UPDATE: We have since changed our fermentation methods to anaerobic using a Harsch style crock and Fido jars. To read more about the whys and hows of anaerobic fermentation, check out Pickle Me Too’s post Pickl-It Jars, Are They Worth It?
Aaaah, sauerkraut. A king among fermented foods. Once upon a time, I thought I hated sauerkraut and with good reason. When I was a kid, my dad would stick a hot dog in the microwave with kraut on it and stink up the whole house. That sauerkraut was hot, mushy, and dead. Ewwwww.
Fresh sauerkraut, though, is a far different creature. It’s crunchy! It’s tangy! It’s alive!
So, where do we get some of this amazing, traditional superfood? Well, you can buy it. I admit, sometimes I get lazy and pick up a jar of Bubbies at New Seasons. At $5.69 for 25 fl oz, it’s an expensive indulgence. Even with expensive organic grocery store cabbage, I can make an entire gallon for $13.50. That’s a savings of 50%. In the summer, the price of cabbage will drop dramatically and I can make kraut for even cheaper! That excites me.
Plus fermenting can be kinda fun.
I learned to make sauerkraut from Sandor Ellix Katz‘s awesome guide to all things fermented, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Check it out. Alright, let’s get down to brass tacks.
Sauerkraut, Day 1
- Cut each cabbage into fourths, from top to bottom, and cut out the cores. Put the cores in a bowl for the chickens & rabbits.
- Fit your food processor with your widest slicing disc. Slice each of the fourths into stacks narrow enough to fit through the feed tube of your food processor.
- Shred it! Stick it in a bowl! Sprinkle liberally with salt! (Can you tell this is the fun part?)
- As your food processor fills up, dump it in your big bowl and pound it down with a meat pounder or other heavy thing to release the juices. Just don’t break your bowl. Every few handfuls of shredded cabbage should get a decent sprinkle of sea salt.
- If you don’t have a food processor, you can always slice the cabbage by hand.
- Take a minute to watch the cat playing with a piece of carrot. Awwww.
- Prepare your fermenting vessel. You do not need a big old fermenting crock unless you are making A LOT of sauerkraut. Like enough for 6 months. I use a 1 gallon pickle jar that I picked up from Jim for $1.75 and it works awesome. I normally leave a little kraut from the last batch in the bottom to kickstart the new batch. However, I kind of didn’t check my kraut for a while and it, ahem, “bloomed.” Which is to say, it grew mold (more on this later). Thus, I washed my fermenting vessel thoroughly and disinfected it, which is why it is so sparkly clean.
- Let the cabbage sit for 15-30 minutes to release its juice. If you’re forgetful like me, set a timer.
- Start packing the cabbage into your fermenting vessel. Put in a 3-4 good sized handfuls and pack it down with your fists.
- Repeat until the jar is full. Pack it as tightly as you can! Fill the jar all the way up to the top.
- Put a pint mason jar filled with water on top and push down hard. You should see the water level rise. The purpose of the mason jar is to make sure the cabbage stays submerged in the water. Lactobacteria need an anaerobic environment to do their job, otherwise the mold takes over. As in the case of my last batch of kraut. If you do neglect your kraut like I did, you can just scrape off the moldy layer and it’s fine. But it’s better not to have to do that.
- For the first day, cover the kraut with a clean towel and leave on the counter. Every time you walk past it, push down hard on the mason jar. The goal here is to get the cabbage to release as much water as possible. That’s it for Day 1!