Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Fine art of Finely Made Sauerkraut

Blog Post by Dan Silfies

I always say homemade sauerkraut is better than store bought sauerkraut. Today many don’t take the time to make it and don’t realize the stronger flavor of homemade sauerkraut.
If you have a clean crock, that will work great but, if you’re like me, you don’t have a crock. Instead, I went to my local deli and asked for a food safe bucket to make my sauerkraut in.
When making sauerkraut, you don’t want your cabbage to rot, but you don’t want to preserve it in a salt bath either. What you want is a happy mix of salt and cabbage that will control the cabbage’s fermentation without stopping it.  I use 3 tablespoons of pickling or kosher salt for every 5 lbs.  of shredded cabbage. Note that we are not using any water at this point, the salt should be able to pull enough out of the cabbage for our needs.

To prepare the cabbage, you want to remove the inner core, then using a cabbage shredder shred the cabbage. I don’t own a cabbage shredder, but I find a good sharp chef knife works.  It will take longer, as you need to cut the cabbage into about 1/8 inch to ¼ inch slices.

Sauerkraut making at Harvest Days
I put the cabbage into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Toss and stir until the salt is evenly dispersed.

Next, I put the salted cabbage in the crock/bucket in layers about 2 inches thick. The reason for the layers is to make sure that each layer gets packed tight as we don’t want large pockets of air to become trapped.

Once all the salted cabbage is in the crock/bucket, add a weight to keep the cabbage packed. Over the next few days, the salt will leach the water out of the cabbage and the weight will keep the cabbage submerged. If it is not all submerged, add a salt water solution until the cabbage is all covered. About 3 teaspoons for every 2 cups of water will give you a proper salt solution.

For the weight, I usually use a large plate with zip lock bags full of water to hold down the cabbage. The bags give an added benefit to the mixture, as it keeps a tight barrier around the inside of the crock/bucket, reducing what may be exposed to the air.

Put the crock in a cool place out of the way and cover with a towel for 6 weeks. Checking every few days to ensure the cabbage is still submerged. If not add more salt water solution. I usually keep mine in the basement.

After  the six weeks have passed, your cabbage should now be sauerkraut. Remove any off-colored sauerkraut that may be on the top, usually the top 1 ½ inched to 2 inches as this will have an off flavor.

I will usually heat up my sauerkraut then place it in zip lock bags and freeze until I’m ready for it.