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Making Homemade Sauerkraut

k
kydds4kids Dec 8, 2013 02:12 PM

I bought a 5 gal crock and started a batch of kraut. After seeing how much it packed down, I've decided that I want to make more. Can I use the crock from a slow cooker?

  1. SWISSAIRE Dec 8, 2013 02:25 PM

    Most likely you providing the lid seals enough to keep air out but allows the fermenting gasses to escape.

    If you can maintain a water seal around the lid, once everything is in place, that should do it.

    It would also help if you can add some clean weight stones or bricks to weight the shredded kraut down well under the lid level.

    10 Replies
    1. re: SWISSAIRE
      k
      kydds4kids Dec 8, 2013 06:53 PM

      Now I really have a problem. I read that covering the jar (mason jar method) with cheesecloth or towel allows air to flow in and out of the jar--I thought it needed the air. Now I'm wondering if the kraut in my crock is going to be safe. It looks good, smells good and tastes good (although it isn't as sour as I want it, yet.

      I don't have a plate or anything that fits snug inside the crock, so I put a couple of bowls inside to cover as much kraut as possible, weighed it down with a can that rises above the crock and covered it with cheesecloth fastened with rubberband.

      I thought that if the pickling crock needed a lid, it would come with it! Pretty dumb of me, huh?

      1. re: kydds4kids
        v
        VTB Dec 8, 2013 08:39 PM

        You are fine. The cheesecloth just keeps out flies and some dust, but your kraut is fine with little OR lots of air. The disadvantage to air is that it can let in more mold and (Kahm) yeast. These are okay and just need to be periodically skimmed off. I like my mason jar which has a plastic lid (I drilled a hole in it and stuck in a cheap $2 air lock from the brewing supply store to keep out air but release pressure--i stole this idea from the web), which saves me from skimming. I have a brussels sprouts kraut going now in a jelly jar. I have the lid on barely snug so that not much stuff can enter but that if pressure builds up it can escape. I've lost some juice as well as gas, but as you say, the kraut does taste good, so I'm not complaining.

        1. re: VTB
          k
          kydds4kids Dec 8, 2013 09:02 PM

          Great!
          Another question. I filled the 5 gal crock with shredded cabbage, but once it was tamped down and weighted down it's only filling half my crock. Is this normal?

          Also, my kraut has not formed any mold, bubbles or foam or anything. Is that good?

          1. re: kydds4kids
            v
            VTB Dec 9, 2013 10:20 AM

            Sure, half way full is fine. You must be a hard tamper with a crock that can take a pounding :-). As Swissaire said, try to keep all the kraut underneath the surface of the liquid. Add some salt water if really need be, to get the compressed kraut under liquid. You can use weighted plates or a gallon ziplok bag (double) filled with salt water as weights. Some people like to put some sacrificial whole cabbage leaves between the kraut and the weight. Honestly, I've never had a crock as big as you have.
            Some kraut ferments quickly ("live" cabbage, low salt, warm temp) while others take more than a month to get real good.

            1. re: VTB
              k
              kydds4kids Dec 9, 2013 11:37 AM

              They said to pack tightly....so I did!
              Thanks

          2. re: VTB
            f
            foreverhungry Dec 12, 2013 09:21 AM

            VTB - for the Brussels sprouts kraut, how did you treat the sprouts? I tried a Brussels sprouts kimchi recipe from Bon Appetit a few months ago, and it went rotten. I used the same general method I've used for cabbage kimchi, which worked, but the sprouts didn't The recipe called for halving the sprouts, soaking in a brine solution, draining, adding the rest of the ingredients, then packing into quart mason jars, adding brine, and leaving lids loose. After 2-3 days in basement, some bubbling, not much. I brought it into the kitchen for another 2- days, then into the fridge, but a few days later there was definitely the whiff (and taste) of rot.

            I was skeptical of halving the Brussels sprouts as opposed to thin slicing them, I can't imagine that their cores could start fermenting before they started rotting?

          3. re: kydds4kids
            r
            rasputina Dec 9, 2013 10:57 AM

            Lactic acid fermentation requires an anaerobic environment the last thing you want is air circulation. No, cheesecloth and a dish towel are not adequate coverings for the growth of lactic acid bacteria. Which is why traditional crocks have a rim that you fill with water and a lid ( same concept as the modern air lock) to allow excess carbon dioxide to escape at the same time it prevents oxygen from entering the fermentation vessel.

            Open crocks are needed for acetic acid and the making of vinegar.

            1. re: rasputina
              k
              kydds4kids Dec 9, 2013 11:40 AM

              Is it too late for the batch in my crock? It's been in the crock for about two weeks

              1. re: kydds4kids
                r
                rasputina Dec 9, 2013 12:21 PM

                My personal opinion is yes. My first time fermenting was using an open container because Sandy Fallon said you could as long as you kept the food below the water line. My result was failure. As were my further attempts using canning jars. And after reading more on lactic acid fermentation it's obvious that open containers are not the way to do it. They are perfect for growing vinegar mother though.

                1. re: rasputina
                  k
                  kydds4kids Dec 10, 2013 09:54 AM

                  Ouch! That hurt. I'm so disappointed I could cry! I'm almost willing to go ahead and make "pickled caggage"

        2. l
          LorenzoGA Dec 9, 2013 01:38 PM

          You can use almost any container if you're willing to skim the scum and keep the cabbage below the water level. I use a 5 gallon food-grade plastic bucket.

          3 Replies
          1. re: LorenzoGA
            v
            VTB Dec 9, 2013 06:09 PM

            Please don't trash your kraut. The cabbage under liquid is in a sufficiently "anaerobic" environment for good lactic acid fermentation. This being said, most batches work and a few fail here and there...maybe your open crock got a bad tasting intruder but the odds are on your side. If you didnt already get sick (rare!!!) or displeased, you wont from here on out. Because, you now have some sour acid generally starting to protect the goodness, if I correctly understood your OP.
            Maybe you should rinse off your plate, skim off the unattractive floaters and any film, and then put a plastic bag over the top of the crock with a big rubber band sealing it against the rim of the crock--poor man's air lock. (At this point the heavy CO2 phase is behind you, so you don't have to worry about venting beyond just the times you take off the bag for tasting.)
            Alternatively, you could give up and let me have your baby kraut.
            PS-- For the next month, store it at or slightly below 65º if you have the luxury of such a spot in your house this time of year.
            PPS--I'm very sure Rasputina knows, first hand, numerous things about fermenting that I don't know. I'm just saying that you have nothing to lose and lots to gain (yumyumyum) by seeing this thing out!
            * from any of my above posts, when I mention water I mean de-chlorinated, and when I mention salt I mean non-iodized.

            1. re: VTB
              k
              kydds4kids Dec 10, 2013 10:54 AM

              Sorry, you aren't getting my kraut! LOL! I tasted my kraut today and it still tastes good! There are still no bubbles, foam or scum. Appreciate the plastic bag suggestion-I'm going to do that as soon as I get off the site.

            2. re: LorenzoGA
              LMAshton Dec 10, 2013 06:34 PM

              This.

              I use food-grade plastic containers, tamp down the cabbage, add salt and chilli powder, then put a plastic sheet on top of that, then a plate or something else that I can put something heavy on to keep the cabbage below liquid level. I also use an elastic band on the outside of the container to hold the plastic sheet in place so no bugs (literally - I live in a tropical country) or dust or whatever can get in.

              I don't get scum or mold or whatever.

            3. b
              Bryan Pepperseed Dec 10, 2013 07:05 AM

              For your slow cooker you may need to get one of ziploc's "Big Bags", but this will solve your lid problem....

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8050...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bryan Pepperseed
                k
                kydds4kids Dec 10, 2013 10:15 AM

                Thanks, LorenzoGA and Bryan Pepperseed. I'm going to start a new batch today or tomorrow. I might make Red Cabbage Sauerkraut....maybe Red and Green...for CHRISTmas!

              2. d
                dberg1313 Dec 10, 2013 09:50 AM

                I've been making sauerkraut for over 50 years and only ever had to toss 2 batches. You surely can make more in the crock from a slow-cooker. I find the 2 gallon size ziplock bags, filled nearly full with brine (and air pressed out,) work nicely to use as covers and fill in the crocks I use, also keep the cabbage well covered with brine. I am of the sacrificial cabbage leaf school, myself (it's how my mother did it, I don't know why). I then cover the entire thing with a clean bathtowel or similar cloth, also because that's how I was taught. It does indeed pack down as it ferments. There are very good instructions available online from the Penna State Extension Service if you need more help. I never knew a crock to come with a lid--at home we used an old dinner plate, weighted down with a rock!

                14 Replies
                1. re: dberg1313
                  k
                  kydds4kids Dec 10, 2013 12:59 PM

                  It's so nice to hear from someone who has been doing this for so long! I only have about one thousand questions I want to ask you!

                  Penna State Extension Service is indeed full of info. I'll be checking that out in more detail later.

                  Looks like I'll be doing another batch tomorrow, so thanks for the info and encouragement.
                  Everyone on says to put a plate on the kraut to hold it down under the brine. What size opening are we talking about? My saucers are too large for my crock!

                  Also, do you think my first batch should be ok? I'm going to cover the whole thing with a zip lock and rubber band closure as suggested above.

                  1. re: dberg1313
                    k
                    kydds4kids Dec 10, 2013 05:31 PM

                    Also, there has been no mold, foam, bubbling or scum that I've read a lot about. But that is another controversial discussion on the sauerkraut making info I've read--so , I don't know if NOT having this stuff is good or bad!

                    Are you from or do you live in Pa? Did you go to Penn State?

                    1. re: kydds4kids
                      d
                      dberg1313 Dec 12, 2013 10:10 AM

                      There should be some bubbling up; if you fill your container too full, it may run over - we used to put the crocks in a larger pan, like a shallow baking pan, just in case. I am from and live in PA, did not go to Penn State though (Ursinus!) a long-time old fashioned home cook, "PA Dutch" style

                      1. re: dberg1313
                        k
                        kydds4kids Dec 12, 2013 11:20 AM

                        OK, I just check my kraut again and even though there is still no bubbles, foam, scum, mold it still looks,smells, tastes good. Mouth watering good. So I'm going to keep on keeping on....unless you tell me differently. With your years of experience and being a long-time old fashioned home cook, "PA Dutch" style I couldn't possibly go wrong taking your advice.

                        What part of PA are you from. I live 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, in Beaver Falls, Pa

                        1. re: dberg1313
                          k
                          kydds4kids Dec 12, 2013 11:29 AM

                          This batch of kraut doesn't have alot of brine, but enough to cover all the cabbage. Do you think maybe my cabbage was too old to make a lot of juice?

                      2. re: dberg1313
                        r
                        rasputina Dec 10, 2013 05:35 PM

                        You've never heard of a Harsch crock?

                        1. re: rasputina
                          k
                          kydds4kids Dec 11, 2013 09:15 AM

                          Actually, I hadn't heard of them when I purchased my one gal. crock. Nor would I have spent that kind of money until I was sure I even wanted to do this. I spent just over $25.00 on this crock and if I never try to do sauerkraut again I won't be out that much and I can use this crock for other things.
                          Please forgive my ignorance and poverty.

                          1. re: kydds4kids
                            r
                            rasputina Dec 11, 2013 03:58 PM

                            I was asking dberg, because Harsch has been around for ages and is the traditional German fermentation container. I don't expect someone new to lactic acid fermentation to know about them, but someone with 50 years fermenting probably would.

                            1. re: rasputina
                              k
                              kydds4kids Dec 11, 2013 05:24 PM

                              Alright. But I'm new AND now I know about them--thank you!

                        2. re: dberg1313
                          l
                          LorenzoGA Dec 11, 2013 09:35 AM

                          When you use the word "crock," what are you referring to? If you're referring to a vessel having some special characteristic, like it's made out of ceramic, is there any reason why that might be preferred over some other container, like a 2 gallon or 5 gallon food-grade plastic pail with a lid? I've been under the impression that you can ferment sauerkraut and pickles in pretty much any food-grade vessel, so long as you keep the air away from the vegetables.

                          1. re: LorenzoGA
                            k
                            kydds4kids Dec 11, 2013 09:51 AM

                            When I use the word "crock", being the novice that I am, I'm referring to a ceramic, unleaded "vessel" that I purchased because I didn't have any food-grade plastic pail with a lid. I understand that these can be used as well.

                            1. re: kydds4kids
                              l
                              LorenzoGA Dec 12, 2013 08:30 AM

                              Thanks, though my question was directed to dberg1313, who says he's been making sauerkraut for 50 years. I've been doing it for maybe five years, so I'm a relative novice, too. But unlike dberg1313, I have had quite a few batches go bad on me, and I'd like to improve my technique.

                            2. re: LorenzoGA
                              b
                              Bryan Pepperseed Dec 12, 2013 06:25 AM

                              At about the 4 min mark, Sandor Katz says to avoid using plastic ...even food grade.
                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i77hU3zR-fQ

                              On the other hand, Alex Hozven seems to have no problem with using plastic... at least for the initial "sweating".
                              http://www.chow.com/videos/show/obses...

                              1. re: LorenzoGA
                                d
                                dberg1313 Dec 12, 2013 10:13 AM

                                You absolutely can use any food-safe container, the plastic buckets that baking ingredients come in are fine (you can sometimes get them from local bakeries or grocery stores with a bakery, either for a very little money, or free). I use crocks I have had for years, because I've had them for years, but I have also used the aforementioned buckets. If you wanted to make only a little kraut, you can do that too, it isn't necessary to use 50 lb of cabbage like I do. I make it for our own use at home but also sell it at my historical society's Christmas Market - I would never believe people would buy it, but they sure do.

                            3. k
                              kydds4kids Dec 10, 2013 05:03 PM

                              OMG! I apologize to everyone. After reading several replies to my OP commenting that they never made sauerkraut in a crock as large as mine, I decided to go back and read my OP. I don't know how I did it but somehow I typed in that I had a 5 gal crock! Whoa! No wonder people were commenting on the size of my crock! NOoooooooooooooo!
                              I bought a ONE GALLON CROCK!
                              I am so sorry for the typo!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: kydds4kids
                                l
                                LorenzoGA Dec 11, 2013 09:36 AM

                                One gallon is tiny--that holds like one medium-sized head of cabbage. No wonder you want to make more!

                                1. re: LorenzoGA
                                  k
                                  kydds4kids Dec 11, 2013 10:00 AM

                                  I chose the 1 gal because there are just 2 of us in the household plus, at the time, I wasn't sure I'd ever want to make more. Like I said, I'm a novice and I didn't know if this was going to be too much trouble. But I now have another LARGE head of cabbage (I just weighed it....6lbs!) and a regular store bought head (much smaller). My first batch that's fermenting now was made from another LARGE head and raw it filled my crock, but now that it's been in there for about 2 wks, my crock is only about half full. I hope I didn't pack it too tightly.

                                  1. re: kydds4kids
                                    LMAshton Dec 11, 2013 03:36 PM

                                    Don't worry about packing it too tightly. Really. It's not something to worry about and it's not detrimental to the fermenting process.

                                    My first batch was an experiment, too. Neither the husband nor I had ever had saeurkraut before, so we didn't even know if we liked it. Turns out we did, but you know how these things go - start with a small batch to find out. :)

                                    1. re: kydds4kids
                                      r
                                      rasputina Dec 11, 2013 04:02 PM

                                      You want to pack it tightly to get all the air out of there. Lactic acid bacteria don't like oxygen, so packing tightly is the right thing to do.

                                2. SWISSAIRE Dec 12, 2013 10:50 AM

                                  About a year into our marriage, I purchased a fermentation crock from Schmitt, in Germany. This was a small 5L capacity with the split stone weights for the shredded and brined cabbage to be submerged.

                                  The top has a water seal lid, which allows the fermentation gas to be released, but no air or oxygen in. We set the crock in our basement, and added water to the top weekly.

                                  We make sauerkraut when the cabbage is harvested in the fields nearby, usually in October. It is a local and family tradition, followed by tired arms and a large dinner.

                                  5 or 6 years into this, our crock size was replaced with a Harsch 15L, or just under 4 gallons. That provided a good supply of sauerkraut through much of the year for our family, used primarily for Choucroute.garnie.

                                  How you make your sauerkraut, and the vessel you use to ferment it in is of course up to you, and your choice. Plastic pails are not used by anyone locally in the Jura due to some bad experience with plastic chemicals leaching into the sauerkraut. Nor are wet towels or cheesecloth used. The crocks we use are sealed stoneware, and I only recall one batch ever of a neighbours' that molded badly.

                                  One item not mentioned is keeping everything spotlessly clean and sanitary. That includes the shredding device or knives, the mashing tools, the right amount of salt, and sanitized crocks. I used boiling hot water and soap scrubbed in everything, and the weight of our crock, lid, and weights is my responsibility. Sometimes I wish I had an overhead crane.

                                  But the end result for vegetables, sauerkraut, or kampusta, as it is known in Eastern Europe, is worth the extra effort, and superior to anything in cans or jars at the market. If you are going to make fermented vegetables regularly, and I encourage all to do so, then invest a little more in your equipment for the best results. Similar to buying good kitchen knives, pots, or pans for better results.

                                  Visiting North America, I have seen both the Harsch and the more reasonably priced Schmitt (Calbela's, I think) available there.

                                  1. a
                                    adrennan Jan 5, 2014 01:08 PM

                                    You can use any non-reactive vessel for fermenting sauerkraut... my most recent batch was made in two plastic snap top containers with plastic wrap on the surface of the kraut. Just plan not to use your crock pot for a few weeks.

                                    1. t
                                      travelerjjm Jan 5, 2014 01:47 PM

                                      My father had an 8 or 10 gallon earthenware crock we used for decoration in our house. He said that it used to have a "lid" made from oak that fit inside to keep the cabbage under the brine. Every autumn his mom and aunts would shred cabbage and fill it and make sauerkraut. That is a lot of sauerkraut!

                                      1. j
                                        JoeBabbitt Jan 5, 2014 02:51 PM

                                        We generally do from 20 to 40# of kraut a year. We always do it in the fall - you want the last harvest of cabbage because it has less water in it. We have always used the recipe from the Ball Blue Book which calls for one pound of salt per 50# of cabbage. I find that a bit salty so this year we tried another recipe which called for 3 1/2 T of salt per 5# of cabbage. Obviously you have to keep everything very clean. I skim it every other day & wipe down the exposed sides of the crock with a clean damp rag each time I skim. Once you have homemade kraut.... the store stuff is pallid.

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