My sister stopped by about a month ago and we were talking about pantries and food storage and such and I asked, “Hey, you wanna check out my fermenting sauerkraut? It’s been bubbling away in the basement for three weeks now.”
She didn’t even roll her eyes. “Sure,” she replied. I guess by now she knows to humor me.
So down we went to take a look – not very exciting but it smells wonderful and the tanginess is there. It was still bubbling away slowly so it was not quite done though it is now.
Then she comes out with, “You know, raw sauerkraut costs an arm and a leg at Whole Foods.”
“Well… what doesn’t?” I snorted, “But why raw? I’m planning to can this though I’ll probably only get about 4-6 pints out of 5 lbs of cabbage.”
“OH! I thought you were going for the pro-biotic thing.”
To tell the truth I was completely in the dark. I was just trying an experiment to preserve some of my cabbage for the long term. I love a good experiment and was eager to test the equation:
Cabbage + Salt + Time = Delicious Sauerkraut
But the magic of pro-biotic goodness (think gut-health as touted by the good purveyors of yogurt) is also involved? Double score!
A little poking around on the Internet turns up a bunch of cool stuff. Apparently raw sauerkraut is considered* as a(n):
1) Immune System Booster
2) Cancer Fighter
3) Digestive Aid
4) Flu Fighter
Now this pertains to raw sauerkraut not cooked, as cooking kills the enzymes and “good” bacteria. Reading a little further reveals a little goes a long way – as in a couple tablespoons is a serving(?) and even then… “… if you are unaccustomed to eating raw sauerkraut, it may be best to eat small for starters, as the acidity/low pH and otherwise healthy, lactic acid bacteria can be unfamiliarly active and stimulating to the digestive [system].**” Emphasis is mine.
So take it easy folks!
Anyway, for those not familiar with making Sauerkraut at home I can say it doesn’t get much easier than this. You will need a large non-reactive container (I use a plastic food-grade bucket) and some cheese cloth.
5 lbs of shredded cabbage
1.6 oz of kosher salt – a scant 1/4 cup
1 quart (1 L) of water
- Add 1 tablespoon salt to 1 quart of boiling water. Stir until salt is dissolved. Cool and set brine aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the cabbage and salt together very well to evenly distribute the salt.
- Put salted cabbage into a non-reactive container. If you have an old-fashioned crock- by all means use it!
- Pack the cabbage into the container pressing down very firmly. I used my fist. Keep packing until the cabbage gives up some liquid.
- Cover the liquid with cheese cloth and weight down with a plate. Use the remaining brine in a zip-close plastic bag to add extra weight.
- Place in a cool place. In a few days the cabbage mixture should start to bubble. It will not be a vigorous bubbling. Bubbles indicate fermentation is active. Remove any scum from the surface if needed.
The liquid should cover the cabbage. If it does not, add enough cooled brine to just cover.
Fermentation may take up to 5 weeks.
At this point, you may can the sauerkraut in a hot water bath. To do so, place the kraut and juice in a large pot, bring up to 180F – 210F degrees ~ don’t boil it. Pack into hot jars, leave 1/2″ of headroom. Add brine to cover and fill jars leaving 1/2″ headroom. Process pints 15 minutes and quarts 20 minutes in boiling water canner.
You may place in to a clean container in the fridge. Be sure the cabbage solids remain covered by brine.
Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging!