I know, I know. Making sauerkraut is probably the last thing on your mind today. Not very inaugural but definitely an investment in the future of your good health and sustainability. Still not convinced? It took my friend Lorna inviting me over in mid-December to get me going. Don’t get me wrong. I love projects like this. Catching up with an old friend while chopping cabbage, tamping it down, sprinkling on salt and caraway seeds is my idea of a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. The truth is, I’ve never been a huge sauerkraut fan. If you aren’t either, just try to forget any memories of the slimy canned stuff of your childhood. This homemade kraut has a very pleasant crunchy texture and tastes fresh and delicious. Charlie even went so far as to pronounce this batch “exceptional”.
I arrived at Lorna’s with 5 heads of cabbage from Nash’s Organic Produce. First we cut these up into thin slices. We started out using a mandoline but since the cabbage heads weren’t very dense, using a knife was the easiest method. Lorna has a wonderful crock designed specifically for making sauerkraut, making the whole process easier but glass or enamel coated containers are also acceptable. Here’s how we made ours…
Put one layer of shredded cabbage (in our case, a head for each layer) in the bottom of the crock. Sprinkle with sea salt and caraway seeds. Now it’s time for a confession — in the recipe we looked at, salt was measured in grams. Instead of being purely scientific and converting to tablespoons, we just guessed on the amount — I’d say it was close to a tablespoon of each, salt and caraway, per layer. Tamp each layer down hard — with your fist or a kitchen tool. The salt draws liquid out of the cabbage creating a brine so it can ferment without rotting. Continue this process with each layer until you’ve used all your cabbage. Place weights directly on top. It’s very likely the brine created by the tamping won’t cover the weights. Make more brine by dissolving 11/2 T salt per quart of water. Add water until the weights are covered. Put the lid on (for Lorna’s crock, pour water in the well around the lid to create a seal to keep the air out) and set in a warmish spot in the house for a couple of days.
Next step is to carry the crock to a cooler spot like a basement. The sauerkraut slowly ferments and is ready to eat in about 4-6 weeks. I went back to Lorna’s last Friday for the great unveiling. Open the lid and you can tell fermentation has occurred by the not-completely-pleasant odor. Don’t be put off by that, just go for the taste test. I didn’t expect to like it so much. As a matter of fact, this could easily become addictive.
Lorna packed it into clean glass jars to store in the fridge. Our batch produced 3 qts and 1 pint. Next time, I’m sure we’ll make more.
I made this rustic local meal of italian sausage from Skagit River Ranch, steamed german butterball potatoes and handcrafted sauerkraut. Pour a glass of beer from a local brewery and mid-winter never tasted so good.