Fall is for kraut lovers

A giant head of cabbage was waiting for me at the CSA pickup on Friday and I immediately wanted to make sauerkraut. I still have a pint of last year’s kraut in the basement but the flavor isn’t the same as a brand spankin’ new batch of fermented cabbage. If you’ve never made sauerkraut at home I recommend Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling, and anything by Sandor Katz’, like his online sauerkraut recipe.

Start with fresh cabbage, white is the most popular, and cut it into manageable wedges:

If you value your knuckles and happen to have access to a food processor with a grater attachment you’re golden. KitchenAid mixers also have a grater thingamajig that would be perfect to coarsely shred the cabbage.

The grated cabbage then goes into a bowl with salt and you punch it with your fist (highly therapeutic), or a potato masher, like this:

At first the slaw is coarse and unyielding, which can lead to pinkening of the flesh of your fist and fingers. But keep on punching, squeezing and pressing until a brine begins to form:

You should have a healthy bit of juices on the bottom of the bowl too:

Once the juices are flowing you can add a bit of Caraway seeds or Juniper Berries to the cabbage.

Now you’re ready to put it into that giant 2 quart mason jar you purchased at the hardware store over the summer and haven’t figured out a use for except for the granola storage on top of the fridge:

Tuck one of the reserved outer cabbage leaves onto the top and give yourself 3 inches of headspace for this big jar. You want the brine to come up just above the leaf, a smidgen of filtered water would be OK at this stage if needed.

I’m using the Perfect Pickler apparatus for the first time on sauerkraut, it works similarly to the beer making airlocks my husband uses when brewing. It allows the cabbage to vent but it’s a one-way street – air can escape but nothing can enter the jar. I’ve used the PP with a few batches of pickles this summer and I’m a big fan of clear glass jars for fermenting compared to expense crocks that you can’t tell things are going south in.Good reasons to make sauerkraut in the Fall:

  1. Availability of Fall crop cabbages
  2. Cooler temperatures allow for slower fermentation and better tasting kraut
  3. You’re going to need some kind of condiment for all of the bread you’re baking to keep the house warm!

If you don’t have fancy kraut-making equipment try Ziedrich’s trick of placing ziplock bags on top of the cabbage in your jar and filling with a brine solution until there is no room for air to enter the jar anymore. Cover with a cloth napkin held in place by a rubberband to keep out dust and curious cat noses during the fermenting process.

Do you make sauerkraut? I’d love to hear your story or special tip in the comments below!

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