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Old Fashioned Sauerkraut

5:49 PM

I took the plunge and made a batch of Sauerkraut.  This was an intimidating project for me to take on because of some of the preconceived notions I had about traditionally fermented kraut.  1)  that it would need a special crock that I didn't own and didn't have any practice using 2) that it would inevitably get moldy and gross like so many people complain about and 3) that I'd be too grossed out to eat it after the 6 week process was complete with all that skimming and the different "phases" of fermentation which can sometimes be more than a little off-putting.

I had read about how people make these huge 20 lb batches of kraut and *mostly* seal them and put them in a hole in the ground to ferment for weeks and about how Michael Pollan had a really hard time with mold infestation in his first (and only) 10lb batch.

Then cabbage came into season.  And it was staring at me at the store. It was only $.69 a lb... and a  relatively small one somehow made it into my cart and then into my refrigerator.  And there it stood... staring at me... taking up a TON of room right there on the top shelf.

And so I gathered my tools, and my ingredients.

Old Fashioned Sauerkraut
1 small cabbage, cored and sliced with outer leaves reserved
1-2 tbsp kosher salt (to taste)
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
caraway seeds
Juniper berries (if you have them, which I did not)

First, core and chop up the cabbage, leaving the outer leaves intact.

This was about 1.5 lbs of cabbage once it was chopped/cored

Then combine all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and get out a wooden rolling pin to crush the cabbage/start the process of brine creation.  The salt pulls the water out of the cabbage, so if you have a really fresh cabbage there's no need for added brine!

Stuff the shredded cabbage mixture into a quart jar, using the end of the rolling pin to really crush it down in there between handfuls.  Then use the intact outer leaves to seal off any small pieces from the top of the brine. The key is that you DO NOT want any of the cabbage poking up above the brine or it WILL MOLD.

Allow the jar to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.  By the end of that time, enough brine should have formed to completely cover the top cabbage leaf.

In my case, I had let the cabbage sit in the refrigerator for the couple days  before starting my project. After 24 hours, my brine was about 3/4 of the way up the cabbage in the jar.  I created some extra brine at a ratio of 1 tbsp seasalt to 1 quart of water and I topped the jar off.

See?  Nothing above the water line.  I then decided to be extra careful and fit some wooden skewers across the top of the cabbage leaf (also completely submerged) to make sure that the bubbles coming up during fermentation don't push anything up above the waterline.  This added precaution should completely eliminate the need to skim or otherwise mess with the ferment altogether.

Today is day 3 of my sauerkraut ferment and it is starting to actively bubble.  I've had to "burp" the jar 3 times to decrease the pressure build up under the lid. I'm expecting another 2-3 days of this rapid bubbling variety of fermentation, and the rest of the process will take about 5 additional weeks (tasting at 3 and 4 weeks to check for desired flavor/consistency. I'm really excited to see how it turns out and have a good feeling about this batch. I'm really happy that I decided to employ my tried-and-true fermentation method of using small batches of vegetables in mason jars. This was a very fun and satisfying project.


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