Sauerkraut- A Patient and Rewarding Endeavor
Almost all of us are stuck inside right now, looking out our windows into a haze of hazardous air, concerned for all of the members of this community who have lost their homes and are in crisis. Though it is challenging to stay occupied and feel productive, I offer you this: Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a simple and incredibly nutritious way to transform cabbage into a tangy, delicious side or snack. High in Vitamin C and D and incredible for your gut health, it actually can improve your ability to absorb nutrition from all of the other foods you eat. So, get some cabbage, salt, caraway and garlic and get to work!
The key to making great sauerkraut is keeping an eye on it. Check on your kraut every day, make sure that the cabbage stays submerged in brine and taste it along the way so you can stop fermentation when it has reached your desired level of sourness.
You will need:
1 large red or green cabbage
2 TBSP Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 TBSP Caraway seeds, dill seeds or coriander seeds
For Additional Brine:
1 TBSP kosher salt
1 cup water
A tall glass or ceramic vessel for fermenting, a half gallon mason jar will work perfectly for this
Set the outermost leaves of the cabbage aside, you will use them later. Chop all of your cabbage into thin slices. Place the chopped cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt and massage the cabbage, squeezing it in your hands to break down the cell walls. Let the cabbage sit for 10 to 15 minutes, it will begin to release liquid. The fresher the cabbage is, the more liquid it will release. If, like me, you are making sauerkraut with a cabbage that has been sitting in your refrigerator for a while, you will need to make additional brine.
Add the chopped garlic and spices. I prefer to use caraway because it is very traditionally german, but you can experiment with spices you like. Dill seed, juniper and coriander go wonderfully with the tart cabbage. Begin to pack the kraut into your clean ceramic or glass vessel and press it down firmly as you go, you do not want there to be any air bubbles. This is a wonderful opportunity to release any anger or frustration you may be feeling towards the state of the world. Make sure to get as much liquid out of the cabbage as possible, be aggressive.
Once all of the cabbage is packed into the vessel, make sure it is submerged in liquid. Use the outer leaves of the cabbage on top of the chopped cabbage to keep it submerged. A small plate or an airtight ziploc bag filled with brine will also work. Filling the bag with brine ensures that if it pops or leaks, it will not dilute the cabbage.
Saltier cabbage will ferment more slowly so I add more salt when the weather is warm. Fermentation goes quicker when the weather is warmer and the cabbage is more likely to spoil. When it is cooler, I’ll use less salt so the fermentation process will happen more rapidly. If the cabbage has not produced enough liquid to submerge itself, dissolve one tablespoon of salt in a cup of water and add that on top. Cover the vessel with a clean rag or cloth napkin and secure it in place with a rubber band. Set it in a warm place in your kitchen and check on it every day. Don’t be disheartened if some scum rises to the top of the brine, use a spoon to skim it off and continue. The last batch of kraut that I made was ready in 5 days. Keep a close eye on it and when it is just the way you like it, put it in the refrigerator, this will halt the fermentation
Once your kraut is in the refrigerator it will last for months! You can serve it on your hotdogs, eat it in a grilled cheese sandwich, spoon it over a grilled porkchop, or just eat it as a snack. Enjoy!