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.
(deep sea kraut to the right)
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.