Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sauerkraut: Its Finally Done!

So after about 8 weeks of fermentation (our house stays pretty cold in the winter months) the Sauerkraut is finally done.  I canned it this weekend and now we have access to our dining room.  Before I give you the recipe let me first say that this is the best sauerkraut I have ever had and I come from a very German family who used to make lots of sauerkraut.  That being said I believed certain online sources when they said that the smell was minimal.  Let me tell you that I would say that next time I would do this outside or in a secluded part of your basement because there is a distinct smell which is not very pleasant. However do not let me discourage you from taking this project on because it was very rewarding and also not very time consuming which is nice.

Cooling after their Water Bath!
This process is really pretty easy so I'll just lay it out for you.

1. Make sure you use fresh cabbage.  I got mine at a steep discount around St. Patty's day at my local grocery store.  I bought about 10 pounds, maybe a little more.  The goal was to have 10 pounds of cabbage going into the fermentation process so make sure you get a little extra to account for the parts of the cabbage you will not use.

2. Get some crocks or use a large non-reactive pot.  I used a crock that went to a crock pot I had and the canner that I had which was enameled.  Both of these worked really well.  You will need a plate or something large, and round to hold down the cabbage under the liquid you will add. I used dinner plates of different sizes.  They don't have to fit the exact diameter of your container, they just have to be big enough to hold down the cabbage under the liquid.  Also, you will need some kind of weights to hold this down.  I used old water bottles that I washed well and filled with water but you can also use canning jars you have around. 

3. Wash the cabbage and cut it into thin strips, place this in the containers you have chosen.  Massage the cut cabbage vigorously to release all its liquid. Don't be shy!

4. Most likely you will need to add liquid in order to ensure that the cabbage is completely covered.  What is not covered will rot and that is bad.  You should add a saltwater mixture.  I used sea salt because I did not have canning salt and my kraut turned out great.  The liquid its in is a touch cloudy, but once I canned it you couldn't tell.  Whether you want to use sea salt or pickling salt dissolve 3/4 of an ounce into two quarts of warm water and pour it over the cabbage. 

5. Place the plate and weights on the cabbage and make sure all the cabbage is well covered in brine. Cover container with a towel. Keep in mind that over time some of the water might evaporate and you might need to add more brine.

6. So this is the part where Im supposed to tell you to skim off the bloom or mold or scum (whatever you get on top, each batch is different) every day.  Well, I didnt do it every day, or even every other day.  I did it maybe twice a week, sometimes once a week.  I would say this last batch was pretty active in making stuff appear on top but I just skimmed it off and everything was cool underneath.  I even ate some of the kraut raw and I did  not get sick or anything.  So lets just take a minute and tell ourselves that if our kraut grows mold its a good thing, it means good, wholesome fermentation is occurring and we like that. Just make sure to remove any cabbage that wasn't covered by the brine.  Also its ok if there are tiny little dots of "stuff" left over after skimming the mold/ scum/ bloom.  These go away once you can them.

7. Let your kraut ferment for 4-6 weeks at 70-75 degrees or longer if it is fermenting in a colder area.  Our area was around 64 degrees and I let it ferment for about 8 weeks and I think its delightfully crunchy yet soft enough.  You can always taste test and see what you think.  Keep in mind that it will soften slightly during the canning process.


My Water bath canner (also used for fermentation) and finished Sauerkraut

Hot Pack Canning Method
1. Prepare everything you will need for water bath canning.

2. Put the kraut in a non reactive pot and get it hot, but not boiling.

3. Pack the hot kraut into hot sterilized canning jars.  I sterilize my jars in the oven at 275 F for 15-20 minutes.  Make sure to use a spoon and pack the kraut down into the jars a bit, that way you can fit more in.  Add some of the brine until there is 1/2 inch of head space.  I used a funnel and tried not to get any on the outside of the jars.  If you do get some on the outside you should wipe it off with a damp paper towel. Put the lids on, lightly tighten.

4. Process in the water bath for about 15 minutes for quart jars, and 10 minutes for pint jars.  Once time is up, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let stand for 5 minutes before removing from the water.  As the jars cool they will seal.

Finished Sauerkraut minus the one I opened to eat some of.

I have to admit that this was fun to do and canning it really didn't take much effort. With ten pounds of cabbage I got about 5 quarts of sauerkraut.  Total cost = about $10! The effort I put in was really minimal and I'm really happy with the result. Don't be afraid! Make some today!

Proof that I ate some and lived!

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