|Alaska State Fair, 2012, World Record!|
Anyhow, I thought you might like to see how I make my sauerkraut.
I think it's important to start off with the right equipment. I've made sauerkraut in various vessels and with various cutting implements, but using crocks made for kraut and blades designed to slice cabbage makes life much easier and the sauerkraut turns out better.
My equipment list, with Amazon links in case you'd like to create your own kraut empire. These links are to the exact things that I own, when possible, or very similar:
Metal butcher's glove (or buy lots of Band-aids)
Kitchen scale (Just get a cheap one)
Then you'll need some way to preserve your sauerkraut, I use a FoodSaver sealer with freezer bags, but you can use Ziplock bags, plastic tupperware, or any other means you are comfortable with.
The only other thing you'll need is non-iodized salt.
Gathered together, my sauerkraut making day looks like this:
To fill a 3 gallon crock requires about 25 pounds of cabbage. It's important you weigh the cabbage because the amount of salt you use depends on the weight of the cabbage. 3TBS per 5 pounds.
If you want to make a smaller batch, buy a smaller crock. They come as small as 1-gallon in size. If you try to make a small batch in a large crock, you'll have problems (trust me). Too much air space allows mold to grow. The mold is not dangerous, just disconcerting.
An average-sized head of cabbage weighs about 2-3 pounds. If you are buying these at the store, buy a few pounds more, because you will be trimming them considerably.
Wash and trim your cabbages, removing as many green outer leaves as possible, leaving only nice white leaves for really good sauerkraut. Here's 25 pounds of cabbage ready to be shredded:
Once the cabbages are washed, trimmed, and weighed you will need to slice them. This can be done with a knife, but it takes longer and it's harder to make uniform slices. A cabbage shredder is make specifically for slicing cabbage into sauerkraut size.
Shred or slice the cabbage into a tub of some sort. Then transfer the shredded cabbage into your crock. The standard recipe for sauerkraut, and the one I have used successfully for many years, calls for 3TBS of salt for each 5 pounds of cabbage.
This batch I made used 25 pounds of cabbage and 15TBS of salt (1 TBS shy of a full cup).
The best way to do this is to sprinkle all of the salt on the cabbage in the tub, before transferring it to the crock. After you salt the cabbage, allow it to stand for about 30 minutes. It will start to sweat. The salt brings the moisture out of the cabbage and forms the brine. No water is added!
To transfer the cabbage to the crock, put in a couple big handfuls, and mash with your fist. You can also buy a purpose-made kraut smasher, called a cabbage-stomper, but I find it's not needed.
Keep on layering and smashing until the crock is full. You may have some leftover...cook this for dinner! If you get it right, your cabbage and the liquid that comes out of it should fill the crock to about 3-4 inches from the top.
Next, add the weights to keep all of the cabbage submerged. Try to get the little floaters out before you seal up the crock...they tend to attract mold.
Place the crock somewhere the temperature will remain fairly steady between about 65 and 75 degrees. Too cold, and it will take longer to ferment, too hot and it may ferment too fast resulting in off-flavors and smells. After a month it looks like this:
Taste test the kraut once a week or so as it ferments. It tastes differently as it progresses. I find at my climate, it's ready to eat after 2 weeks, but it hits its prime in about 30-60 days. You can actually keep it in the crock and eat it straight from the crock over winter if you like, but I like to preserve it in a younger stage. If you keep it in the crock, it's possible to introduce contamination each time you open it to steal a meal's worth. There is nothing worse than finding a green moldy mess when opening a crock of kraut.
Remove the weights, and transfer the sauerkraut into your freezer bags (or whatever you are going to use):
Then I seal them up and plop in the freezer:
3 gallons of kraut lasts me a year, eating it a couple times a week. I put 1/2 gallon in each bag and take a bag out of the freezer and keep it in the fridge until it's gone.
Is Frozen Kraut Still Alive?
I was often chided that I was ruining the probiotic potential of sauerkraut by freezing it. Well, here's some proof that freezing does not kill the bacteria that ferments cabbage.
I took these bags out of the freezer after 12 months. As soon as they thawed out, they started to ferment. These bags are ready to explode!
There is only one thing that will cause an airtight bag of sauerkraut to expand like this...LIFE.
Freezing does not kill sauerkraut probiotics. I'm not sure I can say the same about canning methods that use high heat.
Easy, right? Anybody else make sauerkraut? Anybody gonna try?