Monday, October 3, 2011


A yearly ritual for me is the making of sauerkraut in the Fall.  It uses up  all the remainder of the gardens green cabbages, is easy to make, will last all through the winter, and even has the added health benefits of lacto fermenting.

Here's how I make it;  First sanitize everything with hot scalding water, especially the container you're using.  I boil water and pour it around the crock, wash the counter and knife real good, and make sure the cabbage is clean.  Slice the cabbages as thin as you can, make a layer of cabbage in your container, then sprinkle with salt, continue to layer in your container.  I use kosher salt, I'm sure you can use pickling salt, I have also used sea salt and it worked just fine, you just don't want to use table salt with iodine. The containers I have used are buckets or crocks, and for the last several years I have used this large 15 gallon crock.  It settles down to about half, so I have room to put a gallon glass jar filled with water to weight it all down.  As it's curing it needs to be covered with liquid, the liquid will come from the cabbage as the salt helps release it. 

I don't measure the salt, just sprinkle it on the layers, I make the layers about an inch thick and sprinkle like I'm salting a food dish then I add a little extra.  If you're salt sensitive try using less salt. I have played around with less salt and more salt, and have found a nice balance is good.  If you don't add enough salt the sauerkraut isn't as crisp.
Once I add all the layers of cabbage and salt, I punch it down, I use my fists (clean and sanitize first) to literally punch and punch it all down.  I spend 5 to 7 minutes doing this for my big batch, a smaller batch wouldn't take as long.  There are probably many ways to tamp down, I've even used a clean two by four in a plastic bag as a tamper, just so it's tamped down to help release the liquid.  I then place a cover like a large plate over it.  I have also placed a towel over top before the plate, but this has to be kept very clean, rinsed regularly in hot water.  Push down so liquid covers the plate, and set your weight on the plate, then I cover with a wooden lid.   Make sure the plate is sanitized along with the weight and the lid, the plate should be large enough to cover the surface of the cabbage.

You will need to check it daily, and skim off any scum or foam.  The time it takes to cure depends mostly on the temperature.  In warmer temps, like 75 degrees, it may only take 10-14 days, in cooler temperature like I have, around the low 60's it will take several weeks, I've let it cure anywhere from 3-6 weeks.  I then jar it up and refrigerate what I want to use in the next 3 months, and can the rest for late winter and early spring.  We eat this all through the winter months.

A few notes;  The cabbage can take a day or two to release it's liquid fully, in the event you don't have enough liquid after 2 days to cover the cabbage when pushed down by the plate, you will need to make a salty brine.  I just mix water in a quart jar add a couple teaspoons of salt and pour over it.  If cabbage is fresh it will usually have enough moisture.

I have found that the best way for me to keep a good eye on the fermenting sauerkraut is to keep it in my kitchen where I'll remember it, I've tried to place it farther away and have forgotten to regularly check it.  You will also want to check the flavor and taste starting when it's about a week old, once it reaches a taste and flavor you like, jar it up in pint or quart jars and refrigerate or can.  We begin eating it as soon as it's done, I like to serve sauerkraut as a side dish for lunch or dinner depending on what I'm serving.   Happy Fall!

No comments: