A crock of sauerkraut fermenting in the refrigerator fills the fall with anticipation.
Sometime in October, plan to bring out the finest würstel, good mustard and gather with friends to lift a pint, offering gratitude for the harvest and a welcome anticipation for the season to come. So get ready, slice that cabbage and let the anticipation begin!
This is the one we teach in our fermentation class.
Rule of thumb: Use 3 Tbs. of salt for every five pounds of shredded cabbage.
- Clean the head of cabbage, removing the outer leaves and the core.
- Chop the cabbage into thin slices or use a cabbage board to grate it. About 1/8″ works well. Just make sure the sizes are consistent.
- Weigh the shredded cabbage in increments of 5 lbs. A larger amount is to too hard to manage when developing the “juice” or brine. If you’re going to make a smaller amount adjust the process accordingly.
- Use a clean, large bussing tub. You can purchase these at Cash & Carry. Obviously smaller amounts don’t need such a large vessel. Mix the shredded cabbage & salt together with your hands and massage the mixture until liquid begins to run.
- Once the juice begins to run pour the cabbage & juice into the fermentation container. Press it down with your fists or a wooden spoon, submerging the cabbage beneath the liquid. This is important! The magic happens under the surface. Less than magic happens above the surface.
- If you plan on using spices add them under each 5 lb layer. Some people like to tie their spices in a linen bag. The spice combinations vary with each culture. (See the bulleted list below for suggestions.)
- Once the container is fully packed cover the kraut with a plate or container that will keep the kraut submerged in the brine. Some people use a clean ziplock bag filled w/ brine or water. If you’re using a crock, cover the whole thing with a large towel to keep out bugs and dust. If you’re using a jar, lightly place the lid on the jar. I don’t tighten the lid until the fermentation process has started.
Recently I’ve started using an air-lock like the wine and beer makers use. It prevents outside air from entering and allows the ferment to burp. You can purchase kits or buy the air-lock and lid at beer supply stores. You can tighten the lid from the very beginning of the process with an airlock.
8. Each day inspect the container, remove any scum that appears and close it up again. Make sure the vegetables are completely submerged in the brine. Wash the weight and lid before replacing. This step is eliminated when using an air-lock.
9. Once the sauerkraut has reached the desired “tang”, store it in the refrigerator or a very cool place. I start the kraut for 3 days on the countertop in a cool, dark place. Then I place it in the refrigerator and let the slow process begin. The slower the fermentation process the longer it keeps and the more complex the flavors.
10. When will it be ready to eat? You should have a good kraut by the beginning to middle of October if you use your cabbages coming out of the field in early to mid September. But, this is a natural process subject to multiple variables which will effect the duration of the process, i.e how cold is your refrigerator, how far along was the fermentation when you chose to put it in the refrigerator,( that is subject to the ambient temperature in the room where you started it)? Did you keep the ferment clean by avoiding contamination of the container when you tested it? You are working in partnership with billions of lovely, little bacteria. Get to know them.
Spice Options for Sauerkraut
- Caraway Seed –4 Tbs/gal of cabbage
- Dill Seed– 4 Tbs/gal of cabbage
- Celery Seed– 4 Tbs/gal of cabbage
- Juniper Berries– 3 Tbs/gal of cabbage
- Apples-sliced-as much as you like.
- Invent a combination that works for you.