Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sauerkraut

Even though it is winter now, I would still like to share my sauerkraut making experiences from this last fall and previous falls.  Homemade sauerkraut really is easy to make, you just have to follow a few basic rules and have some time set aside! 



First, start with some good cabbages.  The cabbages grew great in the garden this last year.  Remove a couple of the outer leaves and quarter and core the cabbage.  Then, I used the shredding plate on my mandolin to finely shred each head of cabbage (please use protective gloves when working with the mandolin shredding plate - it is very very sharp!).  I believe I had 8 large heads of cabbage. 




As you can see, this is kind of a messy process. 




Pack the shredded cabbage into a clean crock with salt.




Then, you need to use your fists to smoosh the cabbage until you are able to make enough cabbage juice to cover your shredded cabbage.  When I started, my crock was full of fresh cabbage, and as I kept smooshing, I was able to extract more and more cabbage juice. 




After 4 to 6 weeks, the sauerkraut should be done (it depends on the temperature of your kitchen and how fast the sauerkraut ferments, too). 




Ladle into canning jars and water bath.  Done!



Homemade Sauerkraut


  • 25 pounds shredded cabbage (this should be about 6 - 8 heads)
  • about 1 cup of pickling salt
Cabbage needs to be thinly shredded.  I used the shredding plate on my mandolin, but you could also use a food processor with a slicing attachment, working in batches.  You can also use a sharp knife to thinly slice the cabbage (I have done that for many years).

Working in 5 pound batches, combine shredded cabbage and 3 Tbsp pickling salt in a large stone crock or glass or food-grade plastic container. Mix thoroughly. Let stand for 15 minutes or until juices start to flow and cabbage wilts slightly. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, press down firmly on the cabbage until the juice comes to the surface. Repeat four times, until all the cabbage is used up, leaving at least 4 inches of space between cabbage and rim of container. Sprinkle remaining pickling salt on top. If not enough juice has been produced to cover cabbage, you will need to add brine.  To make a bring, combine 4-1/2 tsp pickling or preserving salt and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve salt. Let cool to room temperature, then ladle over sauerkraut to cover.

Place a clean inverted plate over the cabbage mixture and weigh down with two or three quart jars that have been filled with water and capped. (It is important to keep the cabbage under brine by 1 to 2 inches throughout fermentation.) Cover with a clean heavy towel.  Let stand in a cool place. Every day, remove and discard any scum that has formed.  During fermentation, gas bubbles will form. When bubbling ceases, fermentation is complete.  Fermentation may take up to 6 weeks, depending on how warm your kitchen and also, variations in the cabbage itself.

I use the hot pack method to can my sauerkraut, as follows: Prepare your boiling water canner.  Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use.  Do not boil lids.  Set bands nearby.

Bring sauerkraut, with brine, to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat in a large stainless steel saucepan.  It is important to not let this boil!  Pack hot sauerkraut and brine into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding more brine. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

Process quart jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes and pint jars for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.  Check lids for seal after 24 hours - to make sure it is sealed, the lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


Note: if you want to use the raw-pack method: prepare your boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Again, do not boil lids. Set bands nearby.

Pack the sauerkraut and brine (directly from the crock), into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding brine.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

Process quart jars in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes and pints 20 minutes. Remove jars and cool.  Check lids for seal after 24 hours - to make sure it is sealed, the lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

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