I’m trying to post a little more often, so I decided I would share my experience with making sauerkraut. I know there are a lot of websites full of this same information, but they don’t have my pictures and my thoughts. With that in mind, let’s begin!
You should make organic cabbage your first choice. I was able to get this cabbage from my local health food store and it has a really nice flavor. I’m definitely putting cabbage on the “Things I Plan to Plant This Year” list. Because, for me, putting anything on a list is always the first step.
I’m currently on my second round of making sauerkraut. I absolutely loved how the first batch came out. Mildly sour, slightly crunchy. I’ve never tasted true homemade sauerkraut, but this is how I imagine it should taste.
makes approximately 1/2 gallon
1 1/2 large heads of organic cabbage or 2 small
Purified water as needed
3-4 TBS sea salt
Wash cabbage thoroughly and dry. Remove outer layers until clear of blemishes, cut into quarters and core. Some recipes include putting the core into the mix; I threw mine away. The first time, because I failed to read that part and the second time, because I wasn’t feeling well and it was a challenge to just get the cabbage chopped. In the future I plan to do this. I really try to avoid waste where possible.
I really recommend using a food processor with a shredder attachment. Chopping all that cabbage by hand was not much fun. If you have to chop it by hand though, try to chop it as thinly as possible, making it as uniform as possible.
I put it in a bowl as I went. When I finished each head, I added the salt and mixed well by hand (making sure my hands were very clean). After doing some research, I came to the conclusion it was perfectly fine to ferment the sauerkraut in my empty coconut oil gallon bucket. You can also do this in a fermenting crock or glass jar. Consider how the kraut needs to be pressed down at the end when choosing a container. Put the sauerkraut in your container, packing it down as you go. Then take a potato masher or meat mallet and pound it down for a minute or two. If you don’t have anything to do this with, you can use your fist. Just keep pressing down on it until the cabbage begins to release its liquid.
I added about 1 cup of purified water to mine (both times), because it seemed a little dry. You’re supposed to dissolve some salt into the water before adding, but I had already put close to 4 Tbs of salt and figured it was plenty salty already. Besides, I’m famous for shortcuts and this is one that seemed to work out okay. Once you’re done pounding the cabbage down well and adding any additional water, place a plate or something similar on top. Whatever you use needs to cover as much of the cabbage as possible. I used a saucer.
Update: I’m now on my 4th batch of sauerkraut and realize that the fresher your cabbage, the more natural liquid it will have. The reason I had to add water before is because I let the cabbage sit in the fridge too long before using it. (Not proud to admit that, but it is an important aspect)
Then I filled a 1/2 gallon canning jar with water and set it in the middle of the saucer.
Then I pressed down on the jar to bring the liquid to the top of the cabbage.
You’re supposed to apply this pressure about every 4 hours for the first day or two. If, after 24 hours, there isn’t enough liquid to sufficiently cover the cabbage, you should add some purified water (just enough to cover).
I set my bucket in a pie plate, then put a tea towel over the top of the whole thing to keep bugs and dust out.
I realized later I should put a rubber band around it, as I read of someone losing their kraut to fruit flies that had managed to get under the towel. At this point, most recipes call for setting the kraut in a dark place to ferment, checking every few days for scum. If you find scum, also known as “bloom” (but I call mold), you can scrape this off the top and proceed with fermenting. Thankfully, I never found this. Not sure why, but thankful nonetheless. I don’t like dealing with mold. After about a week, I took the jar and saucer off, tasted the kraut (yum!), rinsed off the bottom of the jar and dried well, put a clean saucer on, and repacked the whole thing. I usually checked on it daily or every other day, but slacked off in the last two weeks. Somewhere between the second and third weeks, I had a hankering (did I just say hankering?) for sauerkraut. I decided to use some chicken sausages I had in the freezer and incorporate the kraut. Here’s how I cooked it:
Sliced about 1/4 of a purple onion into somewhat small slices, then cooked them on low in some homemade butter. Once the onions were soft, I removed them from the pan and added the sausages. At that point, I had to add a little more butter. Once the sausages were browned on all sides (they were precooked sausages), I added a cup of homemade chicken broth and the cooked onion. I let that simmer until the liquid was reduced and at the point of being too dry, then removed the pan from the burner and put about 1 1/2 cups of sauerkraut on top, spreading it around evenly. I let it sit there until the kraut was just warm (remember, at this point it started at room temp, so it didn’t take long). Here’s the end result:
It was delicious! I could eat this (almost) every day. Since then I have tried it with Italian flavored chicken sausages. My husband liked it, but I wasn’t crazy about it. However, that’s what being creative is all about! The reason I only slightly warmed the kraut was so as not to destroy all the health benefits it provides.
Note to self: come back and insert link to websites showing all the great benefits of eating homemade sauerkraut.
(Sorry, having to write in a rush!)
This is what the sauerkraut looked like about halfway through the four weeks I allowed it to ferment:
I had planned to let it ferment another two weeks, but it was pretty tasty at four and I needed my bucket to make more.
On this second round, I decided to use two of the three heads I bought and make it the exact same way. I’m trying a different method with the third head; I’m using less salt and adding 1/2 cup of (liquid) whey. This is because I have too much whey on hand and because rumor has it that it will ferment in a fraction of the time. We’ll see. I finally got it chopped up and in their respective containers last night. Here you can see the rubber band around the original (larger) set-up.
I opted to use one of the jars I bought a couple of years ago to put raw milk in for the smaller “whey” batch. I liked it because it has a wide opening and it was large enough. I’m not thrilled with the method of pressing the cabbage down, but will share it anyway. Once I got the cabbage all in the jar and pressed it down, compacting it as much as possible with my fist, I took a quart-sized baggie and fitted the bottom of it all around the top of the cabbage as best I could. (Make sure the top of the baggie is open) Then I filled the baggie about halfway with purified water (in case it springs a leak). I zipped the bag closed and tucked the top of it inside the top of the jar.
Then I put a coffee filter on top and secured it with a rubber band. Today it has some bubbles showing throughout. I will update this post when it’s done fermenting.
We’ve been enjoying the sauerkraut as a side dish. It’s purported to help with colds and flu. Interesting, because I managed to catch a pretty nasty bug, but was only seriously down for two days. The other days I felt better, just not great. Perhaps the sauerkraut helped. Who’s to say it didn’t.
Leftover bbq pork on a paleo bun with sliced onion and raw cheese, Bubbies pickle sliced, and a side of sauerkraut. Good stuff!
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