It’s time to clean out the winter garden and get our spring garden started. We’ve got several heads of cabbage growing, and there’s only so much coleslaw and steamed cabbage we can eat. There’s still plenty kimchi left from my last batch, so I’ve decided to broaden my horizons and try my hand at making sauerkraut.
I’ve done my research and feel confident this will be a breeze. The older I get the more I appreciate fermented food; I’m looking forward to this. I figure I shouldn’t keep all this fun to myself…welcome to sauerkraut 101.
After a trek to the garden to cut some fresh cabbage and pulling off the outer leaves for the chickens to enjoy, I got started. Preparation was simple. I got all my materials together.
What I used is:
a two gallon glass jar (Anchor Hocking…made in the USA…that’s not a requirement, but it is a fact I appreciate.) A large crock or food grade plastic container can also be used for larger quantities.
a sharp paring knife
large cutting board
a saucer or plate that will fit inside the container you use
a heavy “weight” to place on the plate (more on that later)
Several years back I developed a taste for sauerkraut…but it had to be good, crisp sauerkraut…not the mushy, limp textured, canned variety. Yuck! If I’ve done my research properly, fresh, crisp sauerkraut will be a reality any time I want it from here on out.
Here is what I did:
After washing my cabbage I shredded it. I cut mine in fairly rustic, not too thin slices.
When I finished shedding the cabbage I started putting it in the glass jar. After every couple of inches of cabbage I sprinkled a teaspoon of sea salt across the top and continued alternating cabbage and salt until it was all in the jar. I ended with sea salt.
Once that step was complete I compressed the cabbage as much as possible with my hands. Next I placed a saucer on top of the cabbage and continued to compress.
Finally I placed a teapot filled with water on top of the saucer to help keep the cabbage weighted down and compressed and force the liquid out of the cabbage. The cabbage must be beneath the liquid to ferment properly. (You can use just about anything heavy that can be properly washed as a weight on top of the saucer as long as it will fit in the jar. I read where someone used a washed, smooth river rock as the weight. Another idea along the same concept as my teapot is a jar filled with water. The teapot just looks so much nicer through the clear jar I’m using as a fermenting container. Pretty must count for something. )
No liquid is added to the mixture of cabbage and sea salt at this point. The sea salt will draw out the liquid in the cabbage producing the brine the cabbage will ferment in. Every couple of hours or so the cabbage needs to be pressed down again to help cover it in brine. In the morning if the brine is not completely covering the cabbage I will add pure water with additional sea salt dissolved in it until there is enough liquid to completely cover the cabbage. (If this is necessary the ratio of water to salt is one cup of water to one teaspoon of sea salt.) Three hours after I finished the preparation work and adding the cabbage to the jar, the sea salt had drawn enough liquid from the cabbage to cover it half way.
I’ll store the jar on a counter top while it is fermenting and check it each day to make sure the cabbage is covered and all is well. I understand a harmless “scum” can form on the top while the cabbage is fermenting. I’m hoping this doesn’t happen to mine…just the word “scum” conjures up a lack of appetite. If it happens I’ll skim the scum. The fermenting process should become apparent in just a few days. The longer it ferments, the stronger the sauerkraut.
In the past I’ve known ladies who made sauerkraut and kept it in a cool cellar while it fermented. I don’t have a cool cellar…or any cellar for that matter. The cellar method takes longer for the cabbage to ferment. As far as I know there is no other significant difference.
I’ll try to discipline myself to do a follow-up post after the sauerkraut is ready to eat or along the way if there is anything of interest to share. I’ve still neglected to do a “Water Kefir - Part 2″ even though I’ve enjoyed many liters of water kefir since beginning to make it.
Until next time…
A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. ~ Henry David Thoreau ~