Sunday, October 09, 2011

Make your own sauerkraut

The other day I was listening to my favorite channel on Sirius, which is Martha Stewart Living, when a discussion about Farmhouse Culture's kraut came on.  Disclaimer....there are shows on MSL that I really don't like, including Whatever with Jennifer Hutt and Home Design with Kevin Sharkey, but I just change the channel when they are on to the 60s or 70s channel or maybe the Loft or Coffeehouse, or one of the quote unquote "alternative" stations.  In Northern California, Farmhouse Culture is pretty much the same kind of business as Ann Arbor's Brinery, which makes all sorts of fermented treats.   However, they both charge about $8 for a 16 oz. jar of kraut, and it is so ridiculously cheap and easy to make at home, I recommended you do that instead. 

Yesterday, at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, I bought 2 whopper cabbages (about 9 lb each) for a grand total of $5 total.  That will about 7 quarts of kraut....let's do the math....7 quarts = 224 oz.  Time to do some "guzzintas", as Jethro Bodine used to say, ....that's 14 (16 oz.) jars of kraut,  now do some "cipherin" and "fetchin' the naught" and that works out to be about 35 cents a jar, not including the canning salt, which cost are negligible.  See what I mean?  You can do this - and no special equipment is required, despite what you may have heard.   For example, the Germans make so much kraut they have special tools to do the job.    Enter the krauthobel....which is a like a giant mandoline:

It's really not required if you have a knife.  I am going to use my food processor to make the job quicker.   Then, there's the people that believe you have to beat up the cabbage first....enter the kraut pounder....

The flawed theory is that you need to pound the cabbage to help it make juice...but you don't need to, it will do fine on it's own.   Then there's the pickling crock....

Being the child of Polish pickle making people, I have 3 of them, but you don't need a crock to make kraut.  You can make a small batch in a canning jar, or for a bigger batch, use the ceramic insert from your crockpot, or any food safe bucket.  In Ann Arbor, Kilwin's Ice Cream Shop will sell you their empty 5 gallon ice cream tubs for 3/$1.00 which would make a fine container for pickling

There is much folklore about making kraut, including:

  1. In Appalachian folk medicine, menstruating women are warned not to make kraut of pickles when they are menstruating because the product will spoil. 
  2. Make the kraut in the dark of the moon.  The moon sign has to be right - going down, or waning or in the "Dark Days" Otherwise the kraut would swell and run over.  
  3. Never make kraut when the moon is full.
  4. Don’t make the kraut when the signs are in the bowels or feet or dog days. The astrological chart has a Zodiac man with his body divided into 12 signs. Each sign is associated with a different part of the body such as the head, neck, shoulders, sexual organs, bowels, legs and feet. It seems that the best sign for kraut-making is in the head and neck. By all means, it must be in a sign above the waist. If you go below the waist, the kraut will either smell bad, rot or make to much water and overflow your crock.
  5. If the moon is “waxing, full, waning, going down or new,” it is good to go ahead with the kraut.
So much to consider....let's see how I am doing here on Oct. 9, 2011. 

  1. Without sharing TMI, let's just rate this as "no worries here" and move on
  2. Moon is at waxing gibbous, 94% full.  Uh oh....
  3. I'm good, the moon won't be full until Tuesday
  4. Per the Farmer's Almanac, the moon is is Pisces, a foot sign.  Another uh oh....
  5. Wait a minute, I thought the moon had to be waning per folklore rule #2, but now it appears it's okay to be waxing, too.   But then again, isn't this the same rule as #3?
I'm going to take my chances on today, I guess....

So here's how to make kraut...the ratio is need 5 lbs cabbage to 3 tablespoons pickling salt.   Slice the cabbage thinly....about the thickness of a quarter.  Mix the salt and the cabbage thoroughly and pack it tightly in your pickling vessel.   The cabbage needs to be weighted down to keep it from floating.   You can use a Ziploc bag filled with brine in case it springs a leak (1 1/2 T. pickling salt per quart of water) but for my crocks, I use a kitchen plate weighted down by canning jars filled with water.  Since I keep my crocks in the laundry room, I cover them with old pillowcases (a trick I learned at Greenfield Village's Firestone Farm) to keep lint out of them, but they don't need to be covered.   Pickling needs air!  Within 24 hours, the cabbage should be submerged in it's own juice.   If it isn't, add some brine (use the ratio shown above for the plastic bags)  I've never had to do this, my decision to not consult the moon signs not withstanding.   Every day or two, skim the scum off the top of the kraut.   Start tasting the kraut after 2 weeks....the kraut will be fully fermented in 2-4 weeks at 70 F and in 5-6 weeks at 60 F.  It will be pale in color and tart in flavor.  When fermentation is complete, bubbles will have stopped rising to the surface.  

When it's done, you can store it in a very cool place (38F) or your fridge.  It freezes well, too.  Canning will destroy the vitamin C and probiotic health benefits of live fermentation, so I don't bother with it.  I just keep it in my garage in canning jars over the winter, where it stays cold enough.

Here's a recipe I can't wait to try that the Farmhouse Culture people talked about on the MSL radio program.   It's for a kraut salad that's supposed to be a popular side dish served in Poland.

Polish Kraut Salad

Serves 6
16 oz. kraut
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 to 2/3 cup good quality olive oil
Toss all ingredients together and serve as a side salad.

Give kraut a try and tell me how it turns out!


Bee Engelhart, Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved said...

Thanks for the recipe. My grandparents used to make sauerkrat in a crock which they kept in the "cellar". I make a Sweet Sauerkraut by draining the kraut and then cooking on the stovetop for about an hour with a few other ingredients. Going to give your homemade recipe a try - one of these days!

Marla said...

Awesome - I just came over from Chowhound, and this is very helpful.

Question - does it produce an odor that would be unpleasant inside a home? I also want to make kimchi, and fear that will be stinky, but am not sure about un-garliced veggies like these.


Cynthia said...

I have never made kimchi, but I bet it would smell bad due to the fish sauce. Kraut, however, doesn't smell at all. It does tend to give off a smell when you cook it, however.

Anonymous said...

So... I put my first batch of plain green cabbage kraut in a crock on Feb 11. Right now it smells like sauerkraut, not at all like it is foul or spoiled, but isn't particularly tangy. Salty, though.

Does this seem normal and should I wait it out and keep tasting? I do love the sour taste.

I also have a small crock of red cabbage/beet/ginger kraut going, inspired by the Brinery's. That seems to be moving fast but is not done yet - looking forward to trying it.



Cynthia said...

Marla, I'd let it go until it is sour enough for your taste or it stops can check and see if it is done by tapping the side of your container. If it bubbles, it is still going.

Marla said...

OK - success after 4-5 weeks! My batch of green kraut is tangy and salty and I've transferred it and refrigerated most of it (some goes into tonight's dinner).

It is quite salty, but washing/soaking a sample helped. Perhaps I oversalted it?

Side note - I saw The Brinery selling a red cabbage/beet/ginger kraut at Detroit's Eastern Market, and since I had all of those at home (and not much, just enough to fill a 16 oz jar), I shredded and salted them and packed them into the 16 oz jar with a weight etc. I don't know what the Brinery's ratios are, mine were probably 65 cabbage 30 beet 5 ginger. Three weeks later this little jar is tangy and very tasty - into the fridge for later as well. Yay, fermentation!


Anonymous said...

I remember hearing that myth about not making when menstruating while I was living in Boone nc.. In a little valley of farms that grew huge cabbage.
Heard it straight from an old timer.. Never found out if it was true but it was commonly believed

Artful Lawyer said...

Hey there - I think that I (my fault, not a recipe's) oversalted a batch of kraut before. It still fermented - any tips on this? Just soak it well before use to remove extra salt?

Cynthia said...

@Artful, yes, that is what I would do. Just rinse it before you cook with it to remove excess salt.

Anonymous said...

My mommy always said a girl on their period couldn't make kraut it would go bad every time........and I'm from my lol.

1wiseman said...

My family have always added medium hot peppers to the cabbage and salt.The addition does not add heat to the kraut but imparts a wonderful flavor.As an experiment I added jalapeno pepper to a small batch of kraut a few years back. I can honestly say it was some of the best kraut I ever made. My great uncle who taught me how to make kraut swears he does not care for hot peppers but told me the jalapeno kraut was the best he had ever tasted.It was given to him by accident