Friday, February 15, 2013

It’s Sauerkraut Season


Here in Northeast Florida, it is cabbage season. All around me are fields full of bright green, dark green, and purple cabbages. They are in such an abundance that I do not bother to grow any myself. I do, however, buy them from the local produce stand (The County Line) and make delicious, lacto-fermented Sauerkraut.

Making lacto-fermented Sauerkraut is super easy. Basically, you just let the cabbage and brine sit for a week. Here’s the details:

  1. You will need a large container to pound the cabbage in, a container for fermenting (I’ll discuss this later), a potato masher, sea salt, spices (optional, but I like celery and caraway seed and black sesame seed).
  2. Shred or thinly slice a couple of heads of cabbage. It can be any cabbage you like. I prefer to use the beautifully colored red cabbage and the crunchy savoy cabbage for my sauerkrauts.
  3. As you add the sliced/shredded cabbage to the large container, lightly salt each layer and give it a good pounding with the potato masher.
  4. Continue layering, salting (and spicing if using) and pounding until you run out of cabbage.                            021213 crushed cabbage
  5. Let the cabbage sit in the container for several hours. Give it a good pounding every 15-30 minutes. You are looking for the cabbage to start expressing its water. You want to get as much water out of the cabbage as possible.
  6. At the end of the day or when you feel you have a good brine started, begin to pack the wet cabbage into your pickling container. I use The Picklemeister glass fermentation jar. This is a great contraption. It has a gallon capacity  and a fitted airlock so you don’t have to worry about contamination. You can use a regular jar and cover it with cheese cloth, but you will need to remove the scum from the top of the surface every couple of days. With the Picklemeister, this is not necessary.
  7. As you add the cabbage to your fermenter, make sure you mash it down very tightly. Hopefully, there will be enough natural brine to cover the top of the cabbage in the fermenter. If not, add a cup or two of saltwater solution (1tablespoon per 2 cups of water should be sufficient) to the cabbage.
  8. Weigh the cabbage down so that it is fully covered by the brine. If you are using an air-locked fermenter, cover it and add the airlock now.021213 Sauerkraut
  9. Next, you just wait. Give the cabbage a taste every day or so to track how the fermentation is going. Here in Florida, where it is fairly warm, it usually only takes 5-7 days to reach a fully mature sauerkraut.
  10. Once you reach a taste that works for you, move the sauerkraut to the refrigerator. This will keep the bacteria from continuing to work and making the kraut too sour. As long as the cabbage remains under the brine the kraut will remain delicious and full of beneficial lactobacillus. You may also can the sauerkraut at this point to keep it shelf stable, but this will kill off the beneficial bacteria.

I hope you give this easy fermentation craft a try. It will turn even a hot dog into a mouthwatering meal!

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