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Sauerkraut?

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sauerkraut is one of my favorite foods--I eat it straight from the jar--and I'm curious about how it's made. is it something you can make yourself, or is it so complicated/time-consuming that it's just easier to buy it? does anyone have any recipes? thanks!

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  1. If you like the kind you are already buying, you might want to stick with it--it's not really complicated but it is time consuming. I haven't made it myself but I've seen recipes. Basically you slice, salt, store and ferment cabbage until it turns into kraut. I think it takes at least a couple of weeks. Everything has to be very clean going in, obviously, and you would need cool space for the crock--but not neccessarily the fridge. Most recipes I have seen come from older books and they have huge yields as it was a preservation technique. Maybe someone has a modern, easy version?

    Personally, I eat it so rarely that good storebought is fine with me--i like the kind that is in plastic bags in the refridgerated section of the store--I think it has better texture. It would be fun to try homemade sometime. There's a restaurant near me that I htink makes it's own and it is so delicate in comparison to the stuff you get on hotdogs!

    3 Replies
    1. re: dct

      oh wow, that does sound rather involved. I've never attempted canning/preserving anything, and this seems like something I'd have to work my way up to. and probably move to a much larger apartment.
      I agree with you about the bagged refrigerated kind, but I've also just tried some specialty jarred German import they had on special in my grocery store and it's quite good--it has white wine in it!

      1. re: Sophia.

        Its just finely sliced and salted cabbage in a crock with a heavy weight on top placed in a cool place. Skim the surface of the resulting brines every day. Easy.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          And depending on the size of the crock, make sure you add some white wine. It makes the kraut a little milder,
          In a 40 qt crock I usually add a gallon of white wine.

    2. I've tried to make it-I let it ferment in my basement, and long before it was done, my wife asked, "What's that awful smell permeating our house?" Needless to say I haven't done it again.

      1 Reply
      1. re: martin1026

        There is no way to make it not stink, which is just one of the reasons it was NEVER fermented inside the house if that could be avoided. Buried in the ground, or set in a springhouse or outdoor root cellar, generally - my grandfather, living in a small rental house with neither of those kinds of outbuildings, buried his in a shady part of the yard. My grandma wouldn't touch it, but then her affection for things German pretty much began and ended with the language...

      2. Hey, remember that Sophia likes sauerkruat--like I do--and would put up with that delicious smell as it ferments.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Same here Sam, I help make a wooden barrel of it when I was about 12-13.
          we had a smokehouse that we had it in and we would go out there and get a big hand
          full of that kraut and we had hams and slabs of bacon curing from the rafters. it sure
          brings back memories. How are you Sam?

          1. re: bigjimbray

            I'm great. You and I need to get together! We have a bunch of similar past CH experiences that just need some even better future times.

            s.fujisaka@cgiar.org

        2. I'd love recipes or meal ideas too. I've had a jar in my fridge that I bought months ago --- wait, is it spoiled?? -- and want to use up. thanks!

          1 Reply
          1. re: chuckles

            my favorite sauerkraut meal recipe. Cut bacon in small pieces, render the fat in a pan till you have crispy bacon bits. Make mashed potatoes, mix in bacon (with some of the fat) and mix in the sauerkraut! real simple and mighty tasty!! it's my husbands favorite dish!

          2. thanks so much for the methods and stories! I'm thinking now this could be a project for my parents' basement...my dad has a little wine cellar that stays around 60-65 degrees and even the cat stays out of there. about how long does it have to ferment?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sophia.

              It is well worth making. It takes around 10 days to ferment (depending on temperature).

              It is easy to make and you do not need special equipment. A clean 5 gallon plastic bucket will work great.

              Nothing tastes like homemade kraut.

            2. It's worth making your own. Since you are buying it in a jar, it has been pasteurized and therefore denatured by heat. And here's a trick I learned from someone who once made it and sold it to restaurants -- to weigh it down, cover with a plastic bag filled with water. That will keep it from getting moldy and will seal in the odor as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pitterpatter

                And why would pasturization be necessary? The natural process of making sauerkraut makes it essentially completely free of pathogens.

              2. Here's the sauerkraut that I buy: http://www.willsvalley.com/1088695.html

                And there's a great recipe (or two?) in this book, which I love. Great even if you make nothing in it, just from a food anthro POV. _Keeping_Food_Fresh:_Old_World_Techniques_ &_Recipes_ by Claude Aubert (Editor)

                1. Lots of fun ideas here. As several have mentioned, it's reeeeal simple. I use the 5-gallon pickle bucket method. I posted a quick method a while back in

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/362671

                  which gives about 20 links from my bookmarks to some of the various better recipe/methods out there on the web. Check it out if you are wanting to make your own.

                  On a side note related to bookmarks: Since we lack an "obituaries" board on CH, let me use this thread to grieve the loss of 5 years of my foodie bookmarks when my hard drive recently crashed. Hats off at the graveside, folks; this one's right up there with losing you family photos to a house fire.

                  Back to kraut. Will, the "bury the bucket in a shady hole" works great. Since all the folks in my horse sorta like the odor of a bubblin' bucket, I keep it inside, but am fortunate to have a utility room. I've even purchased a length of 4" flexible hose to vent the odors out thru the clothes drier portal. If someone wants more description just ask.

                  Sam, americans pasteurize everything. The laws vary by state, but there is an overabundance of default pasteurization. Small farmers risk arrest if they attempt to distribute Bessie's milk without being pasteurized. But regarding kraut, the distribution system prefers it because un-pasteurized kraut keeps fermented and becomes tired of its confining container and unscrews the lids and oozes down the sides, if not rigorously refrigerated. Mawrter's link below is to one of micro-producers who ships it raw, but storefront retailers get frustrated by it's tendency to pop it's top. I used to have several links to other online sources, but they are gone (wipes back of hand across eyes to dry the tears)... Foodfuser be sad.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: FoodFuser

                    FoodFuser, your bit on pasteurization is sad but hilariously presented. I'll have to watch my next batch to see if it unscrews and oozes...

                    1. re: FoodFuser

                      Oh - should have pointed that out. Yeah, Wills Valley sauerkraut is unpasteurized.

                    2. I used Alton Brown's recipe (food network) and it worked fine. I only made a small quantity but there was no odor problem.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rexsreine

                        Here's a link to the transcript of Alton's salt episode, which includes the sauerkraut recipe: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season... . Here's the Food Network.com recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                      2. I used to make kraut, but time has become limited and so I usually buy the plastic bagged variety and then do the following:
                        Depending on how much you want, use one or two bags. Rinse it well, discarding the liquid. Peel and thin slice a couple (or more, if you two bag it) of Granny Smiths and add to the kraut. Add about a tablespoon of caraway seed, 3/4 of a cup of white wine and heat. My grandmuter used to add raisins, but I prefer none.

                        1. wow! i never thought sauerkraut cold be so interesting! sophia, you really have opened a can of worms - perhaps a can of cabbage!

                          the making process all sounds rather involved, but does explain a rather smelly guestroom on the dalmatian coast in croatia some years ago.

                          1. I've been getting a cabbage a week from my CSA, plus another one from one of my church folks. There are only two of us and only so much cabbage we can eat. My dad suggests I should make sauerkraut, so I consulted my cookbooks. "Simply in Season" has a basic recipe. It makes ONE QUART of sauerkraut. Not very much, but probably as much as we'll need. (I will probably double it so my dad can have some too.) Looks like the easiest thing in the world. You put cabbage in a clean quart jar, add a teaspoon of salt, and fill it up with boiling water, then leave it set in a pan so it doesn't get all over the place as it oozes out while it ferments. Says it's happy and ready to eat in like 2 weeks. But it does say that the lid rusts as the oozing commences. I'd imagine you would put a new lid on after you take out some of the kraut.

                            I do like sauerkraut pretty well, and so does Mike. mostly we put it on top of sausages in buns, but sometimes I put perogies in a pan and dump sauerkraut on top and bake them togther.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: revsharkie

                              i did a stint in germany as a student, and my host mum would make salad with cabbage and citrus as a precursor to the meal. although it was delicious, after dinner i would have to go and lie down for an hour because of the stomach cramps, so I don't envy you having to work your way through 2 cabbages a week!

                            2. eff the food processor, you can slice and dice the cabbage with a knife, or grater.
                              eff the kosher salt, really, salt is salt is salt.
                              other than that, this recipe is fine for a beginner.