Lets Talk Kraut!
Making sauerkraut with a Polish crock is a no brainer! It’s tasty! Raw sauerkraut adds another layer of deliciousness to your homemade foods. It’s simple to make and it keeps forever. Well, one year if kept in a pantry or basement, somewhere around 55 degrees. Two years in a refrigerator.
It’s cheap. We made 25 pounds of organic sauerkraut for about $30.00, a savings of around $150.00 over store bought and there was enough to share with the entire family.
AND it’s healthy. As in good for your gut. While eating fermented foods nobody has to go out and buy probiotic pills from the pharmacy or health food store made by you don’t know who or where. You and the cabbage have made the probiotic from food grown by a farmer near you if you buy directly from the farmer or a local coop that buys from local farmers, which we make a point of doing.
It’s tasty! Start adding sauerkraut pretty much anywhere you would add a pickle: Sandwiches, salads, relish and appetizer plates. Sauerkraut atop good cheddar cheese is wonderful. Everyone knows about sauerkraut and pork. We’ll add some recipes to help get your creative juices flowing. Pretty soon you will be adding a little kraut here and there until it is part of your daily diet, now that’s a good thing!
It’s relatively fast. From beginning to end including interruptions like phone calls from kids and grandkids, a snack break and a few sips of wine (why didn’t we think of beer??) it took two and a half hours to make, not bad, and we’re way more about having a good time than being fast. The time involved is in the fermenting process, approximately 30 days in a clean, warm out of the way place. 64 -72 degrees is ideal but we have successfully made sauerkraut in much warmer autumn temperatures.
The ingredients are simple: Cabbage and Salt.
The equipment needed is simple and can be used over and over for a myriad of canning projects: See Equipment List below.
Here’s What Ya Do First
Get a cooking buddy. It’s a lot more fun if you have a fellow foodie with which to share your cooking projects. Avoid a whiner, as in someone who is constantly second guessing as to whether the effort is “really worth it”, you’d be better off by yourself. Find someone passionate about “from scratch” cooking for family and friends. Working alone can be satisfying, but working with a like minded partner turns the work into a kind of creative play. You have someone with whom to discuss what went right or wrong, what you would do differently next time, conduct taste tests, make a celebration of the beginning and the ending the project, of the harvest and of the season. So, go find a worthy partner!
Get The Equipment
Note: If you are using a Polish Fermenting Crock, continue with this post. If you are using a Standard Stoneware Crock, you’ll want to click over to our post “Let’s Make Sauerkraut Using a Standard Stoneware Crock Part 1: Assemble Your Equipment and Find Your Cabbage”
Our family has used the old traditional Stoneware Crock to make Sauerkraut for many generations. We decided to buy a Polish Fermenting Crock and experience this different method for fermenting. We found the process to be much easier and less troublesome. The Polish Crock has weights to keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid and the lid seals with a small amount of water in the rim which prevents mold from ever occurring on the top of the sauerkraut.
Best of all ou can keep your sauerkraut project anywhere because you cannot smell the fermentation process except when you lift the lid. We love it!! We have made the switch! No Smell. No Mold. Lovely kraut!! What is not to like?
At no extra cost to you, when you use our links to pick up any equipment you will be helping to support our blog at the same time!
- A Polish Fermenting Crock (a 15 liter Polish Crock equals approximately a 5 gallon basic stoneware crock). This recipe is for a 5 gallon crock, you can choose the size of crock that works for you and adjust the amount of cabbage you purchase accordingly.
- A Wooden Cabbage Stomper for tamping down and bruising the cabbage in order to release the juice.
- An 8 Inch Chef Knife
- Stainless Steel Cabbage Slicer You can also use your chef’s knife, it will just be more labor intensive and take more time to slice the cabbages. But, don’t use the slicing/grating blade of a food processor. It slices the cabbage pieces too small and they won’t stay submerged, floating. Cabbage floating above the brine line molds.
- A large Cutting Board
- A large container (a Large Stainless Steel 12-Quart Stockpot works well, nothing plastic)
- A Kitchen Scale to weigh the layers of shredded cabbage before salting. Using your bathroom scale also works.
- A large Bamboo Utensil, or you could use stainless steel. Don’t use plastic.
- A couple of clean lint free 100% Cotton Tea Towels to cover the top of the polish crock during the fermenting process. This prevents any particles, pet hair, children’s toys, etc. from ending up in the crock rim.
- 1 Quart Mason Jars and/or 1/2 Gallon Mason Jars for storing your sauerkraut
So. If you have the equipment cool! If you need something, we have added the links to items we like to use. The main thing is this: beg, borrow steal or buy, make sure you have all the equipment items you need before you begin the magic of turning cabbage into kraut! This is so fun.
Get The Ingredients
- Organic Cabbage (25 to 30 average size heads of cabbage will fill a 5 gallon crock)
- Canning or Pickling Salt – not iodized (you will need 2-3 TBS for every 5 LBS of sliced cabbage)
Decide where to buy your cabbage. If you do this project in the fall (end of September or early October is good for cabbage) you can buy from the local growers market. If you’re doing a small batch just buy at the going price. If you are doing a big project, tell the farmer what your project is, how many pounds of cabbage you need and ask what his/her best price is. It’s worth checking two or three stands unless you have a favorite farmer you trust to grow your food.
If you do this project in January, it is hard to find a farmer. Go to a food co-op, who buys from local farmers and asked if they have a better price for larger quantities of ORGANIC produce. If you can get a case price it is a good savings. In order to take advantage of the case price you may need to order in advance.
Make sure you buy Pickling Salt (NOT iodized). That’s it for the ingredients: Organic cabbage, Pickling salt! How much easier does it get??
Prepare the kitchen
This isn’t hard but it is important. You don’t want any extraneous yeasts, molds or bacteria to get into your kraut. It will ruin the whole project and you will be boo hooing about how making sauerkraut is harder than you thought. We avoid these problems by clearing the kitchen of other projects. For instance, don’t have a yeast bread raising in the kitchen during fermenting projects. I did that only once. Yuck. I ruined a entire crock of pickles that were fermenting on my counter by adding yeast to flour in close proximity to the pickles.
We wipe down the counters with vinegar water and wash all equipment with hot soapy vinegar water. Better safe than sorry. While we’re on the subject of extraneous bacteria etc, if you plan on mixing the cabbage and salt with your hands be sure to scrub your hands immediately before plunging them into the bowl. Do not stop to answer the phone or you will need to wash again. We use wooden spoons to thoroughly stir the cabbage and salt just to be safe.
Wash your polish crock thoroughly. We wash the crock with mild dish soap and then poured boiling water over the inside of the crock.
When you have everything assembled and washed you’re ready for the fun stuff: Homemade Sauerkraut Using A Polish Crock! Part 2: Now You’re Read To Turn Cabbage Into Sauerkraut