If you ferment enough produce and make it for workshops and gifts, sometimes you lose track of some of your product. Such was the case for me with a batch of Curtido. I recently found a 5-month-old half jar tucked in the back of the fridge while I had been eating a fresher, 6 week old, batch at the front of the fridge. Of course, this became a perfect opportunity for some comparisons.
If you’ve met me or read any of my past newsletters you know that Curtido is my FAVORITE sauerkraut. I eat it with eggs. I eat it in cheese burritos. I eat it as a snack. I’ve always known that, of course, there are differences between aged kraut and fresher kraut. I’ve just never had the patience to deliberately let it age since I love it so much. Now I had an opportunity to taste a side-by-side comparison of the 5-month-old Curtido and 1 ½-month- old curtido? And yes, there are many differences.
Color: The older Curtido has gotten darker over time (though I believe I had a few more greener cabbage leaves in the batch), while the newer is still quite bright. With the color change and texture change, the older batch looks similar to pasteurized, store bought (which I would never buy!). The newer batch is definitely more appealing to the eye. But looks aren’t everything!
Smell: The older Curtido smells just a little bit funkier than the newer batch. I know, that’s a subjective description that I can’t really describe. Funky is not bad. Just different from other foods we are accustomed to. The oregano is more pronounced – which is good in my opinion.
Texture: As I’ve always known and explain in my workshops, the older Curtido is definitely softer with much more give in its crunch. The fresher batch is still very crisp and crunchy, almost as crunchy as when it was first made. I really do like the crunch of homemade sauerkraut, especially in a burrito.
Flavor: Like an aged wine, the flavors of the old batch seem to have melded more, giving it a more complex flavor profile. It is mellower compared to the newer batch which is more tangy.
Nutrition: Though this is not directly observable I know that there are different microbial stages in fermentation and believe that basically you should eat it when you like it. Both krauts have probiotic benefits. Sandor Katz says that by tasting your krauts at different stages you will reap the benefits of the changes in the microbes in your ferments. If you are eating a wide variety of probiotic foods you will diversify your gut microflora simply by eating a diversity of foods/microbes.
I challenge you to give this experiment a try. Make your favorite sauerkraut recipe and when you put it in the refrigerator, set aside a jar to ripen in the back of the fridge. A batch or two later, do your own taste test to see what you think about the aged vs. fresh kraut from the same recipe. After all, creating food is a means to get the flavors, textures, and aromas that appeal to you. And even though we may let food be our medicine, we should enjoy it!