Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Hmmmm... What to do with a kohlrabi that is the size of a small child's head?

No, it's not overgrown. I grew giant kohlrabi this year. I don't think I'll ever go back to the regular kohlrabi. Kohlrabi was always a special family favorite when I was growing up. My Dad has always raved about it's tastiness. You have to pick it at the right time, however, because if left too long, it will get woody and fibrous and inedible. But this giant variety --called "Kossak"-- gets huge and doesn't get woody at all! It's big and delicious and I don't have to worry about forgetting to pick it and letting it go too long.

But it's also big.

Did I mention it was big?

See, here's a comparison. The purple one is the standard Purple Vienna type, and this particular specimen turned out to be, yep you guessed it, overgrown. I had to toss it.

Well, let's let Ms. Prudence Penelope, the lovely Speckled Sussex, be the judge:


Or Kossak?

Er... well. Turns out she doesn't much care. She'll peck at either.


I think I mentioned the size of this kohlrabi, since it is "giant" and all. It's several meal's worth of kohlrabi for our little family.

So I decided to try pickling it.

And not your usual pickling, mind you. Real, traditional, fermenting.

I've discovered my food passion. I really do love making food of all sorts, but when it comes to things that involve microbes, I'm smitten.

Take some ordinary food, ddd some friendly bacteria, maybe a few yeastie beasties, and I'm just in love.

This includes sourdough bread, cheese, beer, wine, the many versions of fermented milk, kombucha, water kefir, lacto-fermented cider (hard cider coming soon!), sauerkraut and pickled veggies. So far, I have not embarked on beer and wine, but they are next on my list. I've mastered and enjoyed all the others. I'm almost obsessive about fermenting anything I can get my hands on!

It's a sickness.

Or... a "wellness"?

Hee, hee. Yeah, that. Fermenting raises the nutrient level of foods exponentially. It makes them more digestible, and since we have fairly short digestive systems (as compared to cows and sheep and goats, which are basically fermenters with four legs) we do well on foods where the digestion has been started for us by some friendly buggies! Not to mention the fact that we need those buggies to take up residence in our guts and do all kinds of good things for us! (Did you know that the microflora in and on your body outnumber your own cells? We could not survive a day without them!)

I won't get into all the science of it, since that's well-documented in several other places. Suffice it to say that I love fermentation!

So this was the natural choice for my giant kohlrabi.

After I peeled and sliced the thing, I packed it tightly into quart jars with a garlic clove in each, dumped in a heaped tablespoon of salt, and filled the jars with water to cover the vegetables (leaving plenty of head space as they tend to fizz up quite a bit).

I set them aside to ferment for a week with my other pickley things-- beans and cucumbers prepared the same way.

I don't intentionally leave the jars in the sun, it just happens to get a little afternoon sun in that spot. I suppose it would be better in the dark, but... oh well.

After the jars have shown good signs of fermentation (usually the brine will fizz up a lot and then start to go back down), I transfer them to the fridge to age a while. I never open a jar before it's aged at least a month, often longer. For whatever reason, they just get so much better that way. And they'll keep in the back of the fridge pretty much forever (mine never make it that long, however).

(Aside: I made this pickled kohlrabi a while ago and we recently opened a jar and ate it. And? Oh. My. I think its' my new favorite pickle. I could eat those things all day, they're that addictive. Crunchy and salty and fizzy and smooth and still retaining that classic kohlrabi flavor. Yum.)

This year, I've been blessed with a spare fridge (I know! Luxury!). It was free. I had one last year for a while, until it died. (Free fridges do that.) In the past, I would only make a few jars, so I could fit them in the fridge. This year, however, I'm working hard at filling my spare fridge with fermented things. I have many jars of veggies in there now, as well as a couple of gallon jars of feta cheese aging in it's brine. Oh, and there are a few watermelons and non-wormy apples in there for now as well. I can keep the spare fridge a tad bit warmer than my kitchen fridge since the fermented things have all the good buggies to protect them from spoilage, and they will continue to ferment slowly.

I really only need the spare fridge during the fall until the basement gets cold enough. My plan for this year is to move these things down to the basement once it get's to about 40 degrees down there. Way-back-when, everyone had a cold storage built into a hill that stayed cold and acted as a fridge for storing their produce. My basement works pretty well, but it doesn't quite cool off soon enough. And besides... I do live in an age in which my husband can go pick up a free fridge and we can plug it right in... Spoiled, I know.

I treated my cabbage --two large, dense heads from a neighbor, and three puny little things from my garden, arg-- in much the same way.


Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop... for a long time. Yes with a knife. And it takes forever.

When I first started making sauerkraut, the instructions said to pound the cabbage for 10 minutes to bring out the juices. I dutifully pounded. And pounded. And pounded. Too. Much. Work. I discovered, somewhat by accident, that if I salt the cabbage and let it sit in a bowl for a while as I go do something else, when I come back-- voila! Juicy cabbage.

I used to pack it into quart jars, but we're eating so much of it now that I decided to scale it up a bit. Can you believe that I passed up a nice, big sauerkraut crock at the antique store (it wasn't a real antique-- it was a reproduction, but who cares?) for $20. I'm such a miser that I couldn't spend 20 bucks on a crock. But why would I when glass jars work just fine? 20 bucks is 20 bucks, after all.

I use the top of a meat hammer and pack it down as tight as possible. All that cabbage made a gallon and a quart of kraut. I always have plenty of juice from the cabbage to cover it all and since I put on a tight lid, I don't worry if a few pieces float up. It's never (yet) been a problem for me.

So this is my game-plan for fresh food this winter-- ferments. Can you believe that I don't buy produce during the winter (or very little...)? Yes, I am that much of a nutcase. We mostly eat seasonally. Whatever we harvest is what we eat. But we need to have something fresh to eat, and people didn't use to be able to just go to the store and buy produce trucked in from who-knows-where. They had to have some way of getting their vitamin C-- sauerkraut! And pickles! And coming soon, for it's wonderful B-vitamin-boost-- beer!

Mmmm... gotta love those microbes.


  1. The pickled Kohlrabi sounds really good. Can I try some??? Kraut is one of the best things one can eat. It kept a lot of people alive and healthy over the years.

  2. Are all the fermented foods salty tasting? I did fermented apple cider and I like it but it still has a salty flavor many months later. Is it something you just get used to?

  3. The fermented veggies are salty, but not too salty. I usually use about a tablespoon of salt per quart and it turns out pleasantly salty. Also, the saltyness tends to mellow in the fridge for some reason. I will open pickled whole veggies to eat after a month, but I always give kraut a few months. It's just better that way.

    As for the cider-- I always make lots of that in the fall and we really like it after it's sat in the fridge several months. The saltyness also mellows in that, though we can still taste it. I have found that I can reduce the salt slightly from the recipe. I've tried halving it, and that doesn't work well, but it can be reduced a little. I guess the salt just blends in with the fizzy, buttery, apple flavor and it just doesn't really bother us. It's definitely there, though. We only drink it in small glasses.

  4. Oh-- if you want to try a yummy fermented drink that is not salty (besides water kefir) try the "Punch" recipe in Nourishing Traditions. It's made with lemons and it's really easy and really yummy!

  5. This a FABULOUS POST!!! Really is it this easy? Just salt? Why do they talk about whey and all that lacto stuff? I am excited. I did not however PLANT any cabbages this year. It gets so hot here. So we are going to put them in now and hope for the best. It really doesn't get cold cold till January and I usually plant cabbages for decorations all winter so I think we can grow some. I can't believe you passed on a $20 crock. You really are a miser.I need some of that is it contagious?

  6. Yeah, you can use whey to inoculate with the right bacteria, but really-- the veggies already have it. You just need salt to inhibit the bad guys until the good guys get going. If it should bad (and it won't) you'll KNOW IT.

    Alyss over at Real Food, My Way wrote a great FAQ post if you're interested:

    Oh, heck yeah on planting cabbages! I'm sure you can get them growing down there where winter doesn't exist!

  7. I came here from Fresh Fixin's. I LOVE sauerkraut but every time I have made it I have had a failure. Maybe I'll try again. Someday. Loved the post. I'm bookmarking it.

  8. I bought a Kossack kohlrabi, but since I am not at home this summer, I could not pickle it. I cut up a lot to eat raw which was delightful, and then I creamed a lot like my mother used to do. It was so good and reminded me of my childhood. I probably would have never looked for one if I had not read your blog. Thanks.

  9. I shred my giant Kohlrabis and ferment them in a plastic bucket exactly the same as one would do a cabbage for Sauerkraut. Works perfectly. Tastes great.

  10. I've grown giant kohlrabi in the past and am doing so again this year - Kossak (hybrid) this time. Only 2, but that's all you need for a small family. Yes, they pickle well. This is one of the great giant vegetables of all time. Thank you, plant breeders.