Monday, February 22, 2010

Homemade sauerkraut

I’ve just read a fascinating book called “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s all about fermenting and curing pretty much anything you wish. There is extensive discussion of the (supposed) actual health benefits that derive from preserving foods … enhanced nutitional value, e.g.

In any case, Katz inspired me to make my own sauerkraut. The process is extraordinarily simple. It’s not my habit to “cop” a recipe from someone, but the book might be very hard to find (Denver Public Library has only a single copy), and this is worth sharing.

The container I like to use isn’t large enough for the 5 lbs. of cabbage called for. I made ½ a head of standard green cabbage (about 2.5 lbs). All I did was adjust the salt proportionally. Simple. The quantity my amount of cabbage yielded was about 32 fluid oz.

The flavor and aroma are fairly pungent, more like sour dills than a can of kraut off the shelf. We loved it.

My next Katz-inspired attempt will be Korean kimchee, something I’ve made a couple of times with only moderate success.

Homemade sauerkraut (from “Wild Fermentation” by S. E. Katz)
5 lbs. cabbage
3 tbsp non-iodized salt (4 if using kosher salt)
Ceramic crock or large bowl, plate, and something to weight the cabbage down with (brick, jug of water, etc.
Kitchen towel for covering

Chop cabbage or grate it. Layer it in your crock or bowl sprinkling with salt as you go along. You actually don’t need to use all the salt; it might must take a little longer to ferment. Use your hand to press the cabbage down forcefully (without hurting yourself or breaking your vessel) as you go along.

Top the cabbage with a plate or disk of some kind so that, after the cabbage exudes moisture over the first 24-36 hours, the weighted disk will keep it all submerged.

For that initial period cram the cabbage down every few hours and recover with plate, weight and a kitchen towel (to keep out foreign matter). Let the curing vessel sit in a warmish place while the cabbage ferments. If it doesn’t exude enough liquid to cover itself, add some brine to it (1 tbsp salt per cup of water). If it’s in a cooler place it will still ferment, just more slowly.

After 5-7 days start tasting. You have to decide for yourself when it’s “sour” enough. For me it was about 10 days, after which I packed the sauerkraut into jars and refrigerated it.

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