Sunday, December 28, 2014

Easy, homemade Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a food that I have grown to appreciate as an adult.  When I was younger, my parents would eat it and I thought it looked disgusting.  I was a kid and kids are weird that way....  

I've expanded my food preservation skills into making fermented pickles, pickled jalapeños, and pickled yellow peppers, so this year I decided I'd try sauerkraut as well.  After lots of googling, I opted for lacto-fermenting, because it took less time, less salt, and I happened to have plenty of whey in my homemade yogurt container.

You'll need:
I large, firm head of cabbage (or two smaller heads), finely chopped (a food processor with shredding capabilities would be really useful here)
2 Tablespoons of sea salt
1/2 cup of whey.  (If you don't have any sitting around, you can buy a large container of plain yogurt and strain it through cheesecloth and you should end up with enough whey)

You can also add one shredded carrot and/or one finely sliced onion if you want to, but for my first try I wanted to stick with the basic recipe.  

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl (this is my big popcorn bowl)

Add salt

Add whey

Use your hands to "massage" the cabbage several times over the space of a half an hour or so, until the texture changes from crisp to wilted.  You can use a potato masher for this if you don't want to use your hands, but hands work better. (Ignore the giant bags of cereal in the background)

Place cabbage and liquid in a large jar.  Press the cabbage down firmly so it's packed tightly, and is below the level of the liquid.  You can add a little water if you need to to make sure the cabbage is covered, but it shouldn't be necessary.  I used a half gallon mason jar. 

Place a plastic bag in the jar and fill it with water, making sure that the bag spreads out inside the jar.  This acts as a weight to hold the cabbage below the level of the liquid.  

Place a lid on the jar.  I just used the ring, and let the water bag be open at the top, but you could tie the bag off, and put a solid lid on the jar too.  It doesn't make that much difference.  I just wanted to leave plenty of room for the sauerkraut to expand- and my very full bag of water did end up spilling down the sides of my jar a little.

Place the jar in a corner of your counter, away from major heat and direct sunlight.  

Now wait.

And wait....

My kitchen was a little on the cool side, so what was supposed to take three days took two weeks to get to where I was satisfied with the taste.  After the time was up, I divided the kraut into three pint jars and put it in the fridge. 

Now I just need some bratwursts.  

Update:  Got some hotdogs... They were good.