Ok, you’ve got your Polish fermenting crock, your knife, your cutting board and the rest of the supplies. It’s time to ferment some homemade sauerkraut!
Note: If you haven’t read part 1, it’s about gathering all of the equipment you’ll need. So go ahead and click over to Homemade Sauerkraut Using a Polish Crock! Part 1: Assemble Your Equipment & Find Your Cabbage if you need to.
Preparing The Cabbage
Rule #1: Don’t wash the cabbage! One of the great things about making sauerkraut is the fact that the cabbage leaves carry the natural bacteria needed to turn cabbage into kraut. Just carefully pull off any damaged or dirty outer leaves and toss into the compost.
Using a very clean cutting board and a sharp knife, cut the cabbage into quarters going through the core so each quarter has a part of the core with it. Remove the core, this will be a long triangular piece which does not go into the batch of sauerkraut.
Turn the cabbage on it’s side and proceed to carefully slice the cabbage into shreds the thickness of a dime. Pretty much as thin as you can, keeping your fingers safe. (Keeping the shreds sliced long and slender helps the cabbage stay under the stoneware weights of your Polish Fermenting Crock while fermentation takes place.)
Salting And Tamping The Sliced Cabbage
After slicing 3 to 4 heads, put the cabbage in a large container like an enamel canning pot and weigh the shredded cabbage. When you reach 5 lb. you have a “layer”. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt to the 5 lb. layer. We added 2 Tablespoons to ours and liked the result. Mix the salt and cabbage well and let sit about 30 minutes to let the salt begin to draw the juices.
Pour the cabbage and salt mixture into your Polish Fermenting Crock and tamp firmly but not so hard as to crack the crock! Continue adding 5 lb. layers of sliced cabbage and salt, firmly tamping and bruising the newly added layer each time in order to release the juice, until the cabbage is within 4 to 5 inches of the top of the crock
When the last layer of salted cabbage is in the crock, continue tamping until there is enough juice to begin to cover the cabbage. Pat the cabbage smooth,cover with two layers of whole cabbage leaves and then place the weights on top of the whole cabbage leaves below the rim of the crock.
The juice should rise to 1 to 2 inches above the cabbage. Place the lid onto the crock, pour water into the water channel so that it fills around the lid. This provides a seal which creates an oxygen and mold free environment for natural lactic acid fermentation. Be sure to keep plenty of water in the water channel during the fermenting process. Cover the whole sheng with a clean lint free cotton tea towel. Hurray! You have finished the labor intensive portion of the project.
OPTIONAL: Add enough brine to bring the brine/juice level to above the stone weights. This eliminates the need to check brine during the fermentation process. Some feel that by not breaking the seal (when you lift the lid) there is more concentration of lactic acid, creating a broader spectrum of probiotics in the finished sauerkraut. It is important to keep plenty of water in the lid channel. BRINE ratio: 1 1/2 Tablespoons canning salt to 2 cups of water.
Fermenting The Cabbage
Now you will need to decide where your kraut will call home for the next four weeks. The polish fermenting crock needs to be in a place where you can keep an eye on the progress with an ideal temperature range of 64 degrees to 72 degrees. It won’t hurt the kraut to dip below 64 degrees, it will only prolong the fermentation period.
Fermenting Foods Have A Specific Fragrance Which Is Strongest In The Last Two Weeks Of Fermentation
The good news is this will not be a problem when using the Polish Fermenting Crock because the lid water seals the crock and there is no indication of fermenting odor until the lid is taken off.
Lifting the lid should only occur a few times while checking the level of the brine. The brine should be kept at 1 to 2 inches above the cabbage. If you keep enough water in the water channel, it will help to keep the brine level above the fermenting cabbage.
Use either water that has been boiled, or bottled spring water, as tap water in most areas will have chlorine or other additives that will impair or alter the fermenting process. If you boil your water, add the salt to dissolve and allow it to cool completely before pouring it into your batch of sauerkraut.
Did You Know Your Polish Fermenting Crock Burps?
They do! As the cabbage ferments it creates CO2 gas which bubbles up through the water in the channel. This causes the lid to jiggle making a “burping” noise. It’s a lovely little sound that means your work is paying off and all is well! Soon there will be kraut. We found that the closer the kraut is to being finished the less burping there is.
Decanting Your Homemade Sauerkraut
After about four weeks the fermenting process is finished and the kraut smells wonderful! Open up your crock and take the stone weights off of the top of the sauerkraut. Lift the first couple of inches of kraut out and put in a separate bowl. Pour the rest of the kraut and juice into a large container like an enamel canning pot. Now compare the top layers of kraut in the smaller bowl to the rest. If the top layers are not as crisp and flavorful, you can discard this top portion. When using a Polish fermenting crock this is unlikely to happen.
Pack the sauerkraut tightly into as many one quart Mason jars as it takes, we usually pack some half gallon jars.
Wide Mouth Quart Jar – *You can select half gallon, quart or pint jars at this link*
- We prefer wide mouth for ease of packing. We always have a few pint jars ready as well (great for gifts)
Once it is all packed divide the sauerkraut juice among the jars. If there is not enough juice to cover the kraut completely, top off each jar with the brine mixture (see brine recipe above). Place the lid and band on each jar, twisting till it is medium tight.
Store Your Jars of Homemade Sauerkraut in the refrigerator or in a pantry that stays around 55 degrees.
Your homemade sauerkraut has a shelf life of up to a year in the pantry and two years in the refrigerator. But don’t worry, it won’t last that long. Be sure to Check out our delicious recipes using sauerkraut at: Let’s Make Sauerkraut! Part 3: The Kraut’s Finished. It’s Delicious. Now What? Recipes!