Thursday, December 4, 2014

Homemade Sauerkraut


I'm a big fan of creating things from scratch in my kitchen as often as possible. My experiments have ranged from homemade cheeses, crackers and beyond. When I recently received a review copy of Fermented Vegetables by Kristen and Christopher Shockey, I realized the recipes in this book would be a novelty in my kitchen. Although I'd pickled things before, I had never fermented anything. Not really.


The book includes step-by-step guides (with photos!) for mastering everything from Sauerkraut to Brine Pickling and Kimchi. I never realized that fermenting vegetables really only requires a couple basic ingredients: the vegetables and salt, and in some cases water (for the Brine Pickling options). The other key factor in the mix is time, which allows the veggies to actually ferment while releasing carbon dioxide.


Kraut Balls

The first section of the book includes the basics, such as tools required and details on each fermentation method. Following this is essentially an alphabetical encyclopedia of vegetables and herbs with various recipes for each for different types of fermentation. For example, flip to the section for cauliflower and you'll find recipes for CauliKraut, Curried CauliKraut, and Edgy Veggies, while the chapter devoted to parsnips only features a Parsnip Kimchi. Recipes truly range based on what fermentation methods are best for the ingredients. The book really captures so many creative ways to prepare these ingredients.

Sauerkraut Day 1

Sauerkraut Day 5

Check out the CO2 bubbles at the top...

The On The Plate section of the book follows, and includes recipes for many different categories (Breakfast through Dessert) utilizing the fermented veggie recipes from the bulk of the book. For example use the sauerkraut to create everything from Kraut Balls as an appetizer to Sauerkraut Strudel for dinner.

Sauerkraut Day 7, ready to eat!

Considering this was my very first foray into fermentation, I decided to begin with the cornerstone of fermented vegetables. There's nothing more perfect to fit the bill than tackling homemade sauerkraut. It really is the grandmother to all these other techniques and recipes. It uses only two ingredients, cabbage and salt. I figure if I can follow the basic steps for fermentation, then next time it will open up the possibilities to making more variations on kraut, or perhaps kimchi will be my next project.


The "Naked Kraut" or basic sauerkraut recipe is very easy to follow. I actually halved the recipe because I just wanted to see how it turned out before diving right in and making a larger batch. I started the process on a Sunday, checked my kraut's progress throughout the week, and it was ready to be jarred (and eaten) by the following Saturday morning. That weekend, we enjoyed some hot dogs with homemade sauerkraut. It was fantastic!


If you've never thought about fermenting vegetables in your kitchen, don't be scared. It's really super easy and the results are great. This book is a wonderful guide for anyone interested in fermentation. I'm looking forward to trying other variations on sauerkraut as well as some of the other fermentation techniques in the book. Kimchi is definitely high on my list!


Homemade Sauerkraut
Makes about 2 quarts
(fermentation vessel: 2 quarts or larger)
(From Fermented Vegetables)

3 1/2 pounds (1 to 2 heads) cabbage
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt (I used kosher salt)

To prepare the cabbage, remove the coarse outer leaves. Rinse a few unblemished ones and set them aside. Rinse the rest of the cabbage in cold water. With a stainless steel knife, quarter and core the cabbage. Thinly slice with the same knife or a mandoline, then transfer the cabbage to a large bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and, with your hands, massage it into the leaves, then taste. You should be able to taste the salt without it being overwhelming. Add more salt if necessary. The cabbage will soon look wet and limp, and liquid will begin to pool. If you've put in a good effort and don't see much brine in the bowl, let it stand, covered, for 45 minutes, then massage again.

Transfer the cabbage to a crock or 2 quart jar, a few handfuls at a time, pressing down on the cabbage with your fist or a tamper to work out air pockets. You should see some brine on top of the cabbage when you press. Leave 4 inches of headspace for a crock, or 2 to 3 inches for a jar. Top the cabbage with one or two of the reserved outer leaves. Then, for a crock, top the leaves with a plate that fits the opening of the container and covers as much of the vegetables as possible; weight down with a sealed, water-filled jar. For a jar, use a sealed, water-filled jar or ziplock bag as a follower-weight combination.

Set aside the jar or crock on a baking sheet to ferment, somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cool, for 4 to 14 days. Check daily to make sure the cabbage is submerged, pressing down as needed.

You can start to test the kraut on day 4. You'll know its ready when it's pleasingly sour and pickle-y tasting, without the strong acidity of vinegar; the cabbage has softened a bit but retains some crunch; and the cabbage is more yellow than green and slightly translucent, as if it's been cooked.

Ladle the kraut into smaller jars and tamp down. Pour in any brine that's left. Tighten the lids, then store in the refrigerator. This kraut will keep, refrigerated, for 1 year.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

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