Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sauerkraut


Sauerkraut is one of my favorite winter foods.   It's not rocket science to make, nature does all the work and it is delicious either hot in a reuben or cold with a fork right out of the jar.  Even my kids will eat it in a reuben.  I also like it on salads or as a coleslaw base.   Moosewood has a fabulous recipe for an Apple Sauerkraut Casserole in their Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook  (link below).  We like it with crispy polish sausage. [We fry the sausage to get as much fat out of it as possible.  Also, it's just better crispy.]

Sauerkraut happens by way of lactic fermentation. This is not the type of fermentation that makes alcohol.   Here is an interesting site on the benefits of lactic fermentation in food and they have recipes.

To make your own sauerkraut, all you have to do is take your regular every day type cabbage from the grocery store and shred it, salt it, pound it and let it sit for 3-4 weeks.   Easy.

Here is a step by step of how we do it:

1.  Get cabbage.   They say late season cabbage is the best and since I'm too busy doing other foodie things all summer and fall, winter is the first chance I have to think about doing sauerkraut.  I'm figuring that the only cabbage you can get at the grocery store in December is the late season kind.  

2.  Weigh the cabbage so we can figure out how much salt we need to use.    Figure on 1 Tablespoon of salt per pound - or about 2 Tablespoons for a regular head.

3.  Shred.  I do this by hand but you can use a food processor.  You get longer shreds if you do it by hand.  You're supposed to shoot for 1/16th of an inch shreds.  I shoot for 1/8th inch and try not to cut myself.  

4.  Salt.   We put all of the shreds in a nice huge bowl and salt it, then mix it up well.   Things should start to ooze.   Ooze is good.

5.  Pound the living snot out of the cabbage.   Do Not Pound In A Glass Bowl.  [Don't ask me how I know.]  We transfer the salty cabbage to an empty plastic ice cream bucket and use a potato masher to pound.    It is loud.  It takes some time and patience.   I use this opportunity to work out anxiety or perhaps some less than kind feelings about someone in my life.  We pound until the juice covers the cabbage.

6.  Put into jars, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of headroom.  Juice should cover the top of the kraut.  The headroom is important.   As the fermentation occurs, little bubbles push the contents up a bit and if the jars are packed to the top, things will overflow.   I know this from experience.

Ready to eat now!
7.  Put lids on the jars but don't screw them down tightly.  Air is good. Also, the ability for little bubbles to escape is good.   If they can't escape, the jars might explode.  Seriously.  This is not something we want to experiment with. 

8.  Put jars in a plastic bucket to catch any accidental overflow and then tuck it away in a cupboard where it won't freeze.   We left ours in our jelly cupboard this year and it ripened a week faster [in 3 weeks] than when we put it in our mudroom where the temp is much lower [4 weeks]. 

9.  Notes:  Sauerkraut overflow smells like farts.   We clean it up and the smell goes away.


7 comments:

  1. Okay, this is so cool. I am freaking loving this blog (And freaking is highest compliment from me.) I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

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  2. Russo - this is why I love you! And I totally understand the whole getting-freaking-excited about stuff. That's how I feel whenever I start one of these crazy projects.

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  3. This sounds highly do-able! I may do it. But I'll be the only one eating it. I LOVE sauerkraut. Hub kind of likes it. Kids--Well maybe if it's homemade. I'm trying this. I like the pounding part.

    Glad you're blogging, girl. :)

    (And if you've been "freaked" by Russo, you've made it, babes.)

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  4. Janiel you made me laugh out loud- Yep, Robin's been "freaked" by me :) Ah, I just love you both.

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  5. I have a super yummy sauerkraut salad recipe. Red bell peppers, green bell peppers, sauerkraut and sugar (that's it I think). If you are interested I'll e-mail it to you. It's really delish and I'm not a huge kraut fan.

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  6. Susan - Please post that recipe! Go ahead and post right here in the comments. It sounds fab.

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  7. Am I the only person on earth who doesn't think 'kraut smells like farts? LOL!

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