Two Ferments: Sauerkraut and Comfrey Liquor

The first one is sauerkraut. It is my first deliberately fermented food. A huge cabbage head came in our CSA box a couple of weeks ago. What to do with it? As I was reading Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation, I couldn’t resist.

My mom and I went looking for a good crock, but all the right shapes we found (in non-specialty stores) had questionable glazes. Always know what glaze is on your cookware, and especially make sure there is no lead in it.

In the end we went with the ceramic liner of our crock pot.  We shredded the cabbage, layered it in the pot, with one tablespoon of salt on top of every inch of cabbage (except on the last layer), then submerged it in filtered tap water, crushing it down to get the air bubbles out, then weighed it with two plates, then a jar with water. We draped a towel over it so dust couldn’t get in.

It smelled something awful three days into the process, so I put it on the porch. The potent smell lasted a few days, then it became more neutral. On day 10 there was some surface mold, which was easily skimmed off. All the cabbage under the water surface was unaffected. It is now two weeks and it tastes delicious!  I think it’s ready!

I transferred the kraut with the brine into jars – careful to keep it all submerged – and put them in the fridge to eat it over the next couple of weeks.

I gave the chickens the large leaves that we put at the bottom and they are loving it!

The second ferment is comfrey liquor. No, it’s not  edible. At least, I wouldn’t drink it!

It took much longer to make. I started it in July. It required three buckets that fit into each other. The bottom one captures the liquid which drips down through the holes in the second bucket, which I stuffed with comfrey leaves from my garden. I have a comfrey patch right across from the chicken coop. The chicken, by the way, love to eat it. On top of the leaves I put a heavy paver and then on top of that a third bucket heavy with sand. I stood this in the shed for a couple of months. I checked it a month later and it was pretty bubbly, but it didn’t smell,  even though my internet sources say it should stink to high heaven! I swear I took a picture then, but I can’t find it. This was the state today:

Now a little over two months into the process, the  leaves (left in the picture above) are just fiber. The  liquid (right) is no longer bubbly, and it doesn’t smell. It’s a coffee brown-black and somewhat viscous.

A 5 gallon bucket stuffed with leaves yielded a little under 5 cups of liquor.

I will fertilize the berry bushes with this or keep it in a dark, cool place until Spring. I’ll dilute it as it’s very concentrated: one part of liquor per fifteen or so parts of water. Comfrey’s deep roots mine and bring up  especially potassium – comfrey is actually one of the few organic sources of potassium.

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  1. My goats love comfrey, too! When I whack down the plants and lug the leaves over to the pastures, it’s a race between the hens and the goats to see who gets more. Free forage… I love it. I’m planning to divide my three plants (well, was planning to do it this spring, but it was really wet for a long time) and plant the divisions on the OUTSIDE of the pasture fence. That way the plants can get as big as they want, and the goats can nosh on them, but only on the parts that grow into the pasture – that way they won’t kill them. If comfrey can be killed, that is… but I don’t want to find out.

  2. I haven’t visited in a long while and see you’ve been up to a lot of really good things. I love the bee and honey posts, because I glean a lot of good information for my future use.

    I have to say we love sauerkraut (anything lactofermented really) but never thought about using comfrey for it. I’ve been planting more comfrey plants every year, with a view to using it especially to meet protein and calcium needs for my milking does. Mine are Bocking 4s, but when we plant pasture soon, I’d like to get some wild comfrey seed to include in the mix. I know it’s invasive, but suspect my goats would devour it long before that. Like Michelle’s mine love comfrey.

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