Thursday, June 13, 2013

Homemade Sauerkraut. For Real.

Few people know this about me, but sauerkraut is one of my favorite foods in the world. Funny enough, I actually used to hate it as a kid, and every time my dad would make bratwurst and sauerkraut he'd always try to get all of us kids to eat some. Well because I'm a weirdo that wants to like certain foods, I guess I just taught myself to like sauerkraut---I did the same thing with cottage cheese too. I just wanted to be someone that ate cottage cheese (Am I a total looney?). Complete awkwardness aside, now I love the stuff. With perogies, pot roast, bratwurst and mashed potatoes, or dare I admit it, just straight up plain---I could eat a whole jar no problem. 

So this homemade sauerkraut. 
It all started two months ago when we bought a head of green cabbage to top some fish tacos I had planned on making for dinner later that week. But the cool thing about cooking for just the two of us is that its super easy to shift daily menu plans around, and our poor fish tacos just never made it off the list and into the kitchen that week. I guess we just weren't feeling it that week.

But now I'm sitting there with this head of cabbage and not the slightest idea of how to tastily incorporate it into any of our other planned meals. And boy you know I'm not gonna waste it. And then, like a message from heaven it occurred to me: you take that cabbage, Meg, and you turn it into a jar of sauerkraut.

After a little research Joey and I realized that making homemade sauerkraut is beyond simple and totally doable spur of the moment. So we sliced, salted, squished, and packed that cabbage, and placed the jar in a dark corner of the pantry and let it work its magic. Because I reeeaaally like the sauerkraut flavor but we were a tad bit pressed for time (you know, that whole moving from the south to the north thing), ours fermented for about five weeks. Some people do it for a lot less, and some people let it go months and months. It all depends on how strong of a flavor you want. 

At the end of five weeks we cracked open that jar, added the sauerkraut to some sautéed onions and green apple, and dug in with some bratwurst, roasted green beans, and mashed potatoes. Hello! Talk about amazing. I didn't even realize just how incredible homemade sauerkraut tastes until I had some store bought sauerkraut again a couple weeks ago. To be honest, I really didn't even like it much. Now that I've had the real deal, there's no going back!

And how about that super sweet little helper of mine? Dang I miss that cute face of hers!
 Like sauerkraut? How about giving it a try! Here's the skinny----

Homemade Sauerkraut

All You Need:
  • Green (or really any kind) cabbage (our one head was about a pound--maybe a little less--and all fit in our pint mason jar)
  • 2 tsp salt for every pound of cabbage (you want non-iodized salt--we used sea salt)
  • Peppercorns (we used plain old cracked pepper), juniper berries, garlic, or herbs if you want
  • Mason jar(s) with two part lids

Get to Makin':
  • Slice cabbage into thin, 1/8 inch shreds. You can use a mandolin, food processor, etc. We just used a knife and that works just fine.
  • Place the cabbage shreds in a bowl and sprinkle in the salt. 
  • Now get in there with your hands and sort of scrub the shreds together, releasing the moisture in the cabbage. Keep scrubbing and squishing until you've gotten out as much moisture as you can. This helps proper fermentation
  • Go ahead and add any extras like pepper, garlic, or whatever floats your boat!
  • Pack that cabbage and juice into the jar--like, really pack it. Pack to the top of the jar. As you pack it in tight, all of that liquid you squeezed out should fill the top of the jar. If there's not enough liquid to cover the cabbage, make a brine of 1 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water and pour on top. You want to make sure the cabbage is completely covered because thats how you prevent mold and contamination. 
  • Screw the two part lids on fairly tight, but not too tight.
  • Place the jar(s) on a plate or cutting board (trust me, you're gonna want to do this), and tuck it all away in a cool, dark place--pantry, get it. 

Over the next couple days you'll see some bubbling and leaking. Don't worry, its all good. That's just the fermentation process going to work. Luckily you stuck that plate under the jar!

People debate about whether you should open the jars and check on the sauerkraut during the fermenting process. We did open ours about once a week to make sure there was still enough liquid to cover the cabbage, and also to test its progress. You just want to make sure you keep the lids clean every time you replace them after checking the contents. 

After its fermented to achieve your desired strength (like I said, we did about five weeks), rinse off the jar and stick in the fridge. 

A little note about serving and eating your homemade sauerkraut---during my research I found a lot of people complain that the end product is just too dang salty. Here's the thing---you gotta wash it, people! Of course its going to be salty--you essentially just let cabbage sit in sea water for a month. I mean if you like that briny flavor, by all means, go ahead and eat it straight out of the jar. If not, just rinse the sauerkraut in some cool water and drain before using in your meal. 

And lets talk about food safety. 
If you know me, you know that I'm a super freak about food safety and contamination. If I even think something could be spoiled or contaminated, I automatically won't eat it. I'm always super nervous about mold and rot and botulism, especially in canned products. Canning our own jam last summer was stressful for me, and I still get nervous every time we open a new jar of our jam. So how I convinced myself to make this, I don't know. 
If you're going to make big batches of sauerkraut or make it a regular thing, I recommend investing in a real fermenting crock (I already have one on my birthday/Christmas list---told ya I'm weird). They're designed for the job and have a greater chance of producing a safe, delicious product. That being said, I did my best to be extra careful, did my research, and we turned out with a great batch---I mean I'm standing here today so I think it turned out fine! Just like with anything canned or fermented, if it looks or smells wrong or you can blatantly see stuff growing on your product that shouldn't be growing there, just toss it and start over!

forgive me for not having any finished product photos but trust me, it looks just like the store bought stuff but tastes even better.

mmmmm homemade sauerkraut. Cheap, tasty, easy, healthy, and totally worth it.

I think my German ancestors are smiling down on me now!

>>>>And hey, here's a great resource on making homemade sauerkraut from Nourished Kitchen--you should also check out their 100% homemade root beer too!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the project idea!! Until now, my sauerkraut obsession has been mostly a secret...


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