Thursday, February 24, 2011

Heirloom Foods: River Rocks and Farting Cabbage

Daniel's first sauerkraut, Feb. 2011.
We at the ESD offices have been enjoying watching Daniel Marlos make sauerkraut almost as much as we've enjoyed eating it.

In this second installment of Daniel's kraut-making process, I've decided to post a few photos and a brief video to show you how the sauerkraut is coming along.  In a few days, I'll be posting the full recipe.  (I must admit I'm holding off on posting the recipe until I can figure out how to write a disclaimer about avoiding botulism while making pickled foods.  And why you shouldn't blame me if you manage to make yourself sick.)

So while I work on that little problem, I thought I'd introduce you to two of the most interesting, and weirdest aspects of making sauerkraut-- the procurement of a cabbage stone and Farting Sauerkraut.

The Cabbage Stone
A cabbage stone is bascially a rock.  Well, not basically-- a cabbage stone IS a rock.  A rock that you collect from the source of your choice, clean thoroughly, and keep from year to year.  The rock is used to keep the cabbage weighed down in the crock so the cabbage can fester in it's own juices.
Daniel washes his newly acquired "cabbage stone".  Feb. 2011.
Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot purchase a cabbage stone at Macy's.  You must find one, buy one, or otherwise procure a stone that's large enough to weigh down the cabbage, but still small enough to fit into your crock.  Daniel got his from a recent ramble in the Los Angeles River.

Those of you familiar with the LA River know that it's a great place to collect rocks.  It also happens to be a place that Daniel has been visiting for over twenty years-- sometimes with me in tow-- so it's fitting that Daniel's cabbage stone comes from the LA River.  Having spent time wandering along the concrete banks and rocky bottom of the LA River, it's good to know that Daniel's rock (now cabbage stone) has been well-cleaned.  Beautiful as the LA River can be, it certainly has it's share of floating garbage, which is not an appetizing thought.  Because the rock/cabbage stone came from the LA River, I suspect it will get along well with Daniel's 10 gallon crock, which was once used to house fish collected from the LA River.  I hope this shared history between rock and crock will be the starting point for a very happy relationship for years to come.

Farting Sauerkraut
This phenomenon is new to me.  Sauerkraut farts when you press it down in the crock.  Or at least Daniel's does.  On the day I visited, Daniel was adding the last of 10 heads of cabbage to his crock and covering it with a plate that fit tightly down into the crock.  He'd started this batch a few days earlier so the cabbage had already expelled quite a bit of liquid into the crock.  As Daniel repeatedly pressed on the plate using all his body weight (he was in push-up position when he did it), the sauerkraut made hearty farting noises.  I assume it was the noise of excess air bubbling up from the murky depths, but I can't be sure.  I fear that this video doesn't do the sauerkraut justice.  If only I'd had a sound engineer on site...


  1. That's a riot!! I immediately thought about how cabbage affects your system, not realizing that it was part of the process!!

  2. I didn't realize that botulism was an issue with sauerkraut! Oh my!

  3. I've consulted a medical authority, who also happens to have had extensive experience making homemade sauerkraut, and he says that he's never heard of sauerkraut leading to botulism, mostly because rotten sauerkraut is so stinky that nobody would ever eat it! Although I was making a bit of a joke with the botulism comment, I do want to make sure that people are following good food safety procedures when making any kind of preserved food.