Sauerkraut is great winter food. It turns the humble cabbage, a cheap late fall veggie, into a magical, tangy vitamin C-rich party. Eat it with sausage! Put it in pierogies! But most importantly, save tons of money and learn about lacto-fermentation by making it yourself.
Sauerkraut is the first lacto-fermentation a lot of people make. It's pretty reliable, because the bacteria needed for the fermentation are naturally present on cabbage leaves. You don't need any special equipment to make sauerkraut.
Ingredients and materials:
- Cabbage! One 4 lb head makes about one half gallon of kraut.
- Sea salt. 2.5 tablespoons for 4 lbs of cabbage. If you don't have sea salt, use whatever you've got.
- A ceramic crock or large jars. Half-gallon mason jars are perfect.
- Something to mash with. A wooden spoon, or if you want to get fancy, a sauerkraut masher.
To make sauerkraut:
- Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage
- Slice it thinly (1/4" or so)
- Put a layer about 2-3" loosely packed in your jar.
- Sprinkle with salt
- Mash with your wooden spoon. Mash it real good.
- Repeat until you've gone through all the cabbage. It should all fit in one half-gallon jar.
- Put a weight on top of the kraut to encourage the liquid to cover everything. A smaller mason jar filled with water works great.
- Cover the whole thing with something that will allow gas to escape. A mason jar lid flipped upside down and only loosely tightened works well.
- Check it the next day to make sure enough juice has come out of the cabbage to cover everything. If it doesn't have enough liquid, make a salt water solution and top it off.
Tips and tricks:
- When in doubt, mash harder. You really want to break the cabbage down a bit so the salt can penetrate and draw the juices out. You also don't want lots of air gaps in the jar because it can provide habitat for nasties.
- Keep floaters to a minimum. Again, air exposure = opportunities for mold and rot. If there are little pieces floating on top, take them out.
- Don't be afraid to let it sit for a week or more. Fermentation can take time, especially in the colder months. If you taste it every day, you'll know when it's ready.
- If you are getting serious about fermentation, a ceramic crock can be a great tool. A warning, though: do not use old ceramic crocks, as the glaze may contain lead. You can buy new, lead-free ones here.
|Weigh it down|