Fermented Sauerkraut


It is summer and our organization’s interns are here. They have been keeping us busy and though I have been cooking for them a lot, its been nothing new or fancy. I guess this is my excuse for why I haven’t posted anything all summer.

This is a recipe I have wanted to put on here for a while though. I learned how to make it last year sometime and since then it has become one of my favorite foods. It is a great addition to salads, a side for meat dishes, or good by itself or toped with nuts. Once you get the technique down, it is easy to make and the benefits are worth it. Give it a try, your intestines will thank you.

What you will need:

1. 2 heads cabbage (about 5 lbs)
2. 1 Tbs sea salt
3. 1/4 cup whey
optional ingredients: sliced onions, shredded carrots, chopped garlic
large glass jar with a good seal
large bowl
large wooden spoon
something to pound with

Start out by slicing your cabbage really thin. Put it all in a big steel bowl and sprinkle the salt over it. The salt will help bring out the moisture, so sometimes I do this first and leave it for a while before I begin to pound. If you want to add the extra ingredients for more flavor, do that now. Onions are my favoriete addition, garlic is good too. The first time I tried it with garlic, I put the cloves in whole thinking they would get mashed up when I was pounding. Somehow they survived that though and made it into my mouth whole , boy was that a flavorful bite!

The next step is to crush the cabbage until it is almost translucent. This is a great way to release any pent up frustrations from the day (maybe this is why I have been making sauerkraut so often lately ;-). I usually use an empty olive oil bottle but if you have a hammer or mallet, that might work even better (make sure it is clean though, or covered with something). Pound and stir until you have a good consistency. Sometimes I will take my time with this, pounding for a few minutes, then leaving it and coming back before the next pound. This gives it time to drain out on its own, which means less effort for you in the long run.

When your cabbage is looking really watery, it is time to stir in the whey and cram it into the jar.

I use a large wooden spoon and put it in spoonful by spoonful, cramming it down on all sides in between each addition. You really want to get it as packed in as possible, I often put it on the floor and push down with all my weight. This will push all the liquid to the top and make the fermentation possible. Make sure all the cabbage is submerged, if anything is out of the water it may go bad and need to be thrown out when you open the jar, you may need to add water to make this possible. Do this without filling it too full. It is important to leave about an inch of space above the water line. As the cabbage ferments, it will create air bubbles and push the cabbage up towards the lid, creating a lot of pressure if there is not sufficient space. Once a friend and I stopped washing dishes to try and locate the source of a strange hissing sound. I didn’t realize until the next day that it was a jar of sauerkraut on top of my fridge leaking everywhere and making a mess.
 Leave it in a warm place for 3-5 days (if it is too hot it will turn mushy, try to keep it around 75’F). I find that in the winter it takes longer and I really have to keep an eye on it during the summer. Watch it transform before your eyes and when it looks something like the photo below, its ready. Open it up, give it a try and if you like what you taste, move it to cold storage.

Enjoy!

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