17. March 2014 · Comments Off on Taking a Break – Saurkraut · Categories: Domestic
The raw ingredients

The raw ingredients

I never ate sauerkraut, growing up. Why Mom never had a go at making it is a mystery: the basic ingredients are cheap and plentiful, the process simple and the results tasty. Likely this was because our own ethnic background is English and Scots-Irish; sauerkraut is just not one of those things, even if cabbage is a sturdy green vegetable and well-adapted to the frozen northern hemispheres. But it is a mainstay in peasant cooking in Germany, Eastern Europe and Russia generally. Even as far as Korea, where they make a high-octane version spiced with garlic and hot red peppers known as kimchi. Plain ordinary sauerkraut is the simple to make at home; just thinly-sliced fresh cabbage and Ball pickling salt.

This week at the Container Store I bought a very large, 5-liter glass lidded glass jar, as I have long considered making it in a large batch. An acquaintance of ours in Fredericksburg picked up an old-fashioned 5 gallon crock in an antique store, which would make enough sauerkraut for an army. Back in the day it was customary to make it in bulk – the recipe I have calls for twenty pounds of cabbage, which works out to something like ten heads of cabbage. It takes about six weeks to ferment properly.
Sauerkraut - Wilty Cabbage
This is the process:

Trim off the outer leaves of four heads of cabbage, quarter the heads and cut out the solid core, then either thinly sliver the quarters, or cut into eights and run through a food processor fitted out with a slicing blade, or a mandolin – or even an old-fashioned sauerkraut slicer. I do have a huge metal mixing bowl made for restaurant use, so ten pounds of thinly shredded cabbage fills it very handily. Sprinkle over it 6 TBsp. of Ball canning salt, and knead it all gently together. The cabbage will give up some liquid – let it sit for a bit, and then pack into a large lidded jar or salt. If there isn’t enough brine from the cabbage to cover the leaves, then mix 1 ½ Tablespoons of salt in hot water, allow to cool, and top the jars with the additional brine. The cabbage has to be below the level of the brine.
Sauerkraut - Topped with whole leaf

One recipe book suggested cutting a whole cabbage leaf to size and putting it on the very top of the shreds, to keep them submerged. Either cover the top of the jar with cheesecloth cut to size – which I didn’t like to do, as it lets the brine evaporate. I’ve just closed the lid on the jar – and it is already busily fermenting away. Around the beginning of May, I’ll process it all through the hot-water canner – and there’ll be our sauerkraut for another season.

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