A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota Idaho, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe and Instructions

It's sauerkraut season here in North Dakota.  We forgot to plant cabbages in the garden this year, but that's OK since cabbages are cheap and plentiful at the local Farmer's Market.  Let's make some kraut! This is truly one of the easiest dishes to make, you know, assuming you like sauerkraut and all.  Little more than cabbages, salt, a crock, and a couple of hours of elbow grease will have you up to your chin in kraut for months. 
This is a three gallon ceramic crock for fermenting the sauerkraut along with one of the two cabbages I purchased at the Farmer's Market in town.  The cabbage weighs about 4 pounds and cost me $3.  So for $6 and the cost of salt, I'm gonna have months of delicious chock-full-of-probiotics sauerkraut.

If you don't have a crock already, these are pretty easy to come by here in the Upper Midwest. Our In-Laws picked this up at a garage sale for $5 (I think) and gave it to us.  If you don't have access to used crocks like this, you may have to get one from Amazon or elsewhere online.  They're not too expensive and last for a long time.  And sauerkraut can also be made in any non-reactive container, like a glass jar. 
The key to sauerkraut is finely slicing the cabbage, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, and try for consistency.  We have a mandolin slicer, but the cabbage was too unwieldy and I just wound up cutting it by hand.
After you've finely sliced the cabbage, you're going to want to physically damage the leaves in order to coax out the cabbage juices that will ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut.  You're going to do this by beating the heck out of the cabbage.  My tool of choice is an old-school hand potato masher.

I did one round of squishing the cabbage (in the white plastic bowl in the picture above) and continued mashing them in the crock.  It helps at this point of the process to angrily yell "HULK SMASH!", or something of the sort.  Not only will this help your sauerkraut taste better, but it will also likely have the added benefit of forcing your significant other to shout "What the hell is going on in there?!?!" from the other room.

At this stage you're going to add salt to your cabbage mixture.  The general rule is 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage mixture.  You want the mixture to taste like you've added salt, but not oppressively salty.  After an hour or so after you've started smashing and adding salt, you should notice a decent amount of liquid in the crock. 
Continue with your potato masher and press the cabbage mixture to the bottom.  Your goal is to get every last bit of cabbage underneath the surface of the liquid.  I then took a plate and set it on top of the cabbage mixture in the crock, then added this one gallon jar filled with water to weigh it down to push the cabbage below the liquid.  The plate is turquoise colored, thus the odd bluish hue.

Again, the goal is to keep the cabbage mixture below the surface of the liquid.  Most people use a plate or a bowl and then have a weight on top to push the cabbage down and make sure the liquid remains above the cabbage. 
This is the ghost on our kitchen counter.  The crock is going to sit here at room temperature for 2-3 days, then I'll take it down to the basement where it's a little cooler.  I'll check it in a week, and weekly thereafter.  Usually at the three week mark, it has the right level of spicy/sour/crunchy for my taste.  You may want more or less fermentation time depending on the temperature and your personal taste preference. 

Once the sauerkraut is to your liking, you have a decision to make.  You have the option of canning it, which will make it shelf safe, but also eliminate most/all of the good probiotic bacteria, or you can store it in the refrigerator.  The sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the refrigerator, but at a much slower rate.  I store it in the refrigerator in a one gallon glass jar, and it's usually good for several months.

That's how you make sauerkraut.  A minimal investment for the cost of the cabbage, and few hours of work and you've got months of kraut for side dishes and toppings.  What about you awesome reader?  Do you make sauerkraut?  Do you pickle or ferment anything else? 


Unknown said...

I want some. Nom nom nom.

Unknown said...

I want some. Nom nom nom.

El Gaucho said...

You come out to visit us in North Dakota and you can have all the sauerkraut you can eat!!!