Back in 1982, I introduced Kefirkraut to the folks of South Australia as a cottage industry. The culture food-product was labeled Salt-less Sauerkraut. This unique cultured-food was wholesaled to selected healthfood outlets including specialty deli's here in Adelaide. Explained here is the very recipe for this wonderful culture-vegetable product, developed and immensely enjoyed by yours truly, and which grained much popularity among our community .
Kefirkraut is similar too, but superior to traditional sauerkraut, I feel, and so do the many individuals who have testified to this. The reason being that sauerkraut is traditionally prepared by the fermentation of fresh, shredded cabbage including seed spices, with the addition of 2% to 3% salt. In this case, common sauerkraut normally takes between 3 to 6 weeks to culture.
On the opposite side of the chopping board however, kefirkraut is cultured with the addition of kefir grains incorporated as a starter-enhancer. This permits the culture-process to proceed much more rapidly and efficiently in comparison, and without the use of any salt, or, a small percentage of salt just for taste [or to extend shelf life] may be used, if desired. The culture-product can be tailor-cultured to suit personal preference of the Kefirkraut-Master. Incorporating kefir grains influences a more rapid fermentation and as a result produces culture-vegetables with optimal nutritional value, for oxidation of nutrients is minimised. I would not be surprised if like many kefir recipes, kefirkraut may too produce the powerful antioxidant common to milk kefir, soy kefir and rice milk kefir, as research has shown. This would make an interesting area for further research.
Kefirkraut may be regarded as a vegetable probiotic source, low in carbohydrates, rich in Lactobacilli, Yeasts, Vitamin U [only found in cabbage] and Vitamin C including some of the B group vitamins bio-synthesised by the friendly organisms native to kefir grains, and to fresh cabbage including any other fresh vegetables used in any given recipe.
The native microflora of cabbage is evident as a powdery white film, covering the surface of the outer leaves of fresh cabbage. This film causes the interesting phenomenon, which I refer to as, water running off of a duck's back. This effect is observed by pouring water over the surface of cabbage leaves. The water is repelled from the surface of the leaf, forcing the water to form water beads, which readily roll off the leaf. This phenomenon protects the native microflora from being damaged or removed from the leaf surface in wet conditions.
Kefirkraut was conceived through the union between the native microflora of fresh vegetables and kefir grains, the marriage of which was Blessed by the Power invested in yours truly:]
Main Topics on this Page
Ingredients & Utensils
Kefir Grains for Preparing Kefirkraut
Microbial Evolution of Kraut
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Links of Interest
Kefirkraut is a naturally pickled cabbage developed without the use of salt, vinegar or any other added preservative. The process relies on the native microflora of both cabbage and kefir grains to ferment and then preserve the culture food-product. The conversion of starches and sugars [found in vegetables] into natural vinegar [acetic acid], lactic acid and other organic acids are the compounds produced through fermentation, and which are responsible for naturally preserving kefirkraut.
Kefirkraut is quite simple to prepare. In fact, anyone with a small amount of excess or spare sugary kefir-grains or milk kefir-grains should find the recipe and method explained here, quite easy to follow and do. One has the option to include a wide range of fresh root and leafy vegetables, herbs including a variety of fresh fruits. This includes e.g., Japanese Daikon radish or the more common small red radish, broccoli, cauliflower, "bok choi" [pe-tsai], carrot, parsnip, turnip, beet root, garlic chives, common chives, parsley, portulaca or pig face, garlic, onion, mustard greens, rocket, dandelion leaf, fresh tender broad bean plant tips, celery leaf and stalk, celeriac, fresh broad beans, any fresh beans, sprouted legumes or seeds, apple, quince, green papaya and green guava etc.
Kefirkraut has a crispy, fresh texture with a funky delicate flavour. It makes a wonderful addition to fresh salads, for kefirkraut provides the correct amount of a mellow-sour tangy-edge, just enough to enhance flavour and it can replace vinegar in a fresh salad mix. With the addition of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt or a small amount of traditional non-pasteurised soy sauce or non-sodium salts to taste, followed with a cup of creamy kefir... what more can one say?... except for-- Kefir-Cheers!
Kefirkraut has converted many a folk who dislike sauerkraut, to devoted lovers of kefirkraut-- for kefirkraut satisfies the Bliss-Point-Factor where sauerkraut fails.
Fermentation Vessel. A large non-metallic 4-litre [1 gal] tall round or square container e.g., a food-grade glazed terra cotta crock or glazed stoneware crock or a glass jar as shown in picture above. A tall cylindrical vessel is best [See picture below].
Mortar and pestle or food processor to bruise the cabbage.
Large wooden-dowel. It can be e.g., a wooden rolling pin with one end sawn off square, or similar. It is best for the wooden dowel to be a little longer than the height of the fermentation vessel. This is your pounding tool if a mortar and pestle or food processor is not available or not preferred. Or, it can be your pressing tool if using a mortar and pestle or food processor to cut up the fresh ingredients.
A Follower. This is to cover the ingredients. Either a round flat dish or a wooden disk which fits snug in the fermenting vessel. However, this may be omitted if you use a suitable weight source. [See following].
About 1kg [2Lb] weight e.g., a large clean stone, or a large bottle or jar filled with water [If an appropriate wide enough jar is used, it can replace the follower called for above].
One medium to large fresh organically grown cabbage with outer dark green leaves left intact.
Optional ingredients One Japanese radish [Daikon], or a bunch of small red round or long radish. One medium size carrot. One medium head of broccoli and or cauliflower. 2 large mustard green leaves. A hand full of either rocket, parsley or cress or a combination. A few young tender broad bean plant tips, including 1/2 cup fresh broad beans. 4 to 6 celery stalks. 1 medium size beet root. 1 cup sprouted legumes or seeds e.g., mung bean, soybean, lentil, alfa-alfa, cress or any combination. 1/2 Tbs each of caraway, dill and celery seed or fennel seed. About 12 juniper berries.
2 Tbs milk kefir-grains or 4 Tbs sugary kefir-grains. Use fresh excess or spare milk or sugary kefir-grains.Liquid. Fresh water-kefir, Or fresh vegetable juice or fruit juice or a mixture of all or any. [The liquid is to cover the vegetables in the fermentation vessel during fermentation. About 1 to 3 cups of liquid depending on quantity you're making and size of crock and amount of bruising done to the cabbage-- the more bruising lesser liquid required].
Preparing the Ingredients
Remove any damaged large outer leaves from the cabbage. Keep two of the outer dark-green leaves and wash well with fresh water. Cut whole cabbage in half and remove hard centre core with a sharp knife. Shred cabbage to about 1/2cm [1/4"] thick long strips.
Mortar and Pestle Method for Bruising Cabbage Pound a handful amount of shredded cabbage in a mortar with a pestle to bruise, until its own juice is released when a portion of bruised cabbage is squeezed in the hand. Pound small amounts at a time, placing each bruised portion in a large bowl, until all the cabbage has been processed.
Electric Food Processor Method for Bruising Cabbage Put an amount of shredded cabbage in electric food processor and process as low speed for a few seconds until bruised and a little juice is released from the cabbage. Do not over process otherwise you will be left with a mush. Put in a large bowl, and process another small amount like so, until all the cabbage is processed.
Wooden Dowel Method for Bruising Cabbage Fill fermenting vessel 1/3 with shredded cabbage. Pound the cabbage with wooden dowel until cabbage is well bruised and a little juice is released. Put bruised cabbage in a large bowl. Process the remainder of shredded cabbage as explained.
Optional veggies may be used whole, if no larger than about 2cm [1"] in thickness. Cut to size as required e.g., cut large daikon radish, carrots and whole beet root julienne style. Small round radishes may be included whole or cut in half or quarters. Broccoli/cauliflower heads need to be removed from the main stalk and separated into small individual Florette's. Small heads may be added whole or bruised by mortar and pestle or dowel method explained above. The same goes for sprouted seeds or legumes. Except for the kefir grains, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
Filling the Fermentation Vessel
- Place 1/2 amount of kefir grains at the bottom of the container. Begin filling the container with vegetable ingredients. Press each layer down with a wooden dowel, or with a clenched fist until well compressed. Keep adding ingredients and compress until 1/2 the ingredients remain, and then evenly place the remaining kefir grains over the surface of the compressed ingredients.
- Keep adding and compress more ingredients until 3/4 volume of fermenting vessel remains incompressible.
- Place 1 or 2 washed outer whole cabbage leaves over top layer of compressed ingredients. Try forcing edges of the leaves down the sides of the container using a wooden spoon. This is to cage or seal the ingredients contained beneath.
- Place a plate or wooden disk on top of the cabbage leaves, then place the weight on top of this. Note that if an appropriate wide enough weighting source is used, then there is no need to place a plate or wooden disk, for the jar or weight may be enough to hold down the ingredients so the ingredients do not escape and float during initial fermentation at room temperature.
- If the ingredients are not completely submerged under juice, add enough water or fresh fruit such as apple or vegetable juice [or a mixture] until the plate is covered by about 2.5cm [1"] of liquid. However, if the ingredients were well bruised, there should be enough juice to cover the contents once the weight is put in place in step 5 above.
- Place a plastic bag over the container to keep out air, dust and insects. The bag may be secured with string or with an elastic rubber band placed around the fermentation vessel.
Let the container sit undisturbed in a cupboard or in a root cellar. On day 3, check the surface of the liquid for signs of scum seen as froth or foam [or possibly kahm yeast] and remove this by skimming with a spoon. However, in most cases kahm yeast should not form when kefir grains are used as a starter-enhancer, for the expedient fermentation does not allow such yeasts to form.
The kefirkraut should be ready for cold storage in the fridge at day 4 to day 5.
For the technical minded folks or tech-heads out there, readiness can be determined by testing for pH using litmus paper, or a digital pH meter [obtained from chemical suppliers, Hydroponics agriculture suppliers, or swimming pool equipment suppliers]. The pH should be 4.5 to 4 [mildly acidic]. This is when the kefirkraut is ready for ripening under cold storage [refrigeration].
Experience suggests that during summer months kefirkraut is ready at day 4, and day 5 during winter.
Remove the weight and disk or plate. Seal the container with a lid, and then place the container of kefirkraut in the fridge. If the crock it too large to fit in the fridge, transfer the kefirkraut with all the liquid into suitable containers with good secure lids, and refrigerate. The ingredients should be submerged under liquid at all times. If the contents are not covered by liquid, add a little fresh water or fresh vegetable juice, adding enough to just cover the ingredients [not too much juice or water though, Dear Liza].
Kefirkraut should be ready for consumption after ripening in the fridge for 4 to 7 days. Although kefirkraut may be consumed from day one, ripening improves overall flavour, similar to the aging of wine. Ripening also increases some B group vitamins.
That's it! ... You've Kefirkrautarised along with members of a minority group who do... that is until the culture-art is more widely spread, on Essene bread.
Refrigerated salt less kefirkraut should store well for 3 to 4 months.
Troubleshooting and Other Notes
If the kefirkraut is soft or mushy, fermentation was too long or the temperature was too high during fermentation, or too much air was allowed during initial fermentation. I recommend to ferment for less time rather than over ferment. In any case, kefirkraut will continue to ripen in the refrigerator, even if the kefir grains have been removed. In most cases, optimal time and temperature for fermentation is 4 to 5 days at about 22°C [70°F].
When ever a portion of kefirkraut is removed from the container for consumption, compress the contents left in the container to ensure that the ingredients are submerged under liquid. This improves keeping quality.
Kefirkraut at the Beginning of Fermentation [Day 0]
This photo demonstrates fresh ingredients at day 0 of fermentation. A glass jar filled with water makes a good weighting source. This is an all-glass method for fermentation, which is the safest method for fermentation, making it superior, utensil chemical-leaching safety-wise. Below the jar, I placed 6 lengths of clean locally grown bamboo strips to cage down the ingredients, to prevent them from coming up to the surface. The bamboo strips are put in place of a wooden disk or flat plate [follower]. Because CO2 is produced during fermentation, the overall volume of liquid will increase over time, so the fermentation vessel is never filled more than 3/4. The vessel is best placed in a wide, shallow container to catch any spillage which may occur during fermentation. To reduce air and to prevent dust and insects from getting into the brew, the whole system is covered with a large plastic bag, secured with a large elastic rubber band or tied with string around the sides of the fermentation vessel. Or, a damp cloth is forced in the small gap left between the weighting jar and the mouth of the brewing jar, to seal the contents reasonably airtight.
After happily brewing for 4 to 5 days at room temperature, the weight and disk [bamboo strips in this case] are removed, the kefirkraut jar is sealed airtight with a lid, and then refrigerated. During cold storage, the vegetables are kept submerged under juice, as the ripening process improves flavour while the kefirkraut matures over some days.
There was no need to add any water or juice in this particular batch, because the cabbage was heavily bruised with a mortar and pestle. The cloudy layer of liquid is 100% its own juice. This produces a wonderful delicious, nutritious crispy textured kefirkraut, with good keeping quality.
This photo demonstrates another of my all favourite all-glass method for kefirkraut fermentation. In this case, a tall cylindrical glass vessel holds the ingredients, and a second glass jar filled with water is both the follower, and weight source. This fits nice and snug in the cylinder like a piston in a sleeve, pressing down on the ingredients, and preventing them from merging into the liquid.
The plastic placed over the mouth prevents air from getting in, and any odour from getting out, sealing the vessel reasonably airtight. This is a good way to prepare a garlic or onion kefirkraut, for these two ingredients create a strong odour that can be offensive to sensitive noses. When I have good banana leaves from our home grown banana trees, I use these in place of plastic sealer. Any large leaves such as cabbage can also be used to seal the vessel.
This particular batch is at day 7. It contains .5% sea salt. Note the absence of scum on the surface of the liquid. This is thanks to sugary kefir-grains that were used in this particular batch, 2 tbs in fact, blended with the freshly pressed carrot juice to form a mushy starter enhancer.
Much of the carotene of carrot juice, which gives the orange colour to carrots, has precipitated due to fermentation, seen as a orange-brown layer just above the string. The string is tied around the jar to prevent accidental breakage of the glass brewing vessel.
Note that water kefir-grains and sugary kefir-grains are the same thing. I shall refer to the natural starter-culture as sugary kefir-grains from here on.
Each new batch of kefirkraut is best cultured with fresh excess [spare] sugary kefir-grains or milk kefir-grains. You may find that sugary kefir-grains hasten fermentation more so than do milk kefir-gains, so it is important to keep an eye on the progress of fermentation when using sugary kefir-grains.
I have used both types of kefir-grains for my kefirkraut, blending both grain-types to a smooth liquid with a little carrot and apple juice. This is mixed with the fresh vegetables in the fermentation vessel. Or, I may mix the kefir grain emulsion with the chopped and pounded fresh ingredients before filling the crock. The process is very flexible, for you can either use whole kefir grains, putting these first at the bottom of the container and then again half way up the container when half of all ingredients are put in the brewing container. Or, kefir grains may be blended with water or fresh fruit/veggie juice and mixing the mash or emulsion with the pounded ingredients, then filling the brewing container with the fresh ingredients. Or, a few kefir grains may be pounded together with amounts of fresh veggies, and filling the brewing vessel as you go. Any of these methods produce a superior kefirkraut in little time, all of the time!
Excess or Spare Kefir Grains are a portion of kefir grains, which are removed from a batch of kefir-grain prepared dairy milk-kefir [for milk kefir-grains] or, removed from a batch of sugary kefir-grain prepared water kefir [for sugary kefir-grains], when either of the appropriate grains have increased in milk or in sugar/water, to the point of having too many grains. Milk kefir-grains increase by about 5% to 10% by weight at 24 hours cultured in dairy milk for preparing milk kefir.
On the other hand, sugary kefir-grains can increase by as much as 220% at 48 hours in sugar/water for preparing a traditional water kefir, especially with added ginger root juice, 1/8 tsp sodium bicarbonate per 6-cups sugar-water with either egg shell, oceanic coral or limestone powders. However, good growing sugary kefir-grains like I have, should increase on an average of about 100% by weight at 48 hours. This lets you know that if you have healthy sugary kefir-grains and culture them as I do, then these are more readily available for preparing regular batches of kefirkraut, for milk kefir-grains increase by a much lesser percentage, which makes milk grains less available for regular kefirkraut making.
Do not use all your kefir-grains for culturing kefirkraut, for there is a good chance that they will no longer propagate in milk or in a water-kefir once the grains are used for kefirkraut. It is not worth taking the risk, when you can simply wait for a week or two to culture enough spare milk kefir-grains, or, wait to prepare a few batches of water kefir to give you a surplice of sugary kefir-grains.
Although I used to suggest using kefir grains from the previous batch of kefirkraut to culture a new batch of kraut, I have decided to omit this suggestion in case problems arise due to lack of experience in food-fermentation. I feel more comfortable suggesting to only use fresh, spare kefir grains of choice, in each new batch of kefirkraut.
Kefir grains may be left in the cultured-kraut at all times if they are used whole, consuming any amount of grains removed with a portion of cold storage ripened kefirkraut ready for serving. We very much enjoy any small portion of kefir grains that are scooped at random with a portion of kefirkraut. But my preferred method is to blend a few milk kefir grains with a larger portion of sugary kefir-grains to prepare a smooth mash as explained above, as a starter-enhancer emulsion for kefirkraut. This prepares a superior kefirkraut taking less time to ferment, producing lactic and acetic acid at a much faster rate, and possibly an antioxidant, which ensures good preservation.
There is also the option to remove kefir grains, if they're used whole, by transferring the ingredients to a separate container just prior to cold storage, fishing out any kefir grains as you find them. These may be eaten, used in baking sourdough goods [as a leavening agent or starter], composted, fed to pets or livestock or discarded.
The Perfect Crispy Kefirkraut with Whole Veggies
I used to wonder why one of my friend's father used to prepare whole cabbage and whole root lactic veggie ferments, with the addition of grape skins left over from his lovely wine making including whole grape wine leaves. I found his culture-veggies had an elegant crispiness about them, that was unmatched and which was retained in the veggies for many months. I learned that the tannin-rich grape skins and grapevine leaves was most likely the reason for crispiness in the larger variety of culture root-vegetable types. I found that if fresh grapes were squeezed or pressed for their juice, and then using the spent grape-skins in kefirkraut, with the addition of grape vine leaves placed at the bottom of the ingredients in the fermentation vessel, produces wonderful results, if whole root vegetables including whole Gherkin [young immature cucumber] are included in my kefirkraut recipe. In fact, I've cultured small, whole cabbage with added grape skins and seed, including grape vine leaves, also produces good results.
A hand full amount of spent grape skins and a layer of grapevine leaves are placed at the bottom of the crock. An amount of shredded and bruised cabbage is then placed over this layer, and then a whole cabbage is nested into the shredded cabbage. Depending on the size of both the cabbage and the crock, you may nest a few whole small cabbages along side each other to create a layer. Or, just one whole cabbage may be nested into the shredded cabbage portion.
An amount of shredded and bruised cabbage with about 1/2 cup kefir grains blended with a little water is placed in any airspace left around the whole cabbage, including a small amount on top of the whole cabbage. Small, whole root vegetables such as turnips including small cucumbers may be included in any gap with shredded cabbage if desired. More grape vine leaves are laid down over the top layer of shredded, bruised cabbage. A flat dish is placed over this, and weighted down with a jar filled with water. Dilute cabbage juice blended with a few kefir grains is added [with a little salt to taste if desired] to cover the ingredients, adding enough liquid to go over the plate by about 2.5cm [1"]. The vessel is covered with a large plastic bag and left to stand for 5 to 10 days [depending on temperature and amount of salt], followed by cold storage ripening.
Adding Spice is always Nice and adding Garlic for a Kick a-lick a-lip!
Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, juniper berries, caraway, dill and celery seeds, fresh or dry ginger root and chili peppers or fresh garlic may be included to enhance both flavour and fermentation. Mix any seeds or spice powders together with the vegetable ingredients prior filing the fermentation vessel. As a general guide, 1 teaspoon to 1/2 tablespoon of each seed spice per whole head of cabbage [about 1kg or 2.2 Lb] is a reasonable measure.
Spices may be ground to enhance flavour and encourage growth of the friendly microflora. Fresh ginger root, garlic and chili peppers provide an exotic zesty flavour to kefirkraut. However, garlic can produce quite a strong aroma, so be forewarned and make certain to cover the fermentation vessel well, with a plastic bag. You may not want to brew your garlic loaded kefirkraut in the kitchen, for you may well keep away wanted visitors! Then again, what of unwanted visitors?! Including these may produce a form of Kim-chi of Korea [Kefchi]. I prefer pounding fresh ginger root, garlic and chili peppers together in a mortar with a pestle to form a chunky paste, mixing the paste with all the pounded cabbage just prior filling the fermentation vessel. I also pound the kefir grains with those ingredients, then mixing the mash with the pounded cabbage. Vee simply LOVE zi GARLIC and ze GINGER-CHILI kefirkraut. I generally use one crown of garlic [about 15 small cloves] with 60gm [2oz] tender, young green ginger root and 5 or so fresh chili peppers to each 3kg [6.6Lb] of ingredients.
Culture-Preserved Fresh Ginger Root
Sliced fresh ginger root may be cultured with kefirkraut as a means to naturally preserve ginger root. Peel fresh ginger [young tender green ginger is best], by running the blunt edge of a knife lengthwise to scour along the outer skin. Wash the root to remove the skin, then cut the peeled root into about 1/2cm [1/4"] thick slices, either lengthwise or width-wise. Layer these last, just before covering the compressed ingredients with large cabbage leaf [or clean white cloth]. The ginger may be left in with the kefirkraut during cold storage, removing portions of ginger as needed for preparing whatever calls for fresh ginger root. This process will not add much ginger flavour to the kraut, if additional ginger juice is not included as part ingredient. In other words, fresh ginger slices retain pretty well its full flavour. Another option is to remove the ginger root after 1 week of cold storage, and place in a jar, covered with extra virgin olive oil [or any oil of preference]. Refrigerate and use as needed. To prolong storage life, the ginger root may first be partially dried for an hour before placed in a jar and covering with oil. Don't discard the oil after using up all the ginger! This is GINGER OIL, which can be used as a salad dressing or what ever you may imagine goes well with ginger e.g., stream-lined pointy red shoes with purple-durple stripes on white extra thick Football socks [^]_[^] Very plush indeed... now, go n' get-em, hot foot!
Seaweed is highly likely to be contaminated with high levels of heavy metals such as Mercury. I suggest to locate an Organic Certified seaweed available commercially, which should be safe for human consumption. Although there is suggestion that most seaweed has the ability to remove heavy metals such as Mercury from the body, I question whether this is effective if the seaweed already contains an appreciable amount of heavy metals, and whether this may in fact leach out from the seaweed into the body. Good quality seaweed does make a nice addition to kefirkraut, increasing nutritional value due to its high mineral content. Fermentation of seaweed should increase its digestibility and quite possibly increasing bio-availability of the rich elements found in seaweed. Hijiki or sliced Kombu or Wakame etc. can give kefirkraut an appealing texture and colour.
Adding Sprouted Legumes, Seeds and Cereal Grains [and Producing Sourdough baked goods]
Dehydrated legumes are best sprouted first. Mung bean sprouts, soy bean sprouts, even sprouted wheat and other cereal grains [sprouted for 32 to 48 hours], can produce interesting results. Sprouted cereal grains encourage growth of organisms responsible for fermentation, due to the natural sugars converted during the sprouting process that provide an energy source for growth and reproduction of organisms. A small amount of sprouted rye, spelt, kamut, wheat or millet are best placed at the bottom of the crock. The spent sprouts may be discarded when the crock is emptied, before cold storage ripening, for kefirkraut-sprouted cereal grains may have an unappealing flavour [bitter/sour/sweet flavour].
Spent cereal sprouts can prepare sourdough baked goods such as sourdough bread. Pound the spent sprouts in a mortar with pestle, or, blend in a food processor with a little warm water and mix the mash with fresh flour, a little extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, a little salt to taste, and add enough warm water to knead an elastic, sticky or stretchy dough. Put dough in a greased baking tin and let rise in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in volume, or, until small cracks appear on the surface of the dough. Bake in a preheated oven [180°C or 350°F] for about 45 minutes.
Before placing the dough in a baking tin, a small portion of fresh dough may be kept aside. Store in a jar covered with cloth or waxed paper, and leave at room temperature to ripen for about 2 days. Use this starter to prepare your next sourdough bread, and repeat the process for the next loaf. This method can produce ongoing sourdough-starter similar to the traditional method for sourdough. The ripe starter is used in place of the spent cereal grain mash in the recipe explained above, when it is nice and bubbly having a clean sweet/sour yeasty aroma. So in a nut shell, you can use the spent kefirkrautarised sprouted cereal grain mash to either produce a sourdough baked good with fresh spent grains each time, or, to initiate a sourdough starter, by which a small amount mixed with more flour and water to prepare the dough is kept aside and ripened before use.
Including Fresh Fruits and Herbs
Adding slices of apple may also be included in kefirkraut. Adding two apples to each large head of cabbage or one apple to a medium size cabbage makes a nice addition. 1/2 cm [1/4 inch] slices of apple may be placed randomly throughout the ingredients while filling the fermentation vessel.
Vine leaves, black current leaves, spinach, herbs such as Parsley, Greater plantain [Plantago major], Dandelion leaves and flowers [Taraxacum officinale], Rocket [Erucola sativa] including a variety of other edible herbs may be included. Fresh whole broad beans or the young tips of the broad bean plant also make an interesting addition.
As a general thumb ruler, fruits & vegetables containing starch and sugars as part of their biological makeup, may be cultured.
Tenderising High Protein Content Foods with Papaya-Kefirkraut
Green papaya makes a nice rendition when added as part ingredient to prepare kefirkraut [papaya-kefirkraut]. Try including about 1 cup of 5mm [1/4 inch] thick long strips of green papaya to each head of cabbage, or per kilogram [2.2 pounds] of ingredients. Green papaya strips may either be added without bruising, or bruised by pounding with the cabbage. Or, the green papaya may be blended to a mash, with the kefir grains, and mixed with the pounded cabbage. Papaya-kefirkraut, can be used to tenderise high protein foods, such as tempeh, tofu, meats including fish. This is achieved by marinating the high protein food of choice, in a puree prepared by pounding papaya-kefirkraut in a mortar with a pestle, or by blending papaya-kefirkraut in a food processor, and then submerging the food of choice in the marinade. The ingredients can either be marinated at room temperature for 24 hours, or refrigerated for a number of days before cooked or eaten raw. A little sea salt, say, 1/2 to 1 tsp per cup of marinade may be included as part ingredient for the marinade.
There are other fresh fruits that contain meat tenderising properties due to proteolytic activity. This includes fresh pineapple, and Kiwi-fruit [Chinese goose berries] to mention a few. The juice of either of these two fruits may be incorporated as part ingredient for a proteolytic kefirkraut for tenderising protein rich foods.
High Calcium Kefirkraut
Try whole un-hulled sesame seeds in the mix. The seeds may be added either raw or toasted. Whole, un-hulled sesame seeds contain the most calcium found in land vegetables, but the calcium found in the husk is not biologically available. This is because the native calcium found in sesame seed hulls is calcium oxalate. Fermenting un-hulled sesame seeds in kefirkraut breaks down the oxalate and produces calcium lactate, through a chemical reaction between lactic acid and calcium oxalate native in sesame seed hulls. This renders the calcium biologically-available [a digestible form].
Traditional sauerkraut is occasionally fermented by using a large heavy piece of limestone as a weight source. Limestone is mostly calcium and magnesium carbonate, and these two elements react with lactic acid in the kraut to form Calcium lactate and Magnesium lactate [bio-available forms]. One may implement this method with kefirkraut, by using a clean piece of limestone as a weight source. Or, by placing a few small pieces of lime stone at the bottom of the crock, or in the last top layer of vegetables before covering the ingredients with the whole cabbage leaf [or clean cloth]. An alternative to limestone is oceanic coral or eggshell. Small pieces of oceanic coral or the shell of one boiled egg may be included in place of adding pieces of limestone as explained above.
Kefirkraut Cultured with the Addition of Sea Salt
Kefirkraut may be cultured with a percentage of sea salt, similar to traditional sauerkraut. But let's first consider the following. Fermentation needs to be extended when choosing to include a percentage of sea salt as a ingredient. The percentage of salt and ambient temperature during fermentation, determines the length of fermentation.
Traditional sauerkraut commonly contains between 2% to 3% salt and takes between 3 to 6 weeks to culture. Although, preparing kefirkraut provides the option to choose any reasonable amount of salt e.g., 1/4% up to 3% salt. But there is little reason to use more than 1 to 1.5% salt if a refrigerator is at hand, or in cold conditions. However, 2% to 3% salt may be used if there is a need to preserve the vegetables for long extensive periods without refrigeration.
On occasions, I prepare batches of kefirkraut with the addition of unrefined moist Celtic sea salt, Himalaya salt or more preferably, salt gathered from ancient lakes or caves from central Australia [for the purity of such salt makes it best quality]. I personally prefer any salted version of kefirkraut to contain 1/4% to 1/2% salt. This small salt percentage provides a subtle savory flavour to kefirkraut, which is quite enjoyable while extending keeping quality by at least 1 month longer.
Salt percentage refers to an amount of salt added by weight of total ingredients. So the gross weight of fresh ingredients including any liquid intended for salting, is seen as 100%. As an example, kefirkraut with 1/2% salt is achieved by including 5gm [.176 oz] of sea salt to each Kilogram [2.2 Lb] of total ingredients including any liquid for that particular recipe.
Adding the Salt Once the salt is calculated by weight, the measured portion of salt may be mixed together with previously bruised vegetable ingredients. Alternatively, portions of salt may be pounded together with amounts of sliced cabbage and other ingredients, and then filling the crock as you go. Another option is to sprinkle portions of salt over layers of pounded ingredients as they are placed in the crock. Or, salt may be dissolved in the liquid, such as vegetable juice or fruit juice or a mixture and blended with kefir grains, and then poured over layers of ingredients as you fill the crock.
Adding the Kefir Grains. Kefir grains may be blended with some liquid to a chunky to smooth emulsion to prepare a starter-enhancer. This is especially good with sugary kefir-grains, but it can also be done with milk kefir-grains, or a mixture of both milk kefir-grains and sugary kefir-grains. A little starter-enhancer emulsion can be pounded with sliced cabbage and other ingredients and sea salt. Or the starter-enhancer emulsion can be poured over pressed layers of ingredients in the crock. Or, whole kefir grains may used. A portion of kefir grains can be added first at the bottom of the crock. Then another portion of kefir grains is placed midway up the crock, or when half the ingredients have filled the crock. Then the crock is filled with the pre-salted ingredients, pressed, and then weighted down.
Fermentation Time As a general guide, kefirkraut with 1/2% salt is fermented for 7 to 11 days during winter and 7 days during summer [at ambient room temperature], and then the kefirkraut must be refrigerated to mature under cold storage. Although the young kefirkraut may be consumed right away, flavour of 1/2% kefirkraut improves after one week of cold storage. I always sample a small portion of immature kefirkraut before refrigeration. But I prefer the flavour after 1 or 2 weeks. Yes, ripening under cold storage definitely improves flavour, similar to a well aged good wine or room temperature ripened kefir. Also, there is an increase in some of the B group of vitamins during cold storage.
With a mug of refreshing foaming kefir at hand-- It's time for Kefir-Cheers! to your health ! Shall we move on? Yes! O.K. -->>
-->> With 1% to 2% salt, fermentation may take between 12 to 21 days at ambient temperature during winter [about 14°C or 57°F] respectively. With these percentages and temperature, if one has the ability to test for pH, then this is an ideal method to determine readiness. Culture until the juice reaches pH 3.7 to pH 3.5 respectively. The cultured-vegetables should be crisp and not soft, mushy or slimy. With 1/4% to 1% salt, culture to pH 4.5 to pH 4 respectively, then the kefirkraut must be refrigerated. At this point, if you find the kefirkraut or the juice is still too sweet or fruity in flavour, ripening under cold storage for a week or two will mature the product, allowing full flavour to develop and improve overalls [that's dungarees for non Australian folks who enjoy a choke on one or two jokes ;-].
The reason kefirkraut with the addition of 1% to 2% salt may be cultured to a lower pH value of pH 3.5, instead of pH 4 to pH 4.5 [when no salt is added], is because 1% to 2% salt inhibits slime forming bacteria responsible for producing soft or slimy kraut. On the other kefir-hand, either salt less kefirkraut or kraut with less than 1% salt has a greater tendency to become soft and mushy, if left to culture to pH 3.5 at ambient room temperature. This is considered as over fermentation in this case. This is why salt less kefirkraut is cultured for only 4 to 5 days [or pH 4.5 to 4] at ambient temperature, then it must be refrigerated and matured for some time. Ripening under cold storage prevents the slime forming bacteria from spoiling the cultured-vegetables. As kefirkraut matures under cold storage, acidity increases until it reaches approximately pH 3.5, which naturally preserves the culture food-product.
Keeping or Storage Time Refrigerated kefirkraut with 1% to 2% salt should keep well for at least 4 and 9 months respectively. A 2% kefirkraut should keep well in a root cellar for at least 3 months, if the ingredients are kept submerged under liquid at all times.
Extending Keeping Quality of Kefirkraut Cultured with Sea SaltWhere there's no fridge, there's always a way, for the way came before the fridge ... but the fridge took away the old ways, which is unfortunate for better health went along with it.
I have discovered that a mature 1% to 2% salt kefirkraut partially dehydrated, will keep well for longer than 2 years without refrigeration. This is achieved by placing a layer of 1% to 2% salt kefirkraut [cultured and matured for the appropriate amount of time as required and explained above] evenly scattered over a wooden try without the juice. The ingredients are left to dry in the shade on a warm day for 1 day, or in a food dryer until most of the moisture has dried. Drying is halted when the cultured-vegetables have a leather-like texture before salt crystals form around the vegetables. The par-dry culture vegetables is stored in glass jars, pressing down firm on the vegetables to remove air pockets. The jar is sealed airtight. This will keep well at ambient temperature, however, it is best stored under cool stable conditions such as a root cellar where possible, for longer, better storage.
The partially dehydrated kefirkraut may be enjoyed as is. e.g., by mixing an amount with salad greens and extra virgin olive oil. Or, a desired portion, say 1/2 cup of par-dry kefirkraut may first be soaked in 1 cup fresh water for 15 minutes before enjoyed. The soaking water may be discarded, or used in soups or stir fry dishes etc. In fact, I very much enjoy a little soaking juice mixed with milk kefir!
My most favourite recipe for a partially dehydrated kefirkraut, is one that is prepared with 1% salt, cabbage, lots of fresh garlic, black un-hulled sesame seed, mung bean sprouts, fresh Indian curry leaf or bay leaf. The garlic is rendered to a powerful form of functional food, which does wonders for the prostate gland, similar to Kyolic aged garlic. Did you fellows out there get that!?
Adding Vegetable Juice and or Fruit Juice in Place of Water
Freshly juiced vegetable juice including some varieties of fruit juices may replace water explained in Step 6 in the directions explained above. Try cabbage, carrot, celery, ginger root, beet root, turnip, apple, quince, or dark grape juice. The juices may be used per single variety or any combination.
For those who may be concerned about food combination. Yes, you may mix fruit with vegetable juices, for fermentation renders all ingredients equal-- the perfect union between different vegetative-food-groups initiated by the master-of-celebrants-- the Rev. Friendly Micro-Chaps.
The addition of fresh juice is best implemented if the shredded cabbage, including other ingredients, are not pounded to the point of releasing juice when bruised ingredients are squeezed in the hand. The reason being, if fresh ingredients are bruised to release juice under pressure of a clenched hand, then there should be ample juice to cover the ingredients when weighted down and compressed in the fermentation vessel. BUT, if compressed weighted ingredients are not covered by 3 cm [1.5"] of a layer of liquid, then it is essential to add enough fresh juice to cover the weighted ingredients, by about a 3cm [1.5"] layer of juice. Only then will it be possible for fermentation to proceed correctly, and in accordance of culturing a goodness grace-us quality culture-product.
No Mortar & Pestle or Food Processor in the House, Tent or Tee Pee? Then it's time for some Foot Stomping Tantrum or "Pounding in the Crock"
Using a mortar and pestle to pound shredded cabbage, vegetables, or fruits is quite an efficient means for bruising fresh ingredients. However, a food processor can also be used to chop and bruise fresh ingredients. But if a mortar and pestle or food processor are not available [or not preferred], then pounding either shredded or whole ingredients in the fermentation vessel itself, until the juice of the fresh ingredients is released, is an option.
There's also the option not to bruise the vegetables at all. Instead, shredded cabbage with optional ingredients are simply compressed with the fist or with a wooden dowel or rolling pin, doing so in the crock itself. Continuing like so, until the vessel is 3/4 filled with well compressed ingredients. With this method, it is essential that the weighted vegetables are covered with fresh water, or preferably with fresh vegetable juice, fruit juice, or a mixture, so that fermentation can proceed successfully. The 2 Lt [.5 gal] container in the picture is a typical glass spaghetti storing jar. The amount of one small cabbage will fill this particular container about 2/3 full. A suitable glass jar that fits snug in the spaghetti brewing jar is filled with water and placed on top of the ingredients. This is both a follower and weighting source for holding down and pressing the ingredients. This is another all-glass method for brewing kefirkraut. Here, I'm using a wooden rolling pin both for pounding, and compressing the shredded cabbage.
I feel safer that the rolling pin is in my hands, rather than in my wife, Sandra's hands ... Sheeks! -- I best run for high ground now while rolling pin is still well secured in MY hands -->>>
Our wonder-daughter Shedea, at six months stomping her feet to bruise the shredded vegetables under her tiny feet in a 6 Lt [1-1/2 gal] crock, just like her dad stomping on fresh grapes to prepare wine. O.K., I may be stretching the truth here a little, however, it is fair to say that most, if not all children become readily akin with the culture-world. It is to everyone's advantage if they are exposed to, or introduced as children to the culture-art of friendly organisms, so that the art becomes second nature to them, as they mature and grow healthy into adulthood.
To tell you the truth, Shedea came to us in that crock, for baby-carrying Storks were on strike at the time of her delivery :!) -- Hey!! Why's me nose so long?
And in no time, Shedea turns almost 3. She's helping me chop up essential homegrown ingredients [Mustard greens and Oriental cabbage] for a delicious kefirkraut. If you let kids help out with preparing foods, it's natural for them to enjoy the finished product more so than if they were simply observing the process. It can be a great help for fussy eaters. You teach a child one of the most important skills, the preparation of foods, which in today's world is far and few in between. Today we are seeing a generation that has lost touch with the most basic, but most essential skills, which can help a child discover who they are later in life, where time may bring questions that lack answers for the child in adulthood.
Teaching a child how to prepare food does not stop at providing the child with good nutrition, it as a tradition that can be a useful tool for them to tap into later in life.
In any case, kids love lending a hand, and Shedea is no exception.
God Bless all Kids and You too, Shedea. Shine on.
Kefchi is a rendition of the infamous Kim-chi of Korea. I may prepare kefchi with Oriental Chinese cabbage, mung-bean sprouts, daikon radish, green papaya, fresh green ginger root, young or mature lotus root, fresh chili, capsicum, garlic, fennel seed, caraway seed and juniper berries. An assortment of other fresh ingredients may be included. This wonderful delicacy can easily be prepared with little to no salt.
The terra cotta crock in the photo is where the bruised ingredients are pressed and fermented. As a starter-enhancer, an amount of kefir grains, about 2 Tbs of sugary kefir-grains are blended with an amount of vegetable juice to form a smooth liquid. This is mixed with the bruised fresh veggies before filling the crock.
If no sea salt is included, fermentation takes about 3 to 4 days at room temperature, because Chinese cabbage readily ferments and ferments quickly at that. If a small percentage of sea salt is used, fermentation may take between 5 to 10 days, depending on sea salt percentage and temperature. The more sea salt, the longer fermentation is required.
The inner walls of the non-glazed terra cotta crock in the picture, is sealed with beeswax. If you are interested to learn how to seal utensils intended for brewing with beeswax, please check my Web Page dedicated to explain this particular art form at my-- Beeswax treated utensils page.
Kefchi prepared with mature Lotus root. Mature Lotus root is mostly not eaten raw after fermentation because it remains quite starchy. Instead, this method is used to preserve fresh lotus root. When required, a few slices of Lotus root are removed from the other ingredients, pounded in a mortar and pestle to form a thick paste. The paste is cooked with an amount of kefchi juice or vegetable stock and a little Rice malt extract or Maple syrup, cooking for 3 minutes to thicken.
This prepares a smooth, creamy delicious sauce, which when added to stir fry dishes is much like many traditional Chinese style dishes that are prepared with a lovely flavoursome caramelised sauce.
A sweet-and-sour base is easily prepared with the above idea, adding equal portions of rice vinegar and honey, or 1 part rice vinegar to 2 parts thick liquid rice malt. My favourite is 2 tbs rice vinegar with 3 heaped tbs palm sugar.
Kefchi with home-grown ingredients including fresh green beans, mung bean spouts, oriental cabbage, carrot, anise bulb, sweet and hot peppers.
Traditional Kim chi is prepared in Korea, and although there is a basic method for preparing kim chi, there is variation in the recipe among families or locals. Family recipes are passed down from generation to generation, while some folks may walk outside the square and prepare kim chi with their favourite ingredients.
Kefchi is not different in this case, and all that may be similar from one recipe to the next is that kefir grains are incorporated as a starter enhancer to speed up the process of fermentation. In fact, any traditional recipe of Korea should produce a tantalising culture-product with the use of kefir grains.
Kefirkraut prepared with red cabbage, red yeast fermented rice powder, oriental broccoli and slices of Japanese radish [Daikon]. This kefirkraut has a crispy texture with a delicate flavour. The red cabbage and red fermented rice give the kraut a delightful red colour, which may be extended in creating wonderfully coloured dishes. I find 1 Tbs red fermented rice per 1kg [2.2lb] ingredients is sufficient.
Borsch [Russian beet root soup usually served cold] with kefir and red kefirkraut anyone?! ... Tips of the fingers to the lips-kiss Mmwooah! --- The time has come to vosh down dah borsch, with kefirrr-cheerrs-- Naustrovia!
Preparing Smaller Quantities on a More Regular Basis
Smaller quantities or batches of kefirkraut may be prepared by using half a cabbage or less, with the addition of your favourite veggies and using smaller containers for fermentation. This is a good option when only a few spare kefir grains are at hand. One tablespoon of milk or sugary kefir-grains is sufficient to culture 2 to 4 cup size batches. Kefirkraut may be prepared at regular intervals by culturing smaller ongoing batches. The kraut may be consumed fresh, possibly rendering a more efficient probiotic source of specific lactic acid bacteria, which initiate the culture-process e.g., Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Lb. plantarum.
Temperature is one of the main factors influencing the process of fermentation. Higher temperatures increases the possibility for kefirkraut to become mushy and slimy within 6 to 7 days, caused by slime forming bacteria. This is preventable by keeping a close eye on the kraut during warmer temperatures, where it may take 4 days to culture. Over fermentation is easily overlooked if temperatures reach above 28°C [82° F]. To ensure quality, I recommend culturing kefirkraut at ambient temperatures ranging between 16° to 22°C [60° to 71°F].
I recommend that it is always best to under-ferment than to over-ferment kefirkraut during the initial room temperature cycle within higher temperature limits. This ensures that the vegetables are crisp and will retain crispiness for at least 2 months under cold storage. If the inexperienced is not sure whether the kraut is ready and believe it may need more time at room temperature, then it may be a good idea to finish the kraut in the refrigerator than to risk over fermentation at room temperature. Anywhere between 4 to 6 days at room temperature during summer and winter respectively is usually enough time. Readiness of kefirkraut is mostly dependent on temperature and the amount of kefir grains added ... the warmer temperature, the less time is needed. And to a point, the more kefir grains added, the less time it takes to brew. A good indication for readiness is by measuring pH of the liquid, doing so daily after the third day. If no salt is used, a pH of 4.5 to pH 4 indicates the kraut is ready for refrigeration [cold storage ripening]. Readiness for refrigeration may also be determined by taste-testing for sourness and good flavour. The juice can be sampled for a mild to moderate sour taste, with the slightest amount of fizz on the tongue.
Storage Conditions and Storage Time
Kefirkraut must be ripened by storing in the refrigerator [not frozen]. It should keep for about 3 months. After this period, it may begin to show signs of softness. Kefirkraut prepared with .5% salt, should keep well for about 4 months and 1% salt kraut for about 5 months, and 2% salted kefirkraut will keep for at least 9 months.
Film Forming on the Surface of Kefirkraut Juice During Cold Storage [Flowers or Kefirkraut]
If the salt less kefirkraut is not consumed within 3 to 4 months, then one may find a thin light brown film on the surface of the liquid. This should not be confused with the common Kahm yeast normally found as scum on the surface of traditional sauerkraut. This is more likely to occur when an excessive amount of liquid is covering the kefirkraut which is ripening under cold storage. The film or Mycodermia is quite likely formed by friendly yeast and bacteria propagating as colonies under low temperatures. The Mycodermia may be similar to the cellulose producing Acetobactor, which forms a cellulose film in homemade vinegar, referred to as mother of vinegar. Although any film found in kefirkraut would be unique when compared to the mother of vinegar variant. In fact, I call the film found on kefirkraut, Flowers of Kefirkraut. The underside surface of all the films I've seen forming in kefirkraut, have small irregular protrusions similar in appearance to tinny light brown coloured warts [or tinny baby kefir grains] randomly scattered along the underside surface of the Mycodermia [Hmm?! ... The many small wonders that lay there beneath]. The Mycodermia may indicate high activity of yeasts and acetobacter due to the combined efforts of the organisms native to both kefir grains and cabbage. I would recommend discarding the kefirkraut if such a film is found. At this point, the kefirkraut will likely be mushy [loss of crispiness].
Kefirkraut as a Sourdough Starter
Kefirkraut makes an excellent sourdough starter for baking bread and cakes and other baked goods [Yes indeed, sourdough starter can also be used for baking sweet cakes, pretzels including pancakes, doughnuts and biscuits].
Take 1/2 cup portion of kefirkraut vegetables, and blend in a food processor with 1/2 cup of kefirkraut juice till smooth consistency. Or, pound 1/2 cup kefirkraut vegetables in a mortar with a pestle to a smooth paste, and mix with 1/2 cup kefirkraut juice. Mix well with 1.5 cups of certified bio-dynamic or organic wholemeal wheat, spelt or rye flour. This can be as thick or as thin as you like. Place in a glass jar covered with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 2 to 4 days. Each day add 1 tbs of fresh flour and if the mixture is too thick to mix, add a little fresh water and stir well. When the kefirkraut sourdough starter is bubbly, with a rich sweet/sour yeasty aroma, it is ready. You now have a wonderful sourdough starter ... a natural leavening agent when mixed with a larger amount of fresh flour and water to prepare sourdough breads, cakes or other similar pastries or baked goods.
I prepare healthy, wholemeal sourdough spelt or kamut Italian pretzels [Tarralli] with fennel seed, and Italian wholemeal spelt or kamut doughnuts [Zepole] and many more other health-smart wonderful products with a similar sourdough starter.
My nature has mostly been one to return to us, what is as it once was, and improve on it by natural means.
Evolution of Microorganisms During Typical Sauerkraut Fermentation
Leuconostoc mesenteroids appear in high numbers to initiate fermentation. These eventually commit environmental suicide due to the production of lactic acid, acetic acid, mannitol and ethanol which the organism produce. This provides a stimulus for lactobacilli to proceed fermentation. Mannitol would produce a bitter flavour to the kraut, but it is fermented by populations of lactic acid bacteria [Pediococcus cerevisae, Lb. brevis and Lb. plantarum]. These bacteria, including acetobacter and yeasts keep producing lactic acid, ethanol and acetic acid, until fermentable carbohydrates are depleted, and a pH of 3.5 is reached.
Reference: Cano Raúl J, Colomé S Jaime.  Microbiology.:815.
The art of culturing has much to teach, especially of relationships.
What is important is what evolves into being, and not what is currently happening.
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Links of Interest
www.wildfermentation.com Sandor Ellix Katz, or "Sandorkraut's" sauerkraut recipe.
aqualover.com/lifeforce/sauerkraut.html Mark Adams [Aquaman] homemade sauerkraut recipe.
Edited May 12, 2014
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