October 17, 2009
Today I went to my friend Moni’s house and she showed me how to make sauerkraut! I have been wanting to make sauerkraut for a long time now, and have spent quite a bit of time reading about how to make it, looking at different recipes, and methods, etc. Although it is simple to make, with a basic ratio and set steps, I have been a little shy to try it. But last weekend when I was visiting Heli in Ann Arbor, cabbage was available at the farmer’s market, and I grabbed a few heads to take home. I love cabbage, fresh and fermented, so I figured that I would be able to make use of it even if I didn’t make the kraut. Heli kept telling me that I should call Moni, her friend Daren’s mom, so I did, and not only did she tell me all about how to make sauerkraut, but she had me over this morning, shared cabbage from her garden, and taught me all about how to make sauerkraut. It was so much fun!! We had lots to talk about (she knows all about gardening, canning, and insects, to name a few things), and the process went by very quickly.
Moni has been making sauerkraut the same way her mother taught her. The first step is to prepare the crock (which Moni lent me and is now happily situated in my kitchen). This particular crock is huge!! The number 5, stamped on the side, indicates that it is 5 gallon crock, which means a lot of cabbage. The crock must be cleaned thoroughly, and fitted with a plate, which will be placed over the cabbage at the end to weigh it down.
Then the cabbage is cleaned, trimmed, and either thinly sliced or put through a food processor. This year was a very wet year so the cabbage was huge, and some of the heads that we used were even bursting open!
Adding salt to the mixture draws the moisture out of the cabbage, which creates the briny solution that the cabbage ends up “stewing” in. According to Moni, the best time to pick cabbage for sauerkraut is in the morning. The more moisture in the cabbage, the quicker the liquid is released to form the brine.
After all the cabbage was added we mixed the contents of the entire crock to make sure that there was enough salt. We ended up adding more, and as we were remixing, I noticed that liquid was already collecting at the bottom of the crock. By the time I got home with the crock, and added the plate and weighted bottles, the liquid had reached the top of the cabbage.
The plate covering the cabbage is there to keep the bulk of the cabbage submerged in the brine. I placed two clean quart bottles full of water on top of a dinner plate, which fit perfectly inside the crock. On top of all of this I tied a tea towel to protect the contents from any fruit flies or other possible vermin.
Now it is time to wait and let the lactic fermentation take place!!!
I will post more pictures as the sauerkraut develops.