Friday, August 17, 2012
If you have never done a wild ferment before because you are afraid of Botulism or mystery deadly bacteria and or stinking so bad that you scare away your friends and family, I am here to say; get over it. It's so easy and risk free. Your gut will thank you and most importantly your taste buds will go wild! Not to mention your friends curiosity will be piqued with interest...you're doing what???
Be the envy of your agrarian social circle; make 'kraut.
How to make Sauerkraut 101...
You will need:
A Crock or other vessel like a large glass pickle jar, or large mason jars.
A plate that fits inside your crock/vessel that you can remove, or a root plug, which is a disc you can cut from a beet, turnip or even cabbage. This is used to place on top of your kraut to press it down so the brine covers it. A weight to place on top of your plate or plug like a jug or small glass jar filled with water, a zip-lock filled with water or salted water, a big cleaned rock. A towel to cover your kraut and a big rubber band or string to secure it.
You can make sauerkraut with one large head of cabbage or 20+. It all depends on the size of your fermentation vessel. We had 3 large heads of cabbage from the garden, we used our 5 gallon crock and it was only a third full. Salt; any salt without iodine will do, we always use Real Salt and some kosher salt. We also added whole caraway seeds and four apples, both are optional, in my opinion they add a nice balance to the cabbage. Shred your cabbage and apples with the blade attachment of your food processor, or your mandolin, or grated by hand or sliced by hand. We like ours thin. You may like it more chunky. There is no right or wrong way! Dump your beautiful cabbage-apple confetti into your vessel; start with a sprinkle of salt over it and massage the mixture with your hands. The goal is to break down the cellular walls of the cabbage to release its water content, the salt will help pull more water from the cabbage throughout the whole fermentation process, your hands are just getting it started. Optional, but a lot of fun, is if you have an old wooden baseball bat or pounding mallet, use that if your hands are tired or if you are fermenting a ton of kraut, clean it and pound away.
The goal is to create enough brine so when you place the plate or plug and press down the brine covers the kraut. Now taste test your cabbage, you want it just salty enough, kinda like how sea water tastes...too salty? Add some fresh water, let it set for a bit then drain, but the goal is to taste as you go and add, you don't want to lose any flavor by diluting it with extra water. Once the flavor is right add in some caraway, mix it in, then cover and press with your plate or plug. Enough brine? Good, add your weight, towel and secure it. Place in a cool area like your basement. Ferments will develop faster in the heat of the summer and should be consumed instead of stored for the long haul. In the fall you can put up kraut for the winter, it will ferment slowly and you can keep it in the vessel and take what you need.
In a couple of days taste it. There may be some white sheets on the surface of the brine, this is mold and is totally normal. Remove the weight and skim away the mold, if you don't get all of it, not to worry, go under the brine and pull up some kraut for your taste test. Mix in the mold, the anaerobic and lactic acid environment you created will kill it. Our Kraut took about 6 days to come to the flavor we liked, I could tell it was done when I could smell it. We skimmed off the mold and packed it into four quart sized mason jars. We will eat one now and place the other three in our cellar-like environment in our basement, dated for later use. If you don't have a spot like this in your house the refrigerator is the best place. Or give some away to your friends and have a bratwurst party!
Heres to your happy gut!