posted by Josh Evans
We are always looking to our environment to explore an ingredient or process further. So given we work on a boat, it was only a matter of time before we took a project underwater.
A simple sauerkraut was a good place to start. We figured the lower temperature would slow the lactic fermentation; what we knew less was whether and how pressure would influence flavour. Every ten metres of water equals one atmosphere of pressure - not an insignificant amount. Apparently some winemakers will age certain bottles on the ocean floor so there must be a reason.
Two identical batches to start: equal parts white and red cabbage packed with 2% salt. One kept on our counter, the other vacuum-packed, weighted, and thrown overboard.
We hauled it up after three weeks. All of it stained purple, with tiny bubbles and a bag no longer vacuum-tight. Definitely some bacterial activity.
The underwater kraut still held a deeper colour, was moister, crunchier, and not quite as lactic. All possibly attributable to a slower fermentation, of course. But there was also a cleaner flavour, a satisfying depth without the sulfurous notes of its counterpart, even from earlier in the process.
Often we are concerned with how to speed processes up while retaining flavour and quality -- with our vinegar aerator, for example. But it is also worth investigating how to slow a process down, to gain control over wider range of speeds. And especially when it comes to fermentation, we can use our surroundings as a tool, instead of immediately turning to manufactured and often expensive equipment. Of course, we use our fridges and freezers and stove every day (and our centrifuge, when it works) -- but the ocean doesn't need a power cord or repairman to help us transform food.