Cabbage in the Sauerkraut Crock

On my previous website I posted often about food, including recipes. I still love experimenting with, researching, cooking (and eating!), healthy food but I’ve rescripted my nutrition writing and focus to a broader nourishment story for body, soul and spirit.

However, considering the seasonal abundance of cabbage, its health benefits when fermented, and the fact you’ll feel like such an amazing (rural or urban) ‘homesteader’  producing this easy-to-make sauerkraut I just needed to share this recipe with you!

First some not-so-trivial  tidbits about cabbage (and cruciferous veggies).

  • good defense against, and the possible prevention of, cancer. Over-dosing on one food group (even vegetables) is not a cancer-free guarantee.  But according to Sally Errey in Staying Alive! Cookbook for Cancer Free Living, scientists weren’t sure why this vegetable family had this distinction until recent studies which have shown their ability to help the body’s toxic waste-disposal system. Certain plant chemicals, like sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, trigger the release of a protein that causes the release of several toxin-fighting enzymes that may either neutralize cancer-causing chemicals or help the body excrete them.
  • contains Phytochemicals (plantchemicals): good source of antioxidants which have unique abilities to modify human hormones and to prevent toxic compounds from binding to human DNA – possibly preventing damage that could lead to cancer.

Benefits of fermentation.

  • preserves food/nutrients
  • breaks nutrients down into more easily digestible forms
  • creates new nutrients
  • removes toxins from food

I learned the ways of a gardener from the example of my mother – an extraordinary worker who preserved the fruits of her labour by canning, freezing, pickling – but never fermenting. Perhaps it wasn’t in her Scottish upbringing or she’d heard stories of smelly brine bubbling out of crocks lurking in dark cellars! Whatever the reason, the only sauerkraut I ate growing up was bought at the grocery store and that pattern remained.

Until my nutrition studies piqued my interest in making my own. I bought Wild Fermentation by  Sandor Ellix Katz (referral link) because I read “sauerkraut is easy to make” on more than one page.

And it really is so. I’m not the expert but I encourage you to try it.

What you need. 

Food: Cabbage and salt (I use coarse sea salt). Utensils: A sturdy knife, a crock, a tea towel, a plate that is slightly smaller than the opening of the crock, a large rock.

Buy good solid heads of cabbage. I’ve learned from shopping at our garden markets that “fall” cabbage is the best type to use for sauerkraut. I don’t know the proper name of this particular cabbage, but living in Lunenburg county that boasts both home-style and commercial sauerkraut operations, I do what the experts advise.

Except not always on this point: sauerkraut should be made as the moon is waxingMy hankering to fill the kraut crock doesn’t always line up with the lunar cycle so sometimes I do my own thing. But this year I’m following the Farmer’s Almanac.

Steps to Make Sauerkraut:

Chop cabbage into threads, as fine or coarse as you like it.

Place in a large bowl as you chop it. Sprinkle salt on it as you go. How much salt? This depends on health and taste preferences. I recommend going lightly – for starters, 3-4 Tablespoons of coarse salt per 5 pounds of sliced cabbage.

Mix cabbage and salt thoroughly and pack into your crock. It’s important to pack just a bit at a time into the crock – pressing it down hard with your fist or some other sturdy tool. This is an important step: you don’t want to allow room for air pockets and the tamping packs the kraut, helping to force the water out of the cabbage.

Cover the cabbage with a plate and place a heavy stone (that’s been well-washed) on top of it. This weight is needed to force the water out of the cabbage and to keep it submerged. Very important: push down on the weight as needed to help that happen.

Cover the crock with a tea towel and set in a corner of the kitchen, out of the sun and in a cool rather than warm location.

Check the kraut the next day and every day or two after. The important factor is that the water-brine always covers the cabbage. According to Sandor Ellix Katz, “some cabbage, particularly if it’s old, simply contains less water.” He suggests if the brine hasn’t risen to the top by the next day, you can add some salt water (1 Tbsp. salt to 1 cup water) to bring up the brine level. I haven’t had experience with this as the brine has been sufficient. To help it stay submerged in brine, every day or so I firmly press on the rock/plate.

Here I’ve taken the rock out so you can see the brine. This was after about 4 days.

When is it ready?

It’s all about how you like it. It should start to be tangy in about a week.

Taste it. Its flavours will evolve as it ages. If you do take some out to enjoy, repack the remaining kraut, keeping the surface level and your weights clean. I generally leave mine in the kitchen area for a couple weeks, checking it often. Then I’ll move it to a cooler location for 1-2 weeks before putting it into jars and into the refrigerator. I’ll taste as I go but don’t usually eat mine until it’s fermented about 4 weeks. My batches are usually small like the one above so it’s all eaten before it gets too ‘ripe’.

Maintain cleanliness, keep cabbage submerged, let me know how you like it!

Love and gratitude for joining me here,

Karen

P.S. Whatever stage of life you’re in – I encourage you to be rejuvenated with healthy food, physical movement, living with purpose and joy. If you want to connect with me for a free short chat how I can help you work to make this happen for you please get in touch here or at ketoews@gmail.com. My wish is for your ‘Vibrant Inspired Living’ xo

(Affiliate Disclosure: I am a participate in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you click on my blog, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale.)

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