Homemade Sauerkraut – The Quart Method
Sauerkraut is another one.
When I was a young(er) sprout, I spent 18 months as a representative for the LDS Church in Austria. You might think that there’s nothing nerve-wracking about going to Austria (besides learning German) but the food made me nervous. I was never a fan of sausage before I left, and the thought of eating sauerkraut terrified me. (First world problems, I know.) Because we frequently ate at people’s houses, I was afraid of offending someone by not eating something.
I was surprised at how great everything was (even the sausage), and I remember being in homes of older Austrians seeing their countertops spread with shredded cabbage. I’m not sure what method they used for making sauerkraut (and I regret finding out), but I found an easy method (that takes up much less counterspace) in Andrea Chesman’s newest book, Recipes from the Root Cellar. I recently reviewed this book over at Reading for Sanity and wasn’t too impressed. Until I made her sauerkraut. And her Hot German Potato Salad (coming shortly).
All is forgiven. Once again, I’m still a true Andrea Chesman fan.
This is so easy. If you’ve only tried the bottled sauerkraut from the grocery store, you really need to give the homemade version a shot. When I returned home I was shocked at two things — 1) Wienerschnitzel (hot dogs are neither schnitzel, nor are they “Wiener” aka Viennese.) and 2) How gross grocery-store sauerkraut was.
Luckily it’s super-easy to make. It just takes a while.
To make 2 quarts of sauerkraut, shred 5 pounds of cabbage. I used the shredding attachment on my Kitchen-Aid. If you have something similar I’d highly recommend it.
Next, you’ll need some pickling salt, which is just plain salt. (No iodine or anything added.)
Pour some over the cabbage and let it hang out for a couple of hours. It should begin to release some of its liquid. At this point, pound the living daylights out of it. Use a meat pounder or a potato masher (if you have them). Or use the bottom of a jar.
Transfer to the quart jars. (I really love my canning funnel.) Really smash it in. It’ll fit.
You’ll know you pounded the cabbage enough if it releases enough of its own liquid to cover the cabbage once pressed into the jars. If it’s close, just add a little water until the jars are full.
Oh, the jars need to be sterilized, too. Did I mention that?
Place the jars on a plate or a tray to catch any juices that will most likely escape from the jars.
Now we wait.
For a few weeks.
The author suggested tasting the sauerkraut after 2 weeks. If it tastes more salty than pickled, then it’s not ready yet. The process could take anywhere from 2-6 weeks, depending on the temperature. Mine took about 5 weeks.
If it still tastes pretty salty, try rinsing a little off first, but not more than you plan on eating right then.
This stuff will last in the refrigerator for several months! It was so nice to have the real stuff after ahem . . 10 years without.
This week I’ll have a couple of recipes to use the sauerkraut — a soup and a fantastic German potato salad. Are there any sauerkraut fans out there? Have you made your own? What method do you use?
Yield: 2 quarts
5 pounds trimmed green or red cabbage
3 T pickling salt
Core and shred the cabbage. I recommend using some kind of shredding attachment on a food processor or a stand mixer to get fine, uniform shreds. You can also use a knife if you want. Transfer the cabbage into an extra-large bowl and add the salt. Stir well, then let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours. It should start releasing its liquid by then.
Pound the cabbage. Really bruise it to release more of its liquid. Pack the cabbage firmly into two sterilized quart-sized jars. There should be enough juice in the jars to cover the cabbage, but if there isn’t enough, add a little water. Cover with a lid and screw band. Don’t tighten them firmly, just until you feel resistance. Place the jars on a tray or a plate to catch any juices that will try (successfully) to escape. Store where the temperature remains fairly steady, between 60 and 70 degrees F.
Check the sauerkraut after 24 hours. The cabbage should still be completely immersed in the liquid. If you need to make more brine, dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons of pickling salt in 1 quart of water. Pour enough in brine to keep the cabbage submerged.
Check the sauerkraut every few days and skim off any scum that appears on the surface. Bubbles should begin to rise to the surface, indicating that fermentation is taking place. Start tasting the sauerkraut after 2 weeks. The flavor should change from salty to pickled. The fermentation can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks depending on the temperature. You may want to rinse it off before eating if it still tastes very salty (it does to me). Only rinse off what you plan on eating right then.
Store finished sauerkraut in the fridge for several months.
from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman
By the way, there are a lot of health benefits from eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and sourdough. Good fermentation = good bacteria for the gut!