This blog will answer questions like, where does kraut come from, and how much vinegar is in kraut, and how safe is it to make at home, and how long does it take to make at home.
I am married to a man of German descent, so we enjoy the German culture as well as my Swedish culture and our shared American culture (yes, it is a thing!). Since marring Roger I have learned German food is really good! It is like universal comfort food, and really easy to make. Keep in mind, I won’t tell your friends and loved ones how easy making kraut is if you don’t tell mine. So, delete these top 2 paragraphs and let them see the next full on liar-liar pants on fire 3rd paragraph…
Oh My Lord, making Sauerkraut is so so so HARD!!! It is TRULY a labor of love. If you choose to make it, just be ready for some really complicated hard to follow instructions and a ton (TON) of work. Hard!!
OK, back to the truth! It is easy! Here is all you need to make your own chemical and preservative free sauerkraut:
A big clean jar,
A big clean bowl,
A scale that will measure grams (I got mine from KnitPicks online),
Weights (clean rocks will do, just run them through the dishwasher or boil them once),
SEA Salt (kosher is much to much salt),
Something to bash the hell of it (think small baseball bat, large wooden down, or a kraut basher),
Carefull remove the first couple of tight leaves from the head. I cut the stem in the back, then gently peel from the front. You want these as whole as possible because they form the barrier that makes sure the shredded cabbage stays under the liquid. That is important because you don’t want mold. Cabbage under liquid means mold is highly unlikely.
Weigh your big clean empty bowl, and tare the scale so that the scale sees the weight of the bowl as zero grams. Leave the bowl on the scale until I tell you to move it.
Set aside the leaves, and shred the cabbage leaving the stem or core. I have used a shredder for this, but I like a thicker cabbage better, so I just go to work with a large sharp knife. I have even see it just chopped all up and made into kraut, but the texture is just lost. Please just try shredding it once.
Put the shredded cabbage in the big bowl. If it gets to full, just write down the weight, and dump that cabbage into another bowl. Tare the scale again with the bowl and any clinging shreds so the scale will once again read zero grams. Continue shredding and putting the new shreds in the bowl.
When you have finished shredding, add all your weights together and multiply by 2%.
Cabbage shred weight X 0.02 = grams of salt needed
Whatever cabbage shreds you have in the bowl that you just weighed, leave them there and the bowl on the scale. Just tare the scale again, so it will go back to zero grams, and add the grams of salt needed. Now the fun begins!
TAKE THE BOWL OFF THE SCALE.
Start pounding the shredded cabbage and the salt.
Keep pounding and pounding and every now and then mixing in more cabbage shreds, and pounding and pounding. You have time, so start getting your strength by thinking about some brat from your pre-school years – pound, pound, pound – and come up to present day from there.
Meanwhile the cell walls of the cabbage are being broken, and the salt is getting in there. This is making cabbage juice. We want this. Leave the cabbage alone and give yourself a break. Have a danish, or a glass of wine. You’ve earned it!
Time to put the cabbage in the jar. I tend to squeeze out each handful and drop it in the jar, then add the leaves I set aside. Think of them as a blanket you will put over your beat up shreds and tuck the edges down along the sides of the jar. Add your weights or rocks on the top of the leaf blanket. Pour in the juice (do it through a strainer to keep any bits out).
Put the lid on by just setting it on top. Don’t screw it on yet.
Surround it with paper towels along the bottom. The cabbage, for the first few days will make more juice. Let it spill out. For sure your cabbage is covered in juice this way. Just change the paper towels every morning until they don’t need it anymore. Don’t be fooled! Keep a clean paper towel ring around your jar the entire time.
You will see it make juice, and suck up juice, and make juice. Better safe then sorry.
Wait, Paula! Won’t it draw bugs if it gets on my counter???? No! It won’t.
You can’t compost sauerkraut. It kills the organisms that make your compost. I have been told it is a good cleaning product, but I’m not there yet.
Your pretty kraut will start to look like this. From the side (notice the wet towel?).
And this fro the top. Those little clusters of air bubbles are normal. Just keep changing that towel every day – you will smell a vinegary smell on the towel.
Look closely, none of this is frightening. This is kraut becoming kraut. When the over production of juice stops, screw the lid down loosely. Please Note: The lid is off so you can see it. The lid was resting on the jar other then when I took the photos. You don’t want to go dry due to evaporation, or have dust and whatever float in – that’s gross!
Now, leave it be for 12 (yes, twelve) weeks. It doesn’t need dark, and it doesn’t need you, so leave it alone.
At the end of 12 weeks, take a tiny taste. Does it taste like sauerkraut? Is it nice and tangy and bitter? You can put it in smaller containers (I use baggies) and put it in the refrigerator, or if you have room, put the big jar in there. You are stopping the fermentation process or at least slowing it down a lot.
I like mine warmed with a spicy sausage on a cold day. I’ve been told it has more health benefits if I eat it raw. I don’t care. I’m past 50, so I get to eat it hot.
YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY!!!!
Do you want to know what can go wrong? The next blog is all about how I got fancy, and lost a little weight. That is next week.
UPDATE: I wanted to show you what the liquid had done after a week or so. It has not evaporated because my lid has been on the entire time. The cabbage has sucked it up!
Everything is going just fine with this sauerkraut. I should look this way. If it takes up much more of the brine I will make a standby jar of 2% brine.
2% brine is: 5 grams of salt to 1 cup (250 ml) of water
IF THE WEIGHTS START TO SHOW ABOVE THE WATER LINE ADD THE STANDBY BRINE TO KEEP THEM COVERED.