There are few foods more polarizing than sauerkraut. Some people love it and some people hate it. It is no different here on the homestead. One year we had an abundance of cabbage, and wanted to preserve it. When the subject of making our own kraut arose it was met with mixed emotions. I believe the word “yuck” was used. We had picked up a nice 5 gal crock at a yard sale so we had the perfect vessel. So we took our abundance of cabbage and went to work.
We were immediately amazed by the list of ingredients, cabbage and kosher salt, that was it. We started by taking our cabbages (5 pounds) and removed the outer leaves, we then washed any dirt from the head.
We quartered the heads and removed the stem, setting it aside. Next we shredded the cabbage by cutting thinly with a sharp knife.
After the cabbage is shredded we placed 1/3 of in the crock and sprinkled 1 tbs of salt over it, and then mashed it with a big wood dowel (which, to be honest, was the cut off end of a closet rod).
We mashed until we didn’t hear and more crunching, we then did the same with the other thirds. We also add in the stems, which make a tasty snack. Once the cabbage was salted and mashed we covered it with a clean dish towel and let it sit over night. The next day we looked to see how much water had been drawn from the cabbage, we were looking for enough water to cover all the cabbage.
We wanted to have at least 3″ of water over the cabbage. If there is not enough water you can make your own brine by combining 1 tbs of salt with 1 qt of water. When you have enough brine covering the cabbage, you simply take a plate and put it over the cabbage being careful not to trap any air under the plate. Then add a weight to hold it down. Our favorite method for this is a sterilized mason jar full of water. Finally, skim any stray cabbage from the surface.
We cover the crock with the dish towel, place in a cool location, and wait for the magic to happen.
The magic is fermentation. Sauerkraut is a fermented food and wonderful for your gut. We check on our kraut every week and skim any mold that forms on the surface of the water. There will be an interesting aroma that rises from the crock and you may be accused of flatulence if you are standing near it. After a month or so we taste the kraut to see if it is tangy enough, if not we wait another week.
When the kraut flavor is to our liking, we remove it from the crock, and since it has been such a long wait we have no choice but to cook up our favorite kielbasa and try it out.
This is when our “yuck” was turned into a “wow”. Any extra kraut is canned (process 20 min/qts) and saved for another day.
Home made sauerkraut is totally different from what you get in a store. It is fresh, mild, and the perfect compliment to a homegrown meal. It is not often that you find a simple recipe that works so perfectly. Home made sauerkraut is two simple ingredients and some help from mother nature. Making home made sauerkraut is exactly what homesteading is about, getting back to basics.