Monday, 10 November 2008

Harvest Keeping - Sauerkraut

Posted by: Paul Gardener
A posse ad esse (From possibility to reality)

I thought that since it's spring time in the southern hemisphere and fall in the northern, and since both seasons are generally good ones for growing cabbages, that I'd talk a little about a success that I had this year. Learning to make some very simple, traditional Sauerkraut. Some of you, if you've read my personal blog before, may recognize this post, it's a modification of an older one from October this year.
At any rate as I was saying, I learned to make a very simple traditional sauerkraut this year, that's it below, and I am absolutely in love with the stuff! Something I could never say about store bought. The picture just below was taken when I had just put the cabbage into the jar and crock. I only made a batch that called for 5 lbs of shredded cabbage and the cabbage was from our garden. Cabbage that was specifically planted with this idea in mind. The process was incredibly simple. Step 1: Shred the cabbage VERY thin until you have 5 pounds of it. Step 2: Add 3 tbsp of fine pickling salt to the cabbage in a large non-metallic bowl and mix it with your hands until it is well combined. Step 3: Stuff into a large vessel (1/2 gal jar or crock) and push it down to get it completely covered by it's own juices. You'll need to weight it down at this point, and I suggest using a plastic bag filled with a brine solution. It will create a seal around the container keeping out the bad bacteria and will allow the good lactic acids to form beneath it. Step 4: Store in cool (60-70 deg F.) place for a couple of weeks. Check periodically for scum forming on the top of the kraut and remove as necessary. In a few weeks you'll notice you've got kraut.Now I've never really been a huge sauerkraut eater; it's not something that we ate a lot of as I grew up, but I decided a few years back that it was something I wanted to "try again" and you know, I liked it. It wasn't something that I would get cravings for or anything but it was alright. So why make a concerted effort to grow cabbage, and make the stuff from scratch right? The answer is pretty simple actually. Because this is one of those foods that is easy to make, is very healthy, can be used as a condiment or as a main course dish and most importantly is a food that can be stored for long periods with simple methods making it a very good staple food to know how to make.
And now, a month and a week later, I have this. A jar with some slowly lacto-fermented cabbage, that when smelled is absolutely amazing! I now get why this stuff got to be so darned popular in the first place. The brine that developed around the cabbage is a slightly salty, almost kosher pickle tasting flavor and the cabbage itself still retains a lot of it's original texture, while being soft enough for us to know it's done. Here's a closeup.
I was worried about the liquid getting funky or moldy while it sat in the cold storage, but the brine filled plastic bag that sealed the top off worked perfectly. That is absolutely the way to go by the way.

After we took the kraut out of the jar and started warming it over the stove, the smell of it was making our mouths water. Add a beer boiled brat, some steamed dill potatoes and popovers and you've got yourself a German dinner extraordinaire!
The best part of it all was that we only used a little more that 1/4 of what I made, and better yet, I harvested a 6 lb cabbage tonight that's going to make more of this tasty stuff for the winter.

If you've never tried it, and even if your not traditionally a Kraut lover, I encourage you to give this very simple recipe a try. I have to verify it, but I believe it was just 3 tbsp of salt (pickling preferably) to each five lbs of cabbage. I used the Salt Lake salt that I made a couple of months back. It worked great and helped to make this a totally local food product! You add the salt to the cabbage in a large bowl and mix it with your hands well, then pack in a crock or the largest jar you have (food safe buckets are also supposed to work well in place of large crocks.) and cover the top with either a weighted plate, or better yet, a large brine filled bag. Let it sit in a cool (60-70 deg F) room for a few weeks, cleaning the cover off regularly and voila! Sauerkraut. Or better yet, go to your library and rent "The joy of pickling" and check out the many different recipes that they have in it.
Good luck, and go make some Kraut!


Winterwood said...

Polish people are huge on sauerkraut and we make the most dishes out of it...just delicious!

April said...

Does the bag have to be filled with brine or is that just a preference? If it has to be brine what recipe do you use?

annette said...

Mmmm, sounds tastey! My boyfriend wanted to make some this year - our cabbage did not do well. Perhaps this coming season.

Posh And Trendy said...

Yum!! I grew us on homemade kraut.. every year my mom use to pack several crocks full of cabbage and she had a wooden lid that she kept pushed down on top. They were always kept in our cellar.
We love kraut and eat it quite often.

Laurie from Amish Country said...

YUM..sauerkraut is one of my favs. We usually eat Pork and Sauerkraut on New Years Day....tradition. Where I work, we have a hot food bar and there is always pork and sauerkraut in one of the bins. It's pretty popular here.

Crawley said...

Hello there.

Would kosher salt work as well as pickling salt or is there a difference?

Also, did you post a recipe for this? I've only tried to make lacto-fermented sauerkraut once before, but this looks like it's a different process and I'd like to try it.

Clair de Lune

maryanne said...

Hi-how do you store it once it's ready if you're not going to be eating it all straightaway?I've never been tempted by sauerkraut but this has got me thinking I might give it a go.

P~ said...

~April, if you choose to use the plastic bag method rather that the plate and weight method, then you really do need to use a brine (1 1/2 tablespoons salt to 4 cups non-clorinated water)in case the bag should leak. At least that way you won't ruin the kraut.

~Crawley, yes you can. The first batch I made I actually used some "home-made" sea salt that I made from salt collected on the shores of Utah's great salt lake. The top of the blog post is the recipe. 3 tbsp salt to 5 pounds shredded cabbage. simple as that.

~Maryanne, You can either pack it in a jar and store in the fridge for a couple of months easily, hot pack for long term storage, or leave in the crock in a cool place long term as long as it's completely submerged. Here is a goodlink for better instructions:

sara said...

We love to eat Kale and Kraut sanwhiches. Toast your favorite bread. Put a generous layer of tahini (crushed sesame seed butter) on one side of bread and dijon mustard on the other side. Steam some kale and add that to the bread with a generous portion of saur kraut that has been drained. YUM! My kids love this!
Do you have any good kimchee recipes. I have tried a few but haven't found the right one yet. I make saurkraut similar to you. Sometimes it is good with caraway seed added in.
Thanks for the pictures. I tried using the brine filled plastic bag last time without much success. your pictures were helpful for me.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

I love sauerkraut but my one attempt to make it was a VERY SAD FAILURE. I think some of this may be because of using the old "wooden circle weighed down with a brick". The bad of brine which will conform itself to the shape needed is such a great idea. I may have to try again. We like to bake the kraut with juniper berries gathered from the yard. The give a nice flavor! I add a little bit of oil, too.

In the summer we make Hungarian "kovasos urorka" which are cucumbers fermented in brine (each on is given an almost all the way through north south cut on one end, and a similar east west cut on the other) with two slices of rye bread on top. It takes about 7 or 8 days to cure. This is another milk acid fermentation. So healthy.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Oops. In my previous comment that should have been kovasos (leavened) uBorka (cucumber).

Another great Hungarian casserole is layers of rice, and sauerkraut and ham, sausage, and bacon. Kolozsvari Kaposzta is the name, or cabbage from Kolosvar.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

I'm not doing too well here. A postscript to my postscript - the Kolozsvari Kaposzta has thinned sour cream poured over before it is baked.