I was a skeptic. I did not really think you could make sauerkraut this fast and easy.
But first, why would you want to make your own sauerkraut anyway? I mean, I don’t even really like it. I like things cooked in it, because of the flavor it imparts, but otherwise I am not a big fan. Others in the family are though. (And I thought perhaps it would grow on me. ) My goal is to eventually get an assortment of fermented foods to have with our dinners.
But wait, how did this get started?
Well, I am reading several books right now; “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon, “The cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats”. She helped co-found The Weston Price Foundation, an institute based on the teachings and research of Weston Price, a “non-profit organization dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the American diet through education, research and activism”.
I am also reading “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by the above Weston A. Price, DDS. He was a dentist from Ohio who, with Mrs. Price, traveled around the world doing research on native peoples, their diets (before and after the introduction to the ‘western diet’) and their general health, with special emphasis on dental health. He published his findings in this book in 1939 and it is fascinating to me. When I am finished with it, I will do a book review so you who do not don’t want to plow through this rather dense and lengthy book, but might like to get the gist of it, can learn about it.
I find it particularly interesting that very shortly after the publication of this book, (within a couple of years) the US government initiated the enriching of white flour. White flour and white sugar being the foundation of the ‘western diet’ along with canned foods, syrups, jams and other sugary things. After stripping most if not all of the nutrition from the wheat by sifting out the bran and grain, disease and malnutrition ran rampant. Now all bread and flour you buy is ‘enriched’ or in other words, part of the nutrition that was naturally in it has been artificially put back in after we removed it.
Nourishing Traditions teaches us that all races of people have always used some fermented foods that aid in digestion. Things like,( ta-da), sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles and pickled foods of all kinds, relishes and so on. Actually, even cultured dairy is often used for the same purposes such as yogurts and cheeses, kefir and whey. I used whey, drained from my homemade yogurt, in the sauerkraut to help kick start the fermentation.
I did not really believe that this sauerkraut thing would work this fast. The book says to let it sit on the counter for 3 days, then put it someplace cool, such as the top shelf in your fridge. (This is the warmest part of the fridge, while still being cool.) But the authur also says, while you can eat it right away, the flavor improves with age.
So I made it, stuffed it into a jar, put the date on it and let it sit. On the 3rd day I noticed it was missing! Hmm. Curious. It fermented, grew legs and ran away from home.
Then I get a text from my son, who had taken it to work, asking if it was okay to eat some. I kind of freaked out a bit, I admit. I texted something along the lines of “No way, it needs to age for weeks and months, don’t touch, don’t open..” you get the picture.
He says some of the juice came out (which means the jar was on its side) from a loose lid. I figured the whole project was compromised anyway at this point. So the next day I opened it. Sonofagun if it didn’t smell like sauerkraut already!
But just in case I also went to Whole Foods and picked up some “naturally fermented” sauerkraut so we could compare the two.
They both had the same ingredients (except for the whey). So last night at dinner, with our oven fried chicken, asparagus, salad and mashed sweet potatoes, I had little dished put at each place setting for the sauerkraut show down.
Hands down everyone liked the 4 day old homemade sauerkraut. The overpriced store-bought stuff was tasteless in comparison. Mine is back in the fridge again and I bought another organic cabbage to make another batch. (And let this one sit a wee bit longer.)
It’s so easy. Kind of like the homemade yogurt and homemade granola. I remember the “This is so easy, why have I not been doing this all along?” feeling I had when I first made granola. The yogurt too, although it does take more finesse and quite a bit more time.
The ingredients for sauerkraut are just cabbage, water and salt. But there is an optional ingredient, whey. I happened to have some whey drained from yogurt. When you drain a loose yogurt through a cheesecloth lined strainer, the liquid coming out of it is whey. I save this in a small canning jar with a label so I don’t forget what that funny looking stuff is and dump it down the drain. This recipe called for an optional 4 Tbsp. of whey. So I saved it up from yogurt. (sadly, the batch of yogurt I just made will not drain at all. I have tried twice, but nary a drop!)
If you like sauerkraut, you should really give this a try. Easy-peasy.
this filled up a quart canning jar. I started it in a half gallon jar, but it squished down pretty small. You need to leave about an inch on top for it to expand.
- 1 cabbage organic
- 1 tablespoon salt not iodized. Use fine sea salt
- 4 tablespoons whey or water
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds optional
- Cut out the cabbage heart. Using a food processor or other tool, shred the cabbage.
- I layered cabbage and salt into a half gallon jar. Or you could use a big bowl. Add the whey.
- Now you need something to beat the cabbage down with. I used the end of my tapered rolling pin. A rolling pin, the bottom of a soda bottle, a meat hammer, something with which you can crush the cabbage in order to release the juices in it. Do this for about 10 minutes
- place the cabbage in your jar. Using a utensil, push the bits of cabbage down off the sides of the jar. As much as possible you want all of it under water. (or cabbage juice) Fresher cabbage will give off more liquid.
- Some people use a piece of a cabbage leaf, laying it over the shredded cabbage and pushing it down under the liquid. Air is the enemy here. You put on the lid and do not take it off to check on it.
- let it sit on the counter for 3 days at which point you can eat it or put it on the top shelf of your refrigerator to continue aging/fermenting. Thats it. You are done. You can let it aqe up to 6 months. If it gets bubbly, it is of no concern. Also if you get little spots of white foam, no worries there either.They are harmless and can be lifted out with a spoon.