It is cabbage season and that means to me sauerkraut. The kraut that I am making is from two medium heads of green cabbage. The plan was to use one red and one green. I was at the Frog Holler stand today at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, about to buy my red and green cabbages when a woman charged in to grab the last two red cabbages. She seemed to be on a mission, so I let here have the one I was about to purchase. It is best to play nice at the farmers market. The nice people from Frog Holler threw in two hot peppers for free for my Kraut.
I have been making naturally fermented sauerkraut at home for years, but I was I little nervous that I would screw it up when I first started. It does take a little practice.
This recipe can be halved or doubled and tripled. The version I did has dulse seaweed and hot peppers, but you can make yours plain or add other elements. I sometimes like to add shredded carrot, beet, or turnip to my kraut. A tablespoon of fragrant seeds can be added to the base recipe below, like caraway, dill, celery, mustard, fennel or juniper berries for a tasty effect. Have fun with your kraut. You can spice it up with garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to make a Kim Chi like variation. Try Plain and move on from there.
Green Cabbage, red chili peppers, kosher salt, dulse seaweed, a ceramic crock
What you will need for Kraut: Base Recipe: Makes 1 gallon
5lbs of Cabbage (Red, Green or both), which is about two medium sized cabbages.
3 Tbsp of Kosher salt
a two gallon ceramic crock (Sanitized and well rinsed)
a ceramic plate
a one gallon jug filled with water to weigh down the kraut
a cloth towel to cover
Step One: Wash, Core and shred the cabbage: Make sure to shred and use the core. It is good eating. You can chopped the cabbage bigger or smaller.
Step Two: Fill the Crock with shredded Cabbage: Add 1/3 of the cabbage at a time and mix in one tablespoon of kosher salt per layer. The cabbage will come to the top of a two gallon crock and it will look like it is not going to fit, but you will mash it down in step three. If you are adding other ingredients like shredded vegetables, seeds, spices, seaweed etc, add them now.
For this Dulse seaweed version, I chopped up a small handful of dried dulse which you can find in health food stores.
Step Three: Mash up the Cabbage: I use a french rolling pin to mash up the cabbage, but you can do this with your clean hands by squeezing the cabbage. This step helps the cabbage to release some of its liquid and packs it down.
After mashing down the cabbage, it will fill half or so of the two gallon crock.
Step Four: Cover your kraut with a plate. Curve side facing down.
Step Five: Weight your Kraut. I am using a one gallon ceramic crock which fits perfectly on top of my plate inside my two gallon crock. For added weight, I fill the one gallon crock with water. A filled clean plastic one gallon milk container works fine too. I recommend investing into a good ceramic crock. If you have a crock pot slow cookers that you are not using, you can use the ceramic crock insert. A cheap option is plastic buckets. If you are using a plastic bucket, make sure you purchase them new and that they are food quality.
Step Five: Cover with a towel and set in a cool part of the house.
Step Six: Under water.
If you check your kraut at this point, you might see liquid rising over the top of the cabbage. This is a good thing. The water comes from the natural liquid in the cabbage. What we are trying to do here is ferment the cabbage in a brine of its own juices. Push down the plate to see where the water/brine level is. If the water does not coming up to the top yet from the weight of your jug on the plate, don’t worry. It may take a day or two for the water from the cabbage to release. The mashing step should have jump started the process.
If after a day or two the water is not over the level of our cabbage, add a little spring water to cover. Note to use spring water and not chlorinated water. Successful fermentation relies on the creation of healthy bacteria. Chlorine kills bacteria.
Step Seven: Follow up. It will take anywhere from one to three months for the Kraut to be ready. Be patient. From time to time check under the plate to see what is happening with your kraut. If any mold appears on top, don’t worry. The kraut is still fine. Simply scrap off the mold, clean off the plate and continue to ferment your kraut. I know this sounds weird, and you might think the batch is ruined, but it is not. The healthy bacteria in the brine will keep the batch safe.
Step Eight: Tasting your kraut: Using a clean fork, taste your kraut. If you are satisfied with the sour flavor, scoop out some and put in a jar and refrigerate or use in a recipe. This will hold in the flavor and slow down the fermentation process. Cover the rest of the kraut and continue to ferment if desired. The flavors will become more subtle the longer it is fermented. Continue to taste, scoop out some and ferment the rest.
Save a little bit of the kraut to use as a starter from your next batch.
Resources: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz