 Liter Fermenting Crock, because it addressed those two points perfectly. It’s petite and sits on my countertops very compactly, yet it can still fit two small-medium heads of shredded cabbage. It’s also quite a bit more affordable than traditional crocks. I love that it’s a clean white too, because they are often brown – not my favorite color, at least for my kitchen.
If you’re not familiar with fermenting crocks, the main thing to know is that they make the whole fermenting process really easy and safe. All you have to do is shred whatever vegetables/fruits you want to ferment, salt them with either salt or salty brine until they are covered with water, weigh them down, and leave them be for a few weeks while they magically transform. The natural clay that the Yaozu crock is made with makes the environment clean and safe, and the water channel up top takes away the need for an airlock. The crock comes with clay weights, which fit inside perfectly, and ensure that all your veggies are submerged in the brine, which prevents any mold from developing. It’s truly a magical pot.
For my first fermenting project, I wanted to do a sauerkraut that was a bit more colorful and exciting than the traditional kind. I used purple cabbage together with blueberries and apple, with a bit of coriander seeds for extra interest in flavor. It took about a week and a half, and came out really delicious. The predominant flavor is of sauerkraut, but there are juicy, sweet and salty bursts from the blueberries, as well as a bit of crunch and sourness from the apple. I can’t wait to experiment more. I even know my next project – the fruit kimchi from Sandor Ellix Katz’ book, The Art of Fermentation.
Making your own kraut/any fermented vegetables is a really addicting activity. Once you try your first batch, you won’t be able to stop, which is great, since fermented foods are so nourishing. Probiotics are on the tip of everyone’s tongue nowadays – we’ve all heard that having a balanced microbiome is key for good health. Completing little fermenting projects at home and enjoying the results daily is the perfect, incredibly affordable way to contribute to that gut health of yours :)