Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Making Sauerkraut for New Years

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.

Making Sauerkraut for New Year's

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!

Adding Salt for Sauerkraut

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.

Making Sauerkraut for New Year's

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.

Brine Forming

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.

Making Sauerkraut for New Year's

Do you have a specific food or menu that has been passed down through the generations of your family?


Tree Hugging Mama said...

You said your recipe has apples and cranberries and other yummy items in it. Can I ask when you add those ingredients?
I grew up on homemade kraut and I hated it, I am willing to give it a try (cause DH loves kraut on Brats and it has so many great vitamins)

el said...

Ooo I *hated* kraut until I began to make my own! What a wonderful tradition you're continuing, Suzy. And...how wonderful you're thinking of something 2 holidays from now.

Sadge said...

My Dad was from Texas, so New Year's Day always means black-eyed peas, piccalilli, and cornbread.

Chiot's Run said...

The recipe that includes the apples is on my blog (follow link in the first paragraph). These are added at final cooking, after the sauerkraut has fermented and is being cooked with ribs and dumplings.

hickchick said...

I tried to make Kraut this fall and it didn't ferment at all-ugghh, gross it was! But you have convinced me to try again next year! Do you sterilize the jars, etc?
My family has a very strong Norweigan heritage-my special favorites are potato dumplings-known by many names (kumle, boller, raspekake) and of course lefse. Oh the beautiful and versatile potato! :)

Regan Family Farm said...

I love sauerkraut, and tried to lacto-ferment it once (with whey) but seems like I, too failed. You've inspired me again...I
just posted on our third generation Sweet Potato Casserole recipe. In my humble opinion...the best!

Simple in France said...

Hmm. . . I'm very tempted to try my own sauerkraut because I love it--I have German ancestry, so it's maybe genetic :)

I just can't believe the recipe is that simple--no heating or boiling then?

Chiot's Run said...

I wash my jars & utensils well, but don't necessarily sterilize. I do freqently put them through the dishwasher right before I need them.

I've never used anything but salt & cabbage. Perhaps you should try using more salt to try to get the good fermentation going.

You also have to make sure to keep the cabbage submerged in the brine. I check the level on mine every couple days and add more brine if needed. I also press down the jar I have weighing down the cabbage to release any air and to keep the cabbage below brine level.

Simple in France: you don't have cook the kraut when you're finished. It's actually a great source of beneficial bacteria. Many people swear by eating it several times a week.

I haven't quite achieved a taste for it cold yet so I usually cook mine and add onions, apples, red wine, mustard seeds, caraway seeds, and a bit of brown sugar.

Allison said...

What a lovely sharing of family heritage and what beautiful pictures! Pictures are always helpful to me in descriptions.

I have never made sauerkraut before, but I was wondering two things:
First, could you give a little more description of what the proper taste is? "Tastes like sauerkraut" is foreign to me and there are many canned varieties with varying flavors.

Second, where did you purchase your beautiful glass crock with the handle?


Allison said...

I just wanted to add that I am of Chinese heritage, and that said, the Chinese make sauerkraut in the form of suan cai ("swan tsai"), which literally means sour vegetable. This is typically served as an appetizer or in soups like beef noodle soup. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suan_cai

Chiot's Run said...

You want your sauerkraut to taste sour, but not "off". I'm not sure how to explain it. If you buy some sauerkraut at the store and taste it, this will give you a good idea of what it should taste like. I generally go by smell when I'm making it. I can tell when it smells like kraut. When it smells finished I keep watching it to see if new bubbles are forming (I smoosh down the kraut in the jar and then watch to see if bubbles form again). If they form I wait another week or so. You can also tap on the side of the jar, if bubbles rise, it's still fermenting.

I got the jar from The Container Store. Lehman's also sells them. I don't have a pickling crock, so I use these gallon jars instead, then I can keep an eye on what's going on inside as well. I use them for pickles and kraut.

Anonymous said...

I just pickled some green tomatoes using a similar method. Just remember to use sea salt or pickling salt without iodine. Iodized salt prevents fermentation.

Mike said...

I'm currently making some sauerkraut, but it doesn't seem to be fermenting quite the same way as I recall from my childhood.

The Ingredients were 4 cabbages and about 3/4 cup of salt. I also decided to add fresh garlic which has stained the brine yellow somewhat.

Bubbles aren't really coming up through the brine, Unless I press down firmly on it and no scum has formed whatsoever after 3 weeks.

Do you think garlic was a bad idea?
Did I over-salt it?