Saturday, October 8, 2011


This year we had a good crop of Storage #4 Cabbage.  We started these cabbages from seed in the greenhouse on April 9th and put them out on June 2nd.  We put a thin row cover over the plants to keep the cabbage moths out of them.  We kept this protective cover on all summer.

In the past we've made lacto-fermented sauerkraut in quart jars, but this year we're making it in a five gallon crock.  Here's how:

Remove the outer leaves and any damaged portions from firm, mature heads of cabbage.  Wash them off and allow to drain.  We use modified laundry baskets for this purpose.  They have holes drilled in the bottom so water can drain out.

Cut cabbage into halves and quarters and remove core.  Shred with a box shredder or use a sharp knife to cut into shreds or chunks.  Ours is pretty chunky.
Place in a large bowl as you chop it.
We use a baby scale to weigh out 5 pounds of cabbage.

 Recipes vary as to how much salt to sprinkle on the cabbage to draw out the moisture that creates the brine in which the cabbage will ferment.  We decided on two teaspoons per pound, so we added 10 teaspoons to our 5 pounds.  Then we stirred the salt in well and let the cabbage sit until it looked wet and shiny.
Next pack an even layer of cabbage into your crock, about two inches thick.

 Tamp it down with your fist or a sturdy kitchen implement.  We use a sturdy little glass vase.  The tamping packs the kraut tight and helps force the water out of the cabbage.  Keep adding cabbage in two inch layers, tamping them down as you go.

I'm not sure if this photo conveys this, but the sides and bottom of this vase are very thick:
thicker than a canning jar, for instance.
 Once all of your cabbage is packed in, tamp it down and let it rest until you can see the level of liquid is up to the top of the cabbage.*
Place a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with a jar full of water.  This will continue to force water out of the cabbage and keep it submerged under the brine.

Cover the crock with a clean dish towel to keep the dust and flies out.  A room temperature of 68 - 72 degrees is best for fermenting cabbage.  Check the kraut every day or two.  The volume reduces as fermentation proceeds.  As a result of contact with air, sometimes mold will appear on the surface. Skim this off as best you can with a spoon. (Don't worry if you can't get it all - this is just a surface phenomenon and your kraut is safely under the anaerobic protection of the brine.)  Rinse off the plate and the weight before returning them to the crock.
The kraut will be tangy in just a few days.  You can scoop out a jarful to keep in the fridge for easy consumption as soon as you like.  Just be sure to repack the kraut carefully: make sure the kraut is packed tightly in the crock, the surface level, and the dish and weight are clean.

*Some cabbage, especially if it is old, contains less water.  In this case, the level of brine may not be visible by the time you need to move on to other projects.  Go ahead and cover with the plate and weight and dish towel.  Press down on the weight.  Repeat every hour or so, until the brine rises up to the plate.  If the brine is not up to the plate by the next day, make up a brine solution of 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water. Add enough of this salt water to bring the level of brine up to the plate.    

Enjoy your sauerkraut: the taste and the benefit to your digestion that comes with adding lacto-fermented foods to your diet. 

References for this posting are:
WIld Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

1 comment:

Suzanne Andersen said...

This is a favorite activity of mine. it is so satisfying and so delicious. Do you have any variations of this recipe for kraut i.e. with carrots cabbage,onions and caraway seeds?