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Friday, November 5, 2010

Sauerkraut, aka How I love fermented cabbage

[I'd like to dedicate this post to my friend, Laurie, who steadfastly refuses to eat sauerkraut of any kind. Even the homemade stuff. Laurie, here's what you're missing...]

At the end of the gardening season there is always, ALWAYS some reject cabbage out there. Either one you forgot about and it got huge and split or a bunch of small heads that aren't enough for much or an animal of some sort was snacking. However you come across your misfit heads, well, that's your business...

Traditionally, sauerkraut was made in large crocks with weights. You'd have to babysit it and check for scum and the whole batch could be ruined by a tiny little bit of cabbage poking out of the brine. I don't have that kind of time and thankfully, neither did my grandma. This is the way she always made sauerkraut...

Here are my split and tiny heads. At first glance, ick.

Peel off the outer layers, the darker green ones, until you get to the firm, light colored leaves.

Slice that bad boy in half with a giant knife. The one you are afraid to use and only bring out for watermelon and cabbage.

The cut it into quarters. Family members may want to remove themselves for safety at this point. The chopping, oh the chopping!!

Slice off the nasty core part on each quarter. Feed to your pigs or chickens or put in your compost pail.

My grandmother hand shredded all of her cabbage on a mandolin slicer. I have moved into the 21st century and use my food processor. I use the slice blade rather than the shred. I find that the shred just makes mush out of my cabbage and you want pieces of cabbage, not mush.

See? Isn't that lovely?? At this point you can set some aside for a late season coleslaw...

Or, you can persuade your manly husband to use his muscles to pack the cabbage in wide-mouth jars!!

You really want to pack those jars tight because the fermentation is an anaerobic process. Which means you don't want a lot of air in your jars.

Then add 2 tsp of non-iodized salt to each quart. Do NOT use iodized salt as it will inhibit the bacteria that make the sauerkraut. The good, healthy kind that help digestion and all that good stuff!!

Add your canning funnel. This was my grandmother's funnel. It's a little bent up, but I wouldn't can without it!

Get some boiling water. It's a good idea to start this when you start shredding the cabbage. Add the boiling water to the jar. You're going to have to wait a bit to let the water percolate down to the bottom. I usually run two jars at once and poke down with the handle of a wooden spoon to help the saturation process.

When you have filled the jars within 1/4 inch of the top with boiling water, get a ring and a lid.

Wipe the rim clean of stray cabbage bits.

And then tighten that lid right up. You don't need your manly, muscular husband to do this part. In fact, if he does, he'll have to unscrew the rings anytime you want to make sauerkraut. Trust me, husbands don't like phone calls that say "Can you hurry home to open this sauerkraut?" Just tighten it yourself....

Now, set the jars on a shelf and leave for a few weeks. They are fermented and ready to eat when the cabbage has changed color from the greenish-white to the tannish-white.