My family has been making some pretty darn good sauerkraut for about two years now. I figured I could share the way we do it, in our off-off-grid kitchen.
Making sauerkraut is easy, fun, and really good for you. Sauerkraut is an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, a digestive miracle shot, and it is also delicious. It was a very important food to the settlers here in Central Texas. One of the first things that a housewife did when starting a kitchen garden is to get the cabbage in the ground, and it wasn’t only a food concern; it was a concern for the health of her family.
Lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut are alive, meaning that they are filled with an enormous amount of live beneficial bacteria. These foods are absolutely necessary to the proper health and function of the digestion. A happy gut is just loaded with these beneficial bacteria, which help with pre-digestion and nutrient absorption. Sauerkraut is also an excellent source of pretty much all of the “water soluble” vitamins.
Making sauerkraut is so easy… and it is hard to mess up. All you really need to make very simple kraut is cabbage, water, salt and a crock or jar with a lid. There are a lot of fancy airlock and water lock systems used for a wide range of fermenting projects available online, but you don’t really need those fancy inventions when it comes right down to it. That may be just my opinion, though.
How to make Sauerkraut:
You will need:
Carrots, onions, apples, etc. (optional, and if you have it)
You will need a large, sharp knife, a sturdy wooden cutting board, a sterilized five gallon bucket, a stomper of some sort (a cleaned wooden mallet or a potato masher works well ) and a large nonmetal spoon.
Begin by shredding your cabbage into thin julienne-like slices using the knife. Save two or three whole, uncut leaves to cover the fermenting kraut later. Cut the cabbage slices to about 4 inches long and place all of the cut cabbage into the bucket. It helps if you have a handy stomper-person who can pound the cabbage in levels as you add it to the bucket. Shred the carrots with a cheese grater, mince or shred the apples and onions. Add these to your bucket, stir vigorously with the spoon, and stomp down until you can dig to the bottom and find standing liquid that you have smashed out of the mixture.
Begin layering your kraut into the jar, doing a two-inch layer and then adding a tablespoon of salt, spread over the layer. Do this until you have used up all of your pounded kraut mixture. Place the saved cabbage leaves over the top of it all to keep the kraut from floating on top of the fermenting liquid, and put your scrubbed stones or other weights on top of that. Begin filling the crock or jar with water or salt brine, waiting until the level has gone down to add more, watching to make sure the water has poured all the way down to the bottom by always keeping the level of the water about an inch over the kraut. Cover your kraut and set it into the cellar or a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Check it periodically, replenishing the water and scooping off any unwanted mold.
After about four or five weeks, check your kraut. There is no set ferment time for sauerkraut, because everybody likes different levels of sour. Just keep tasting it and when it is how you like it, stuff it into mason jars, screw the bands and lids on tight and put it either in your pantry or better, in the cellar.
Once you open a jar of kraut, keep an eye on it. It may start to get soft and moldy if you don’t eat it fast enough, but that probably won’t be a problem. And now, serve kraut with everything. With sandwiches, with crackers, with soup, in soup, etc. You will find that sauerkraut is incredibly versatile.
Here is a recipe made with sauerkraut that I make often and it is always a hit:
5 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large onion, diced
16 ounces sauerkraut
14 ounces cooked, rinsed and drained black eyed peas
14 ounces tomato sauce
Crushed red pepper
Caraway seeds, about 1/4 teaspoon
Salt and black pepper to taste1 pound spicy breakfast pork sausage
- In a large skillet, brown sausage, leaving it in rather large chunks. Transfer the meat to a colander, saving the grease and replacing it into the pan. Cook the onion in the saved grease, just until browned.
- Combine sausage, potatoes, onion,
sauerkraut, peas and tomato sauce in a large stockpot, adding just enough
water to cover. Once it reaches a boil, add the seasonings and stir for 1
- Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add more water if needed during the cooking time.
Makes 14 to 16 servings.