I have begun making a 2010 batch of sauerkraut! Full disclosure: my garden grew pitiful cabbage this year. The two larger ones shown below are (gasp) from the grocery store. I wasn’t able to find any cabbage at the farmer’s markets either, and Farmer L. didn’t have any. :sigh: All of the smallish looking cabbages in the second picture down came from my garden.
The hardest part of making sauerkraut from scratch is obtaining a large crock to put the food in to ferment. Have you priced what new ones sell for? The easiest part is the fermentation.
The most time-consuming part of the project is cutting up lots of cabbage into tiny shreds. The reward is a wonderful product that is ALIVE and good for you! Eating homemade sauerkraut (that has not been canned) aids in digestion by benefit of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacilli plantarum. Read more.
I did most of my slicing with this mandolin slicer, which saved me a lot of time, but there were still lots of end pieces that had to be cut by hand. I started with 12 1/2 pounds of cabbage and even with a helper the slicing took over an hour. Shred into 1/16th inch pieces.
This is the second year that I have used this awesome 4 gallon crock to make sauerkraut. My parents had this crock around when I was a kid, just sitting in the garage literally gathering dust for 30 years. I’m happy to put it to good use now. It ends up about 60% full with a 12 pound batch, which leaves enough head space for the weight and bubbling to safely happen without spilling anything.
I mixed 12 1/2 pounds of cabbage with a half cup of salt. Last year the salt was enough to draw out the water from the cabbage, but this year I had to add brine. I guess it depends on the variety of cabbage and how much rain the plants received.
At any rate, mix the shredded cabbage with the salt at a rate of 1 cup of salt per 25 pounds of cabbage, working in small batches so that all the cabbage gets an even amount of salt. Then pack it down tightly into the crock. Make sure that all the cabbage is covered with liquid. If your batch needs to have brine added, your recipe book will give you a recipe for the salt/water ratio.
The important thing is that the cabbage stay submerged in an anaerobic environment devoid of oxygen. I put a dinner plate and 3 filled quart jars on top to help hold it down. I actually filled the quart jars with salty water so that if they leak the sauerkraut will still be good!
Keep the kraut submerged, and cover the crock to keep dust and cats and such out of it. Every day, lift the towel and skim off any surface mold that has formed. You will know the veggies are fermenting because there will be bubbles coming up. The product will be finished fermenting when the bubbling quits. If it is rather cold in your house, the fermentation process could take 6 weeks, maybe even more. In my house it only took 2-3 weeks last year.
Fermented sauerkraut may be safely kept, unprocessed and alive, in the refrigerator or a very cold room for several months. This is a tangy taste treat that many of us have never experienced, and is much healthier than most store-bought kraut. People used to just move the crock to the root cellar and leave it there, scooping out a few servings when needed.
If you don’t have room for something like that, you can make the sauerkraut shelf-stable by canning it. It still tastes great, and you still know what went into your food. Follow the canning guidelines in your recipe book.
Shown above are 6 jars canned in 2009. This was delicious in our calzones. My mouth is watering and if you knew my history with sauerkraut you would be laughing at me right now. I used to refuse to be in the same room where someone was cooking or eating sauerkraut. Homemade is just so much better than canned product!