Friday, October 10, 2008

Crock-Stored Sauerkraut

It was a blustery cold day, with a dusting of snow just before nightfall. I'm soooo glad everything from the garden is snug inside (except for the kales, broccoli, and leeks, anyway - and with temps expected down to 20ºF tonight I covered the broccoli and kale, just to be on the safe side). It was the perfect morning to warm up the kitchen water-bath canning a batch of tomatoes.

Then, this afternoon, it was time to deal with the rest of the cabbages. I had three big heads and one smaller head of cabbage split when I didn't get them root-pruned soon enough. Towards the end of the growing season, cabbage can take up water so fast it can literally burst the head apart. This can sometimes be prevented by driving a shovel into the dirt next to the stem and then half-pulling the plant out of the ground - thus severing half of the roots and slowing the growth down. I caught three big heads and one smaller one soon enough, and got some nice firm heads to store. Not wanting them to freeze, day before yesterday I pulled them up by the roots, pulled off the loose outer leaves (making for some very happy chickens!), and they're now down in the cellar, upside-down, roots and all, in a bin stuffed with straw.

Split cabbage heads don't store very well, but I really don't mind. One big one that was in pretty good shape I've kept in the refrigerator to use now. The other three are now packed into my glass crock, destined to be sauerkraut. When trimmed and shredded, those three yielded five pounds of slaw. I mixed the shreds with three tablespoons of kosher salt, then packed it all into the crock and kept mashing and packing it all down until enough brine had risen to completely submerge the cabbage. I mixed two quarts of water with another 3 tablespoons salt, and poured that brine into a gallon zip-lock freezer bag, squeezing out all the air and sealing it up tight. Laying the bag over the cabbage prevents air from reaching the cabbage and keeps it submerged (using brine instead of plain water means a possible leak won't water down the fermenting cabbage). If air reaches the cabbage, it can spoil the whole batch - the fermentation process needs to be anaerobic. To keep everything clean, I sealed the crock with a piece of plastic wrap before adding the lid. Now it's ready to go into the cellar to ferment. I love having a glass crock - I like being able to see the cabbage change to sauerkraut, and can also see if any spoilage occurs (a pink color is bad in any fermented product - whether it be kraut or yoghurt). Letting it ferment in the cool cellar slows the process way down (usually taking at least 8 weeks), but the kraut will be wonderfully crisp and crunchy. It will make some nice winter meals, and as long as I'm careful to not contaminate the contents when dishing out a bit, it will stay good down there until Spring (or it's gone, whichever comes first).


Nancy M. said...

I've never had homemade sauerkraut. I'll bet it's delicious!

P~ said...

The Kraut looks good! I'm making another batch tomorrow. After the great results we had with our first batch I can't wait. Just as an aside to this, How do you find that the zip lock seals? I used a zip lock at first, but it is so much stiffer, I didn't feel like it really got into the edge as well. I later switched to a plain old cheapy plastic storage bag (The kind that seals with the twist ties.)I found it worked much better, but then again, my crock wasn't that big.

Looking forward to reading you on the Co-op blog too btw.

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to try making kraut. My dad says that one of his favorite memories is walking through the summer kitchen in the late fall/early winter and reaching into the kraut crock for a taste. Thinking about this, I think he probably risked contaminating the entire crock doing such a thing. But, he is still here - so it must have not been too big a concern!


Sadge said...

I think once the fermentation is finished, the risk of contamination isn't so great. Just like making sourdough, beer, hard cider or yoghurt, you want only the good little beasties involved in your fermentation process. That's when it's important to keep all the wild yeasts and bacteria out.

frogtailrae said...

It's nice watching the seasons change on your blog site ~ just scroll up and down :-)

Jackie said...

I got my kraut recipe from the "Stocking UP" book by Rodale. There were several recipes. Hard to decide until I saw: "If your grandmother made saurkraut, this is probably how she did it".

My first try worked! Followed the recipe to the n'th degree. Slice the cabbage dime thin. For each 10 quarts of cabbage, exactly 3 TBL spoons & 2 tsps salt. Mix well.

I used a 5 gallon crock (about 15 lbs. cabbage) then canned it when it was finished. It's occured to me this year that kraut is an excellent source of Vitamin C. Heating (canning) kills Vit.C. So I'm going to store it in the crock, in the root celler, this year.

(I remembered reading that they stored kraut on the ships to prevent scurvy amongst the sailors. Scurvy is caused from Vitamin C deficiency)

I was wondering about the scum that forms when it's fermenting. Does it continue to scum during winter storage? If so, do we keep skimming it?

Thanks for this page and the great information. Just found it!


uno said...

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