by Chiot's Run
Several years ago I started making sauerkraut for New Year's Day. We've been eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day since I can remember. We used to go out to my grandma's house and she would have a big roaster full of sauerkraut, sausage and dumplings. When my grandma died my dad took over. He developed his own special recipe, changing it each year to make it better. It's not your typical kraut recipe, it includes carrots, apples, tomatoes and all kinds of delicious goodness. For a few photos of my dad cooking on New Year's and the recipe see this post.
Sauerkraut that ferments at cooler temperatures - 65 or lower - has the best flavor, color and vitamin C content. The fermentation process takes longer at these temperatures, around 4-6 weeks. That's probably why it's traditionally made in the fall. Looks like I'm making mine at the right time, it should be ready in December and waiting in the fridge for New Years!
Making sauerkraut is quite easy all you need is cabbage (red or green), salt, and time (3 T of salt for every 5 lbs of cabbage). First you slice up the cabbage as thinly as you'd like, I usually do some really thin and some thick for variety. Then you put some sliced cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle salt over it, then smash with a wooden spoon or potato masher and mix. Continue adding cabbage and salt and mixing and smashing until the bowl is half full.
When the bowl is about half full I let it sit for 10-15 minutes to let the cabbage wilt a little. This makes it easier to stuff into the glass jar I'm using as a fermenting crock. Transfer the cabbage to the jar, smash it down and continue working until all the cabbage is salted, smashed and packed into the jar. Let the cabbage sit overnight, if the brine hasn't covered the cabbage make some brine (1.5 T of salt to 1 quart of water) and pour over the cabbage. Next you weigh the cabbage down to keep it submerged below the brine. Some people use a Ziploc bag filled with brine, I use a canning jar to weigh down the cabbage because I'm not comfortable using plastic. Let it sit for 4-6 weeks until it stops bubbling and it tastes like sauerkraut. Make sure you check the kraut every couple days and add brine if the level goes down. Skim any scum that forms on the top. I typically end up adding some several times during fermentation. After 4-6 weeks (or less if it's warmer) you'll have kraut (taste to see if it's done). You really can't get much simpler. When it's finished store in the fridge and enjoy whenever you want. You can enjoy cold as is or cook it in recipes.
When I was making this I thought about all the women in past generations of my family that spent time each fall making sauerkraut for New Year's. Connecting with our food heritage is such a wonderful thing. Hopefully our nieces & nephew will grow up with fond memories of eating Grandpa's Famous Sauerkraut on New Year's and continue the tradition with their families.
Do you have a specific food or menu that has been passed down through the generations of your family?