homemade sauerkraut

Originally uploaded by wrdnrd.

I’ve been wanting to try making sauerkraut at home for awhile now — ever since picking up a copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living (by Carla Emery) back in 2001. But Carla’s method required pounds of cabbage and months of waiting while it all fermented. I don’t want 25 pounds of sauerkraut, and besides, i only get 1 head at a time from our CSA farm every other week or so when the stuff is in season.

This past summer, fortunately, i came across Novella Carpenter’s much easier sauerkraut instructional:

Get some nice heads, tight ones. Half the cabbages, then chop into thin strips. Add the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt. A TB of salt per cup of cabbage is the rule of thumb. Once sprinkled with salt, pound the cabbage so that it starts to release some water. I use a pestle from a mortar and pestle that my roommate left behind. Add this point you can add caraway or coriander seeds. Once the cabbage strips look a bit wilted, pack them tightly into a large jar. Pack them tightly into the jar using your fist to press down all the cabbage. Weigh down with a bag filled with water or a rock, or as pictured, a glass bottle of water. This isn’t shown, but you should also drape a cheesecloth or piece of fabric to keep out flies and such. After an hour or so, the cabbage should be submerged under its own juices. Let sit 2-3 days on the counter. Taste after a few days and see if you like it, when tastes right, remove the weight, and put the jar in the fridge to enjoy. Happy lacto-fermenting!

Now THAT i can handle!

Last night we were cleaning out the veggie drawers. Hmm, 1 small head of cabbage. Well, not a “nice, tight” head (per Novella’s instructions). Nor an especially fresh head: Carla’s instructions say to start work on sauerkraut within about 24 hours of harvesting the cabbage — and i’m guessing the head of cabbage i found lurking in the bottom of the fridge is about a month old. Well, i pulled off all the damaged and dubious leaves anyway and proceeded onward. I wound up with about 4 cups of shredded cabbage, which was more than enough for my purposes!

I added the salt, pounded the crap out of everything for awhile, then packed it into a 2-cup mason jar. For weight, i filled one of my small spice jars with water (because the spice jar was the only thing i could find that would fit into the mason jar). My cotton veggie bag seemed like a good “don’t feel like cutting off a piece of cheesecloth” solution, so i gumbanded that onto the mouth of the jar.

And now we wait until about wednesday night after my copyediting class. The only thing i’m worried about is the temperature in the house. Carla suggests:

Store at 70-75°F while fermenting. At temperatures between 70 and 75°F, kraut will be fully fermented in 3 to 4 weeks; at 60°F, fermentation may take 5 to 6 weeks. At temperatures lower than 60°F, kraut may not ferment; above 75°, it may become soft. (p.273, 10th edition)

I’m not entirely certain how warm it is in the kitchen right now. Outside temps here in Seattle have only been reaching highs of mid-40s lately, and we don’t turn on the heat in our apartment. I’m betting (the kraut) that it’s not below 60°F in here, tho’.

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