Posted by: Diane | October 4, 2013

Homemade Sauerkraut

By request, I am going to discuss my homemade sauerkraut today.  Oh good!  I knew you would all be excited to learn about this sour, salty, crunchy, mouthwatering  gourmet treat!

Gourmet?  This stuff that used to be in every German grandmother’s cellar?  Yep.  $6 for a (smaller than quart) jar at the health food store.  Yes, I know that you can buy it in cans at the local grocery store, but that stuff is only a dim shadow of the goodness you can ferment in your own kitchen.  I haven’t tried the sauerkraut that they sell in refrigerated bags in the deli meat section of the grocery store, but it has “extra” ingredients besides just cabbage and salt.

And sauerkraut really is that simple:  cabbage and salt.  How much cabbage and how much salt?  Well how big of a jar or crock do you have to fill?  Or in my case, how many sauerkraut loving children do I have to feed?

The best fermentation results come by using about 3 tablespoons of salt for every five pounds of sliced cabbage.  Less salt gives you faster fermentation , softer kraut and more scum that has to be skimmed.  More salt slows or prevents fermentation.  So the amount given above is a happy medium which gives about a 4 week fermentation process, crisp kraut and little scum to deal with.

But HOW?  How do you make sauerkraut? 

Have your jar with a lid or crock ready.  That means it should be scrupulously clean.  Have a large clean bowl and clean hands, too.  If you don’t have a handy dandy mandoline cabbage slicer, you will need a cutting board and a large, sharp knife.

Cut the whole cabbage into manageable size pieces and cut out the core.  Slice the cabbage VERY thinly.  As in, the thickness of a dime.  Yes, that thin.  This is hard to do with a knife, but don’t sweat it too much.  Slice, slice, slice.

When you’re all done slicing, see how much the cabbage weighs (or just guess like I did) and measure out the correct amount of salt.  Remember:  3 Tbsp. for every 5 lbs. of cabbage.  That’s about 2 tsp. per pound.

Put the cabbage shreds in the large bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Mix thoroughly with your hands.  Keep mixing and start squeezing and squishing the cabbage so that it releases juice.  Keep mashing and mixing until the shreds get a little wilty.
It may take a while, just keep at it.  Squish, squish, squish.

Now you can start packing the cabbage in to the jar or crock.  Pack it in layers and use your fist to pack it down really tight.  You don’t want lots of air pockets and you want the juice to start coming up to cover the cabbage shreds.  Pack, pack, pack.

Once the jar is about full, make sure that the briny juice covers the cabbage.  If it doesn’t, mix 1 tsp. salt with 1 cup of water to make a little “instant brine” that you can use to cover the cabbage.

I like to put a water filled ziploc bag inside the top of the jar to keep the shreds submerged.  Put the lid on loosely and set the jar in a cool (about 72° F) place to ferment for several weeks.  Check the top of the jar occasionally for scum or mold.  Skim it off if it’s there. (I never saw any on mine.)  After about three or four weeks, uncover the kraut and use a clean fork to take a taste.  Not quite sour enough?  Cover it back up and wait another week or two.  When it tastes the way you want it to, take out the bag of water, tighten the lid and put it in the fridge.  The flavor will continue to improve but it will stop fermenting.

Whenever you want some sauerkraut to go with your sausages, just dish some out and eat it!   Eat, eat, eat!

I like to eat mine cold from the fridge to take advantage of the wonderful enzymes and natural probiotics that real sauerkraut contains.  But if you want to heat it up that’s fine, too.

Enjoy!

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