What's your best homemade sauerkraut recipe?
With a glut of green, red, and savoy cabbages this year, today I'm going to make sauerkraut for the first time. I will be using Alton Brown's Sauerkraut recipe with the green cabbages and a 2lb pickle crock. Alton's fermented dills are my absolute favorite dills so I'll start with his sauerkraut recipe. He calls for a small amount of juniper berries and caraway seed.
Thanks Bryan for the tip on salting the baggie water. Great idea to prevent losing a batch to a leaky bag.
Making your own sauerkraut is so simple, and nothing is healthier. Probiotic heaven!
Fresh sauerkraut is delicious in salads as well as in stews, soups, sandwiches, and tacos, on hot dogs and with sausages. Jars of cabbage and other fermented vegetables make delicious, colorful, and inexpensive gifts.
Remove the outer leaves of cabbage and slice as thin as you can. Chop up and include the heart. I use both the Harsch crock and wide-mouth jars to make cabbage. The jars are mainly for gifts, but they work as well as the crock and they are more fun as you can watch the fermentation process.
I often mix in red cabbage, and sliced onions, apples (sour or sweet), and cucumbers. You can add any vegetables or fruit. For additional seasoning, I often add pickling spices, dill, or caraway.
Pack the cabbage as firmly as you can. The bruising makes the sugar more available to the bacteria. Punch it down with your fist. I use the handle end of a hammer. Be careful not to break the glass.
I found I have more control of the salinity by mixing the salt (non-iodized) with the water (bottled or boiled), with a mixture of one tablespoon of salt for each two cups of water. You can experiment using less salt than this.
The Chinese have a wonderful no-salt sauerkraut. Instead of salt, add one cup of rice wine (sake) to three cups of bottled or boiled water. It ferments the cabbage exactly in the same way.
The purpose of the salt or wine is to inhibit the wrong bacteria from taking over before the natural bacteria that comes on the vegetables take over.
You should know that there are several stages in the fermentation process, involving different strains of bacteria. That is why it is not necessary to use the liquid from an old batch to start a new batch. It always has to start with fresh brine.
If you use a crock, you place a weighted plate on top of the cabbage and fill with brine covering the plate with a half-inch of brine. If you are using jars, fill to the top. Using the Harsch crock is best. The crock has a water-filled trough for the lid to sit on. This allows the CO2 to escape while keeping the air out. Check daily to remove any scum that might appear on the top. In a couple days, there will be lots of bubbling, which will go on for about four days.
When using jars, keep the lid slightly loose and place on a saucer. As the fermentation starts, making gas the volume expands and the jar will leak. Every day, open the jar and push down the cabbage to press out the gas. Add more brine if necessary to cover the cabbage. If the cabbage is exposed to the air, it will quickly turn black with mold. The cloudiness that appears in the liquid is a very good sign that the right bacteria are at work converting the sugar in the vegetables and fruit to lactic acid.
If the cabbage turns brown or slimy, discard it. A foreign bacteria has taken over. The cabbage should remain crisp throughout and after the process.
Fermentation takes about five days, and my family starts eating it right away. After the bubbling stops, I pack in jars with the brine and refrigerate.
For more about fermenting foods see "Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods," by Sandor Katz, available from the Raw Diet Health Shop in Portland.
I've tried making sauerkraut twice. Both times I tossed the sliced cabbage with the salt and let it wilt a bit before packing into the crock. But then, both times I had to make additional brine the next day b/c there wasn't enough liquid in the crock to cover the cabbage, so maybe that wasn't a good idea! I've also had to let mine ferment for a couple of months - it never really gets a rapid, bubbling fermentation going. It tastes good and looks good in the end, though - nobody's been poisoned yet :-)
For seasonings, I added juniper berries, whole cloves of garlic, and a couple of bay leaves broken into pieces. 3 juniper berries, 3 cloves garlic, and 1 bay leaf per layer of cabbage in the crock (I think it was ~2.5 lbs cabbage per layer, ~12.5 lbs total in the crock. Amounts purely based on how big the bowl is in which I wilted the cabbage with the salt).
Recently started making my own kimchi and sauerkraut so I don't have too many "variations" yet - I do my sauerkraut basically the same as Paul wrote above.
I would just add that when I fill my baggie, I add a tablespoon of kosher salt for each cup of water so that if the bag leaks the salt solution in the sauerkraut or the kimchi won't become diluted.
The way I do it is to chop up the cabbage as thin as I can. I cut each head in to quarters and
then shave off the thinest possible slices until I have a big pile of cabbage. Mix the cabbage
with ten grams of salt per pound of cabbage. Layer Mixture in a crock about an inch thick and
pack down well with your fist.until nearly full. Place a plate on top and tuck loose ends under.
Fill a quart zip lock bag with water and place on top of plate. Leave in a cool place for a month
or two. If you wish you can add one teaspoon per pound of juniper berries but the purists will
complain. Mrs. Rombauer had recipes for this in old editions of "The joy of cooking" if you
can barrow one from Granny.
Pablito el gordito