Brain Dropping #63
Wild Fermentation – or Making Sauerkraut. Yesterday, Friday, October 3, the kind of crystal clear Fall day mythologized by Vermont Life magazine to lure big spending, leaf-peepers to the Green -Turning-Orange and Gold- Mountains, I drove along Chester Arthur Road (21st President of the United States) to the Flack Family Farm to help with chopping up cabbage to make sauerkraut. The landscape of rolling pastures and hayfields opened up before me toward Mount Mansfield, accompanied by a harpsichord toccata by J.S. Bach on Vermont Public Radio. When I pulled into the driveway a lively group of volunteers was already at work quartering soccer ball sized cabbages and feeding the shredder hopper – very labor intensive. In the Spring Doug Flack had planted over four thousand cabbages in a field prepared, according to the principles of Bio-dynamic farming, with organic fertilizer and vital trace minerals, especially boron. Most soils in Vermont have been depleted of these minerals by conventional farming methods including the growing of GMO corn treated with the herbicides Atrazine and Monsanto’s Roundup, creating crops which are nutritionally deficient. Some agronomists have called it a country-wide nutritional famine
Boron is critical for the growing of cabbages that are tasty and mold free. There have been years past when we cabbage-choppers spent too much time cutting away unsightly grey mold. The other day, in cutting the cabbage heads, I found not one instance of mold. I asked Doug about it and he told me that he finally got the boron content right. That also accounted for the delicious sweetness of the cabbage and the unique flavor of Flack Family Farm Sauerkraut. Boron strengthens the cell wall of all plants and is necessary for soil vitality. It is important not only for cabbages but for humans – it helps build strong bones, is used in treating osteoarthritis, building muscles, raising testosterone levels and improving thinking skills.
After the shredding the cabbage is put into fifty-five gallon drums and pounded with a heavy oak pestle releasing the liquid until it covers the top surface of the shredded cabbage. The drums are then sealed and weighted. It is at this point that the bacterial alchemy begins an “enzymatically controlled anaerobic transformation of an organic compound.” It’s called “wild fermentation” because the triggering bacteria are everywhere in the air we breathe. Before modern refrigeration wild fermentation was the most common method for preserving food i.e. – yogurt, clabbered milk, prosciutto ham, cheeses, almost all vegetables.
After several weeks, the time element is variable depending on the temperature and other ambient qualities, the sauerkraut is ready to be eaten. Sauerkraut is an excellent pro-biotic food rich in Vitamin C and “good Bacteria” for the gut. The enzymes and/or bacteria produced during fermentation break down proteins and carbohydrates making them more accessible for the body to digest and absorb.
During the long Vermont winter, a group of us meet almost weekly to stuff and label jars of Flack Family Farm Sauerkraut amid opinionated chatter about politics, art, philosophy, quantum physics and the Higgs Boson or “God Particle.” We call these meetings, tongue-in-cheek, THE SAUERKRAUT SEMINAR. You may audit the seminar for free, but call ahead – spaces are limited.