Sauerkraut Worth Waiting For

Eye-popping red cabbage kraut.

CSA Week 8 brought a gigantic 4-5 lb head of red cabbage. I made some orange and ginger slaw for pan-grilled tofu and avocado sandwiches, some salads, and some I ate plain. When I received an email from fellow Ditams Park CSAer about fermenting sauerkraut at home I was certain I knew what to do with my last 2-3 lbs of cabbage.

Sauerkraut is made with a similar process as brined pickles. My recipe comes from the same website, Wild Fermentation, as the pickle recipe. Sauerkraut is among the ranks kimchi, miso, kombucha, horseradish, vinegar, cider, and wines which are left to ferment with the help of microscopic organism that break foods down and develop flavors. These organisms promote diversity among microbial cultures in your body (good for digestion) and can refine flavors unique to your environment.

Apple Ginger Red Sauerkraut

2 1/2 lb red cabbage, shredded
1 apple, shredded
1 onion, shredded
1 medium knob of ginger, peeled and shredded
2 tblsp sea salt

As you work add your shredded ingredients to a large mixing, stirring with increments of the salt. Clean a large (32 oz minimum) wide mouth vessel, which can fit a plate. Some people use a special ceramic crock. I am not that special. I use a jar, but you can also use a clean plastic bucket. Add the salted, shredded ingredients to your vessel (fermenting vessel, sounds prehistoric, eh?) pressing down as you fill. The salt will draw out the luiquids from the ingredients, creating an anaerobic environment for the kraut to ferment in. This keeps bad bacteria or mold from growing on your kraut.

10 minutes after salting, juices begin to cover the cabbage.

Jam down hard the cabbage and friends in the vessel to fit more, and aid the osmotic process. Place a clean plate and place a weight on top. I used a jar full of dried rice that fit nicely. Cover the vessel with a cloth to keep dark, and prevent dust or bugs from getting to your kraut. You are mostly done making the kraut!

Photos of days 2 and 7 fermentation process.

Now you must wait, at least 1 week and up to 4. It's best if you can keep the kraut vessel in a cool dark place. Aggressively pressing down on the weights every few hours the first 2 days will help the fluids form by breaking down the cell walls of the ingredients. Check in on your kraut every day. If you see mold forming on the top of your kraut, skim it off. No biggie. A whitish pink foam is fine. You may mix that in. After a week the volume will reduce greatly, which means almost kraut time. Taste it for the next few days or weeks, until you are happy with the flavor. I put mine in the fridge after 9 days. The flavor is tangy with a complex lingering flavor like a wine, but not bitter or salty. Its awesome on hot dogs, brats, sandwiches, or plain!

Note some things that happened while I was making this batch:
A) It was hot and humid the first 2 days. My entire house smelled like rotting cauliflower and garbage. Awful. I moved the kraut from the kitchen to the closet. After the temperature dropped the smell left.

B) There was so much fluid after 3 days I feared it would overflow! If I had know the volume of the shredded ingredients would reduce I wouldn't have thrown it out. Do not fret over too much fluid!

C) By day 5 the fluids looked too low (because I threw some out day 3) so I had to add a saline solution, and pour it over so the kraut would remain safe in its anaerobic playground.

D) You should use 2 tsp to 1 cup water if your fluid level is low. I probably used 1 tblsp salt to 1/2 cup water. My kraut became too salty. I ended up adding 1/2 cup of water a day for about 3 days until I desalinated the kraut to an edible level.

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