Lets Talk Kraut!
Making sauerkraut is a no brainer! It’s tasty! Raw sauerkraut adds another layer of deliciousness to your homemade foods. It’s good for you! It’s cheap! And it’s simple to make. 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 -70 degrees).
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 and 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
Use our links to pick up any equipment you need and you will support our blog at the same time!
If you are using a traditional Stoneware Crock continue with the instructions in the rest of this post.
If you are using a Polish Fermenting Crock, proceed to our post “Let’s Make Sauerkraut Using a Polish Crock Part 1: Assemble Your Equipment and Find Your Cabbage”
- A Basic Stoneware Crock This recipe uses a 5 gallon crock, you can choose the size of crock that works for you and adjust the amount of cabbage you purchase accordingly. You can use a glass jar, but be aware that light promotes mold growth.
- When using a Basic Stoneware Crock, you will need a plate to place on top of the cabbage and a weight to place on top of the plate. This keeps the shredded cabbage submerged and covered with the juice.
- 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 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 above the brine. 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 utensil to skim the natural white film that forms on top of the sauerkraut juice during fermentation.
- A couple of clean lint free 100% Cotton Tea Towels to cover the crock during the fermenting process.
So. If you have the equipment cool! If you need something, we have added the links to items we like. 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 heads of cabbage will fill a 5 gallon crock)
- Canning or pickling salt – not iodized (you will need 2-3 Tablespoons 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 as we did, it is hard to find a farmer. So we went to the local food co-op, who buys from local farmers (we checked) and asked if they had a better price for larger quantities of ORGANIC produce. They had a case price which was a good savings. In order to take advantage of the case price we needed to order in advance which worked out well since it forced us to pick a date and order the cabbage!
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’s fairly 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, which is why we use wooden spoons to thoroughly stir the cabbage and salt.
Wash your crock or fermenting container of your choice thoroughly. We washed the crock with mild dish soap and then poured boiling water over the inside of the crock, as it had not been used in a while.
When you have everything assembled and washed you’re ready for the fun stuff: Let’s Make Sauerkraut Using a Traditional Stoneware Crock! Part 2: Now You’re Ready To Turn Cabbage Into Sauerkraut