October 17, 2009

cabbageheadToday 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!! number5The 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!

cabbageshredsWe both shredded and chopped our cabbage. Then we added the cabbage to the crock, a little bit at a time, mixing it with salt to taste as we went.


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.

7 Responses to “sauerkraut”

  1. Bill Witherspoon Says:

    What is the plate made of? I hope it is a good solid wood like maple or oak – if plywood then it would add taste etc. yuck.

    I understand that the lignin in wood actually acts as an anti-bacterial which is one reason why wood cutting boards are considered preferable to plastic.

  2. Kathy Says:

    When we cleaned out my mom and dad’s farmhouse a few years back, there were several crocks like that, in several sizes, in the basement – in a dark, damp, room that was seldom if EVER used by my mom. I am sure they were my dad’s mother’s from the early 1900’s or her mother’s before her. Mom sure never used them, EVER. I am betting they were for making sauerkraut back in the old days. (Dad’s mom and dad were both of German heritage.) I’ve always wondered what on earth they were used for and now I think the mystery is solved. Wish I’d kept one!

    • Torrey Says:

      I bet that is what they were for! The crocks can be used for fermenting pickles, sauerkraut, etc. I have eve heard several stories about storing meat in crocks, packing it tightly with salt, and covering the top with a layer of lard (NOT something that I would recommend…).
      You can still find used crocks at antique stores (the one that I am borrowing came from Jacobs Ladder!) although sometimes they are a little too beaten up for using to make pickles.

  3. Rosie Says:

    Nice krautage!
    In the fall 1972 I went to a wedding on a farm near a small town in the far south of Illinois, bordering on Kentucky, called Metropolis. I remember everyone gathering in the farm kitchen, the family crocks filled with sauerkraut made for the wedding and the happiness of the day.

    • Torrey Says:

      Thanks Mom! I think that I remember you telling me this story sometime. Did everyone eat all the sauerkraut?? How much did they make? xoxo

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