Friday, April 4, 2008

How to: Countertop Sauerkraut

First post on the new blog. Fermented cabbage. Better layout, better pictures, etc. at some point. Here's my countertop sauerkraut.


- 1 small cabbage, cored and cut into small strips. Pull off a few outer leaves, wash them, and reserve them.

- A small amount of whey. I got mine from making homemade mozzarella (we'll get to that later), but I hear you can also strain some plain yogurt to get it (non-reactive bowls please). In my case, it took about 4 Tablespoons of whey to get the mix about right.

- Kosher or canning salt. Don't use idodized salt for this. I used about 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt.

- A crock of some sort. Any tall non-reactive container should do. Better if it's opaque, as light will do a number on your kraut. I went to goodwill and found a terra cotta crock that was glazed on the inside. I'm guessing a ceramic cookie jar would have done just as well.

- Some sort of pounding instrument. Being a good Mexican-American boy, I used the tejolote from my trusty molcajete (basically a big stone). Use anything you think might work well at bruising your cabbage. A thick dowel, a rolling pin, or even the wrong end of an ice cream scooper might work here.


- Shred cabbage and put it in a large bowl.

- Salt cabbage and add whey, a little at a time.

- Start poundin'.

The pounding down is going to be your labor-intensive part of this. The idea is to start to break up the cabbage until it starts to give up some liquid. It took me about 20-30 minutes until I felt like I had softened everything up sufficiently. Add more whey as you go along, pounding until it looks like all the cabbage has gotten nice and smashed.

- Pack your cabbage into your crock. When fermenting, oxygen is not our friend. Pack tightly.

- Add water. If your cabbage is under at least 1" of liquid, then you can skip this. If not, top it off with some purified water. Chlorine will kill fermentation here, so don't use tap.

- Seal. Set the reserved outer cabbage leaves into the crock, to form a cup. Weigh them down. In my case, I filled a zip-lock bag with water, and stuffed it down into the crock. Anything that will keep the cabbage submerged will work, so long as it is non-reactive. The idea is to allow gas to escape while preventing oxygen from getting in.

- Leave sitting on the counter and wait. Depending on the temperature, you should probably check your crock after three days. With temps in the mid 70s in my kitchen, it took four days for my kraut to be ready to eat. Foaming and bubbling is natural, and if your crock is small, it might even leak a bit, like mine did. But if you're familiar with sauerkraut, you'll know it's done when you see it.

- Refrigerate. Once it's done its big transformation, you need to get this puppy to a fridge. If you know your canning, you can also process at this point for storage. Seal it off with saran wrap to keep any air out, if possible. Or you can just eat it all, like we're gonna.

The sauerkraut described above came out very nicely, not particularly salty, but tasty and with the nice mild tang. I'll probably keep fooling around with the recipe, but for my first time, this was a very worthwhile experiment.

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