Sour seems to be a theme in my life. Sourdough, sauerkraut (literally sour cabbage), kefir (soured milk). There is a reason for this. Soured products either preserve the food or make nutritionally available more of the goodness in the food. Or both. 😀 Sauerkraut is both.
Way back when or “in the olden days” as I tell Jasper, there was few methods of preserving food available. Fridges and freezers were yet to be invented and canning and bottling weren’t available either. So, how to preserve the Summer and Autumn bounty for other seasons when food was scarce? Yes, people ate far more seasonably but without some for of preservation you could end up with onions, any meat you had hunted and grains to eat or make into breads and little else. Don’t forget too, foods like potatoes were only introduced to the UK and Europe after Christopher Columbus had discovered the Americas. Many of the longer storing vegetables weren’t available to Europe yet. So, how to preserve the excess foods from harvest? well, with root vegetables like beets and such and with cabbage they can be pickled or soured. This makes their goodness nutritionally available and also enhances that goodness with the probiotics that are added in the souring process. Sauerkraut, a food we associate with German cuisine is made using 3 ingredients plus a little labour. And it’s not that much unless you make a big batch. 🙂
So, here’s my “How to make Sauerkraut” instructions. 🙂
Take 1 cabbage. You can use red or white cabbage, it makes no difference or so I’ve read. So far I’ve only used white but that’s what’s been available each time I’ve made it. I now have a purple cabbage though as I reckon a combo of both would be really pretty. And yes, aesthetics are a big part of food to me. 😉
So, take your cabbage, peel off the outer leaves and get rid of any yucky bits. Then comes the “labour” part. You need to slice it thinly. I read somewhere that you slice it to the thickness of a dime but that means little to me having not held a dime since 1997. 😉 But you get the idea. Pretty thin. If you have a mandolin slicer here then it’s going to be a much quicker job and far more uniform slices. I have however, failed to locate the box my mandolin slicer is packed in so I just sliced the old fashioned way.
Once all your cabbage is sliced up, stick it in a bowl and find something to pound it with. I use the end of a wooden rolling pin. Now you need to bruise the cabbage. This helps to reduce the juices inside. It doesn’t need to be totally flattened but give it a good ol’ squishing. When you’ve finished you want it looking a bit limp and lame but not requiring life support.
Pack it into sterilised jars and I mean pack it down. Put in a loose 1/2 jars worth then pummel it down, then repeat until the jar is about an inch from the top. It should be firmly packed.
Now you need your salty water. Please do NOT use iodised or even uniodised table salt. The iodine in it will kill the good bacteria that we’re harnessing for the souring and it’s also not good for you. Normal table salt is about as good for you as sugar so please do yourself a healthy favour and get good quality salt. I’ve seen sites recommending pickling salt but I’ve used Maldon salt and that worked well and I now use Himalayan rock salt so I’ll see how that goes. Anything but that bleached and processed rubbish sold cheaply as salt. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of filtered or chlorine free water. It needs to be chlorine free as the chlorine will also kill the good bacteria on the cabbage and we need them to do the work for us. Pour the water over the cabbage in the jars until it is submerged and pretty close to the top. Screw on the lid until it just catches. it should be pretty loose.
Put your jars in a tray such as a cake tin or slice tray. It’s going to bubble up and spill over so you want something to catch that excess liquid. Then put the whole lot in your pantry or a cupboard for 2 to 3 weeks to ferment.
The first time I made this I was really worried when I brought my tray out of my pantry. The tray was full of mold. 😦 I thought I’d stuffed something up but I hadn’t. The tray and its overflow had been exposed to the air and the bacteria that travel thereon but the jars were all full of clean beautifully fermented sauerkraut. 😀 If there is mold inside the jar then you need to discard the sauerkraut. If that happens then I’d hazard a guess that the jar wasn’t completely sterile at time of packing or something has got in when handling the jar. These things happen. If there is white stuff floating on top of the water it’s apparently harmless and can be scraped off then re-top the salt water in the jar. I’ve never seen this in mine although I think I lost a jar to mold last year from my second batch.
Keep an eye on the jars though and if the water level has dropped too far then top it up with salty water. Once your 2 to 3 weeks are over, clean your jars off, check that there’s nothing unwanted in or on them, tighten the lids and pop them in the fridge. They should store for several months. I think ours lasted 6 months all up but that’s because we ate it all. 😀
I followed the instructions I found here but left out all the seeds and spices as I didn’t have them first time I made it and the flavour works for our family without them. My mother-in-law was born in Germany and has informed me that caraway seeds are usually included less so for flavouring than for flatulence control. Yes, sauerkraut, if you haven’t heard, is prone to make one a little windy. 😉 A small side effect of a food that contains so very much goodness.
Welcome to a new and wonderful way to boost your probiotics, vitamin C and variety in your meals. It’s a wonderful side serving to go with meats, cheeses, salads and other such meals. And my husband, my kids and I all love it! 😀