Because of the recent St. Patrick's Day festivities cabbage was on sale in all the markets. A perfect time to stock up and make some sauerkraut. When I was a kid I was a sauerkraut addict. Loved the stuff! I ate it straight from the can. That's right I said can. I had no idea it came any other way. So imagine my delight when I tasted fresh kraut from the deli. H-E-A-V-E-N. Crunchy, salty heaven. My kids hate it. They don't live here any more. Let's make some.
Start with two medium sized heads of cabbage (about 5 lbs), green or red or a combo. Green and red together will produce a pretty pink kraut. Remove some outer leaves wash and save for later. Cut into fourths and remove the core. Thinly shred using your preferred tool. I used my food processor with the slicing blade, not the grating blade. You can do this with a knife it just takes longer.
Yes, I'm using a clean wine bottle and yes there is wine in there. If you just don't get enough liquid to cover you might have to make some brine by boiling 4 cups water and adding 1 1/2 tbsp pickling salt. Cool before adding.
Pack your kraut in a clean gallon jar. Tamp it down as you go, be firm. Remember those reserved outer leaves? Cover with those. Now you have to weight the whole thing to keep the kraut submerged in the brine. I use a zip lock bag of water with all the air removed.
Now cover loosely and wrap in tea towel to keep out light and set in a cool place to ferment. You might want to set it in a pan in case of overflow but I've never had that happen.
Check after 24 hours to be sure the cabbage is covered in brine. Check the sauerkraut every few days and remove any scum that forms on the surface. This stuff looks like a mold but it's harmless, anything below the brine is perfectly good. Of course, if you see any pink mold or if it smells funky, not a clean briney smell you need to throw it out and start over. This probably means things were not clean enough to start with. I didn't have any scum form maybe because it was really protected from air. You should see little bubbles rising to the surface indicating that fermentation is taking place. Be patient. It will be fully fermented in 2 to 6 weeks depending on the temperature. The flavor should change from salty to pickled.
You can store you sauerkraut in the refrigerator in covered jars for several months for delicious fresh taste and that's the way we like it best. I got 6 pints from two heads of cabbage. If it seems too salty when you serve it just give it a rinse in cold water before eating.
For long term storage at room temperature you'll need to process it using the boiling-water bath method. Consult canning methods books for details. Unprocessed sauerkraut has a crunchiness that's lost with heat from processing.
Check out this web site if you want to know more about fermenting foods: Wild Fermentation
Until next time,