Thursday, February 18, 2010

Home-Fermented Sauerkraut

Why the multiple sauerkraut-employing recipes lately? Oh, because we have a bumper crop of homemade sauerkraut! Fermenting sauerkraut is totally easy and will make you feel like an old-timey kitchen rock star.

1 large green cabbage
Kosher salt

First, a note on salt: Sandor Katz's guideline for salt is three tablespoons per five pounds of cabbage. You don't need to worry about hitting that exact amount, though. Just add salt one teaspoon at a time; keep going until it tastes pleasantly salty, like french fries. (If you end up with too-salty kraut, rinse it off before eating.)

Trim away any brown or wilted parts of the cabbage. Slice the leaves and core into fine ribbons. In a large, non-reactive container, sprinkle the cabbage with kosher salt and massage it vigorously. Keep massaging and adding salt until the cabbage has given off a lot of water.

Pack the cabbage and cabbage juice into quart jars (two or more, as needed). Smash down the cabbage well, so that you have at least 1/2 inch of liquid on top. Fill a smaller jar with water and use it to weigh down the cabbage so that no cabbage rises to the surface. Some sauerkraut-makers put all of their cabbage in a large crock and use a plate to weigh down the top. We like the dual jar method because it makes it easy to minimize the surface area and you can see through the glass to tell whether you've got your cabbage fully submerged. Fermentation happens underwater, while mold formation happens on the surface. Therefore, less surface area equals less mold.

Cover the jars with a cloth and place in a dark corner. Once a day, take out the small jar, remove any mold that may have formed on the surface (but don't worry about it too much) and smash down the cabbage as much as you can. (Keep those potentially reactive metal utensils away! Wood or plastic are fine.) Rinse off the small jar and return to its original position.

Depending on the season--summer heat means quicker fermentation--your cabbage will show signs of fermentation in one to three days. You may see tiny bubbles forming or hear a fizzing noise. The kraut will begin to smell sour. Keep giving it daily attention and tasting.

Once it's been bubbling and tasting sour for a whole week, put a lid on the kraut and transfer to the refrigerator. In Ye Olden Times, people left their kraut in the root cellar for months or years, but we like to get ours into the refrigerator while it's young--the kraut stays crunchier that way, and is also a bit less sour.

You can begin to eat the kraut now, or wait for it to get a little more sour. The kraut will keep for a very long time in the fridge.


My Year Without said...

This is fascinating. I LOVE sauerkraut and never dreamed of making it myself!

I Heart Kale said...

Definitely try it--it's way better than store-bought and so cheap to make!

Anardana said...

I have been meaning to make this forever! Thanks for the added inspiration!

Dot Connector said...

Well the cabbage is submerged and it a dark hidey hole. Really enjoying your blog. Tried the raw massaged kale with root veggies last night. Best thing I ever ate. Seriously YUMMY!

I Heart Kale said...

Glad you liked the massaged kale! Enjoy the kraut :)

Twill Jill said...

I'm planning for my upcoming garden in the midwest and found 5 kinds of cabbage I want to grow. But what to do with it all? Then I stumbled upon your blog. I never dreamed homemade kraut could be so easy. This German-Polish gal thanks you!

Kelly Hays said...

Sanor's book has definitely had a hung impact on my life. I got a question for you. Have you entertained the idea of fermenting kale instead of cabbage?

The idea hit me as I have access to a lot of kale (many types) and I was thinking, why not, it is all the same (essentially). The thinner leaves however might take less time. Just an idea.

I Heart Kale said...

Hi Kelly, we've tasted (but not made) sauerkraut with kale thrown in, but not a straight kale pickle. Something to try this summer!