cabbageLast Sunday, we learned how easy it is to make homemade sauerkraut. I forgot my camera (again…) but the inimitable Ilex over at Homesteading in a Condo recently posted a photo essay of how she makes kraut. I refer you to her excellent guide to making sauerkraut, and make a few notes here about how we varied the process slightly.

Holly has beautiful, vintage sauerkraut crocks, and she makes several gallons at a time. If you are not blessed with such crocks, or want to make smaller batches, all is not lost! Canning jars make excellent small-batch kraut containers – use either quarts or half-gallon wide-mouth jars.

You can either salt the shredded cabbage in a bowl, tossing thoroughly to mix, or layer cabbage and salt right in your crock or jar. In either case, every few inches you need to stomp the cabbage and thoroughly bruise it. This gets it to release its juice, which will combine with the salt to make the salt brine that preserves the cabbage. Shred, salt, stomp. Shred, salt, stomp. That’s about all there is to it.

When you get to the top of your container or run out of cabbage, you want to make sure the kraut is submerged under brine. In a canning jar, I get great results by tucking a whole cabbage leaf into the jar, tucking it down around the shredded cabbage, to make a “stopper.” Then I put a quart-sized freezer bag into the neck of the jar and fill the bag with brine (2T salt to 1 quart water). Make sure the bag fills every crevice and holds the cabbage under the brine, and top with a loosely-sealed plastic lid.

Some other thoughts:

  • A 3-4 pound cabbage makes about a quart of kraut.
  • Use a total of 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of kraut. Measure it out beforehand and sprinkle it in evenly as you go.
  • More salt preserves better; less salt tastes better. As long as you keep the cabbage submerged and the top on (but not tight), you can usually keep the kraut from getting moldy.
  • Mold or “scum” (usually kahm yeast) is not dangerous, but it doesn’t taste good. You can safely scrape it off (taking a layer of kraut with it, if the gunk isn’t free-floating) and the rest of the kraut is OK to eat.
  • You can season kraut. Try:
    • 1-2 Tbl Caraway seeds
    • 1-2 Tbl mustard seeds plus 1-2Tbl prepared horseradish, dispersed evenly throughout the kraut
    • Add red pepper flakes, shredded carrots, shredded daikon, scallions, and ginger for a kimchee-like salad (this works great with nappa cabbage, and may need some additional brine)

Also, you don’t just have to eat your kraut straight. Try these:

  • Crumble and brown sausage with a diced onion. Add shredded cabbage and kale, a diced tart apple, and cooked diced potatoes (boil them with a lot of salt!). At the last minute, stir in about a cup of kraut and just heat it through. Top with cheddar, if you’re feeling decadent.
  • Add well-drained kraut to potato pancakes.
  • Mix 1/4 c. kraut or pickle juice, 1/4 c. vinegar, 1/4 c. salad oil, and 1 Tbl prepared mustard. Mix together and use as salad or slaw dressing.