Feb 4, 2015

How to Make Sauerkraut the Old-Fashioned (Easy) Way

We had a great turnout for Saturday's Vegetable Fermenting class.  Below are written instructions for making sauerkraut.  Fermented foods not only nourish our bodies, but they also protect us from harmful organisms and contribute to immunity.  

{It's my goal that at each meal, we eat something fermented. The popular choice at breakfast and lunch is usually kombucha, a slightly fizzy, sweet/sour tea. In a couple weeks, we will be teaching a kombucha class on Saturday, February 21 at 10am at Fermentables.  Class fee is only $10.  Email mike@fermentables.com to reserve your spot before the class fills up.}

1. Chop cabbage (finely or roughly - your choice). For speed and consistency, I like to use a food processor.

2. Add chopped cabbage to large bowl.  A crock pot insert works well for this.

3.  Sprinkle sea salt over it (approximately 3 Tablespoons salt per 5 pounds of cabbage). Do not used iodized salt. Iodine is antibacterial and you want good bacteria to grow.  I like to taste the saltiness along the way.  You can always add more salt.  As a general rule (from fermenting guru Sandor Katz), you will add more salt in summer and less in winter.  More salt also yields crunchier kraut. Go slowly with the salt. Add until it tastes delicious to you, like you just can't get enough, like potato chips.

4.  Add in other veggies, seeds or herbs - such as onion, garlic, carrots, caraway, dill, radishes, turnips, apples - the sky’s the limit!

5.  Massage, beat, pulverize.  You will begin to see water collecting in the bottom of your vessel.  This is good!  Sometimes I do other things in the kitchen while the salt and cabbage mingle.  This allows water to begin coming out of the cabbage. Some people will sprinkle the salt, mix it in, then let it all sit for 30 minutes or so --and they choose not to pulverize. It's really up to you.

6.  Press the salty cabbage into a wide mouth jar leaving about two inches of head room.  If the cabbage or water begins to expand so that it is seeping out of the jar, open the jar and remove some cabbage.  Push the remaining cabbage back down so that all the cabbage is under the brine.  

Below I am using a wooden spoon to pack the cabbage into the jar. You can also use your hand. Or, Fermentables sells a wooden "kraut pounder" that is a nifty tool used for this very thing.

7.  If you want your sauerkraut to have a consistent flavor, add a splash of starter (~2T per quart of kraut) from another ferment.  I think this makes the sauerkraut taste better. I like to use some juice from a Bubbies ferment (or a jar of sauerkraut that you have enjoyed the flavor).   Bubbies can be purchased in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods or Drug Emporium. Another starter alternative is Caldwells Vegetable Starter that can be purchased at Fermentables in North Little Rock. Cabbage has existing bacteria on the leaves that makes it conducive to fermentation, so a starter isn't crucial. Without a starter, it is called "wild" fermentation. As I stated above, I use a starter with kraut to give it a consistent flavor.

8.  If the cabbage is old or just dry you may need to add more brine (1 tablespoon salt in one cup water). It is very important that you have enough liquid to cover the top of the cabbage. Salt inhibits the growth of bad bacteria while allowing the good to grow.

In the jar below, I have a small glass jar inside the bigger jar. The smaller jar is acting as a weight to keep the cabbage under the brine. It is not necessary, but something I use on occasion.

9.  Screw a metal lid on tightly if using mason jar. Usually I ferment in mason jars but for whatever reason the day I took these pictures I also used Fido jars. :)  Allow the jar to sit on the counter for about 3-14 days.  In the winter, fermentation happens slower and you may need to let the jar sit out a week or longer.   The preferred fermentation temperature is 70*. I sit my ferments on a seedling heat mat in the winter because my kitchen is dreadfully cold. Without the extra warmth, you may have troubles getting your ferments to produce the bacteria you're trying to foster. If you want fizzy kombucha in winter, I strongly encourage a heat source.

A visual indicator the kraut is done is when the cabbage is no longer white or opaque. The more dense pieces need to look a bit transparent (like the jar on the left, above.) The jar in the middle is fresh cabbage and salt.

Open the jar and taste.  Then refrigerate when you have achieved desired sourness.


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