I usually don’t make sauerkraut until October or so, when it’s cooler. I had planned to do the same thing this year but something decided a few days ago that our cabbage looked pretty darned tasty and commenced to eating it. Not just little nibbles, that I could have lived with. No, whatever this critter is, it takes big ol bites and can put away half a cabbage or two a night. We think it might be rabbits but we haven’t seen any evidence other than rapidly disappearing cabbages.
So instead of feeding the bunnies, I harvested all but 2 damaged plants and 2 small cabbages which are sheltered by our potato plants and seem to have escaped notice for the time being.
I ended up with 8 cabbages for my kraut.
If you’ve ever wondered how sauerkraut is made or wanted to try making it yourself, then this is your lucky day because I am going to show you!
How To Make Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is made and put up in heavy ceramic crocks here in Germany. The crocks aren’t exactly cheap but they are wonderful for fermenting/pickling food and they will last forever if you handle them with care. I’ve also used them to make salted green beans and I am sure there are other things you could use them for but I’ve only done the kraut and beans. You can buy these crocks in the US. I don’t know anything about the company I just linked to, but their crocks look nice. You don’t have to use a crock to make sauerkraut but since that’s the only way I’ve done it, that’s how I’m going to show you.
The slicer I am using is a great time saver and cuts the cabbage nice and fine but it’s not necessary. You can use a knife and just cut the strips as thin as you can. You can buy slicers like mine in the US, do a Google search for cabbage cutter or kraut cutter. I found several on Ebay. Mine is about 2ft long 8″ wide and has 3 very sharp blades…did I mention these blades are sharp? They will take bits of your fingers off in a hurry so becareful if you use one. The stamper is a great tool to have also if you plan on doing this very often and especially if you are going to use a crock.
Here’s a picture of all the supplies you’ll need…
So other than crock, slicer and stamper, the only other supplies you’ll need is salt (I’m using course-grained kitchen salt but any kind will work). And you’ll need a scale. Mine is a cheap one from Ikea. And that’s it!
First step is to wash your crock with boiling hot water. Wash your cabbage, pick off any damaged leaves and let dry.
I lay my slicer across my sink with a large bowl underneath it. All you do is put a cabbage in the box and slide it back and forth across the blades until there is nothing left but the stem (watch the fingers!). I can slice and entire cabbage in about 30 seconds with this thing :O)
I layer my cabbage into the crock in 1 lb. layers. So weigh your sliced cabbage and put it into your crock.
You then add 1 TBLS. of salt on top of each new layer. Once the salt is added, it’s time to do some stamping. You need to break the fibers inside the cabbage so that it will release it’s liquid, which will mix with the salt and make brine. Stamp your cabbage until you see liquid developing. You need to stamp again after every new layer of cabbage and salt is added.
I ended up fitting 18 lbs (approx. 8kg.) of cabbage in my crock and I probably could have fit another cabbage but that’s all I had. So my crock will hold about 20lbs of cabbage…that’s a good winter’s supply for a small family. In the picture below you can see the accumulated liquid, it’s very soupy!
Once your crock is nearly full, put the lid on and fill the groove around the lid with water. The water makes a seal so that no bad stuff can get inside, but the gas can escape. The crock needs to sit in a warm place for about 2 weeks, during which time you need to check it every day. Make sure the water in the groove stays full. Don’t open the lid to look inside, you don’t want any bad beasties getting in there! Just keep the water full around the lid. You will hear little “Bloops” from the crock occasionally, this is a good thing, this is the gas escaping from the crock which means that fermentation is happening inside. After 2 weeks the crock needs to be moved to a cooler place (a cellar is good) to stop the fermentation process but to continue the preserving process. You can begin to eat it at this point.
Keep an eye on the water level even after you’ve stopped the fermenting process. Keep the water level up until you’ve finished eating all your sauerkraut or until it eventually goes bad. It should hold for a season if the temps are cool enough and you keep an eye on it.
Edited to add:
Ric, a reader,was kind enough to pass on this information on where to find supplies for making sauerkraut. I have no idea about any of these sources, but they will give you a place to begin looking. Thank you Ric!
Simply Natural at http://www.simply-natural.biz has stone crocks and wood covers.
Lehman’s at http://www.lehmans.com has wooded cabbages stampers.
http://www.amazon.com has Weston cabbage shredders
Wooden cabbage mandolin’s can be found in many places online.