Today marks a return to my sauerkraut obsession, which has been neglected for far too long. Oh, you thought I had given up? Never! I will not rest until sauerkraut perfection is achieved once again as it was the very first time I attempted it in 2008 when I had no idea what I was doing.
Feel free to play along with your own cabbage. In 3-5 weeks, when our sauerkraut is ready, we can compare notes/swear words and if you blog about it, I’ll do a sauerkraut roundup linking over to your posts. Okay? Here ya go:
The technique is from Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation. A similarly good method can be found in The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich. I like to add garlic and other flavorings, but using only cabbage and salt is great, too.
5 lbs. cabbage, cored, shredded thinly
3 Tbsp. sea salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
1 Tbsp. juniper berries
2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 bay leaf
In a large bowl, mix the cabbage with the salt and other flavorings with your hands. The salt draws the water out of the cabbage and creates a protective brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour. Pack it all into a large crock as tight as you can, a little at a time, with your fists or a potato masher. Set a plate on top of the cabbage. It should fit snugly inside the crock without getting stuck. Set a clean jug of water on top. The weight will help force more water out of the cabbage as well as keep the cabbage submerged as the water level rises. Cover the whole crock with an old pillowcase to keep out flies and dust. Check the cabbage over the next 24 hours to make sure it has released enough water to be completely submerged. If not, add more liquid in a ratio of 1 Tbsp. salt to 1 cup of water (stirred until salt is completely dissolved) until the cabbage is completely covered.
Let crock sit in a cool dark corner for 3-5 weeks, checking every couple of days to skim off any foam and rinse the plate. Check the brine level. Water will evaporate over time, so you may need to add some fresh water to keep the cabbage submerged and prevent it from rotting. During the fermentation period, do NOT add salt water—only fresh. To find out why, read here. When sauerkraut, reaches the desired flavor, use on reubens, make bacon and sauerkraut strudels, bake with bratwurst or pork chops, or eat it all by itself. Get it right and it's worth the wait!
Local Ingredient Sources:
Cabbage, garlic: Waltham Fields Community Farm, Waltham, MA