Gisele and I spent one Sunday morning chopping and tamping and stuffing into 1 litre canning jars to let them ferment until they are jars of goodness. Now you could process and can like other "pickles" but don't be tempted- that would kill all the live bacteria. After one week, you should be able to begin enjoying and the flavour will change as it ages.
To make approximately 6 litres.
Ingredients (for 1 gallon):
- 10 pounds cabbage
- 6 tablespoons sea salt (I use Himalayan pink salt)
Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. You can mix green and red cabbage to end up with bright pink kraut. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.
Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. Six tablespoons of salt is a rough guideline for 10 pounds of cabbage.
Add other vegetables. Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables you could include onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, small whole heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, and burdock roots. You can also add fruits (apples, whole or sliced, are classic), and herbs and spices (caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries are classic, but anything you like will work). Experiment.
Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists or any (other) sturdy kitchen implement. The tamping packs the kraut tight in the crock and helps force water out of the cabbage. You could also use 1 litre canning jars.
Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock. Place a clean weight (a glass jug filled with water) on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.
Press down on the weight to add pressure to the cabbage and help force water out of it. Continue doing this periodically (as often as you think of it, every few hours), until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to about 24 hours, as the salt draws water out of the cabbage slowly. Some cabbage, particularly if it is old, simply contains less water. If the brine does not rise above the plate level by the next day, add enough salt water to bring the brine level above the plate. Add about a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and stir until it’s completely dissolved.
|Instead of a crock, you can use 1L canning jars. |
To keep the cabbage under the liquid,
I use whole cabbage leaves.
Leave the crock to ferment. Store the crock in an unobtrusive corner of the kitchen where you won’t forget about it, but where it won’t be in anybody’s way. You could also store it in a cool basement if you want a slower fermentation that will preserve for longer.
Check the kraut every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes mold appears on the surface. Many books refer to this mold as “scum,” but think of it as a bloom. Skim what you can off of the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove all of it. Don’t worry about this. It’s just a surface phenomenon, a result of contact with the air. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes. In the cool temperatures of a cellar in winter, kraut will keep improving with age.