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Guest Post: Sauerkaut How To!

This post has been meaning to be made for the last *ahem* three weeks. Forgive me. Blogger ate this post, and as it was a long post I had to work up the energy to redo it. Stupid blogger. This how to is from my friend John who also gave me the recipe for Crock Pot Chili. My comments and suggestion are in italics and everything else is from John. I hope you guys enjoy it!

Please note that this is an EXTREMELY photo heavy post :).

Sauerkraut!

Pop quiz! What does German Oktoberfest bratwurst and New York Ruben sandwiches have in common? If you guessed delicious sauerkraut, they you would totally win the gold star sticker. But here is a problem; to enjoy either correctly you have to have some good quality sauerkraut. You cant simply buy it in a jar from a store, to have really good sauerkraut you have to make it yourself… at home…or at your friends home…or even (if you are a daredevil) in the office! He is my step by step how to guide for making delicious finger licking sauerkraut!

Things you will need:
1. Green cabbage
2. Sea salt, NOT IODIZED!
3. Juniper berries (dried)
4. A knife or food processor
5. A crock or some other food grade container
6. A plate that fits snugly into that crock or container (I’d use a pot that had a snug lid.)
7. Two plastic bags, or some weight source

Get one, two or even three heads of green cabbage. Try to get organic if you can, if not… pesticides never hurt anyone, so suck it up. Lightly wash the outsides of the cabbage and remove the first laver of leaves from the head.

Take a chiefs knife, or band saw, and cut the heads of cabbage into halves. A band saw? Does anyone else get visions of missing fingers?

 

Shred the head of cabbage into thin slices, you can use a food processor to get the shreds finer but a knife will do just fine.
 

  
Get out your crock or food grade container. I was luck enough to find this croc in my grandmas garage. It was last used to make pickles in the 50s. Here is to hoping that there is no lead based paint or ceramic glaze on it! Also, try to make sure that your crock has a lid, it will help.

Gather up that shredded cabbage and put it into the container. 

 

Get out the sea salt and put 4 – 6 table spoons into the shredded cabbage. Stir in slowly and you will see that a significant amount of water from the cabbage gets released.  The salt is to help the fermentation process along, after all sauerkraut is just fermented green cabbage. The reason for the non iodine laden salt is the addition of iodine changes the pH levels in the cabbage mash preventing the build up of the necessary bacterium that cause the fermentation. (The more you know, because knowledge is power!) 

 

Get out those dried juniper berries. I found mine at whole foods here in Santa Cruz. Most specialty grocery stores should have them. Did you know that juniper berries are one of the main flavors of gin, so if you are having trouble finding them, drink some gin… it wont help with the recipe but at least you will be having a good time!  My dad swears by having a drink while making a large dinner that way you aren’t stressed out to get everything done RIGHT NOW. I like this idea. You should also be able to find juniper berries at well stocked MegaMarts.

Take a mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin, or a pint glass and lightly mash or bruise the berries to start the release of their natural flavors and aromas.  Be carful to not over smash them, you want to open up their bouquet not pulverize them. 


Stir in the recently mangled berries. Be sure to not use a metal spoon! Use a wooden one or your hand. I don’t know what it is about metal but it also has the ability to ruin the sauerkraut. I am assuming that the natural bacteria on the leaves of the cabbage are easily killed by alkaline metals.

 

If needed, add a little more water so that a brine, or salt water, layer covers the cabbage. I know I know, I used a metal measuring cup to add the water and I am not supposed to use metal… whatever. Don’t do what I did children.

You know that plate we talked about earlier, go get it. The plate’s exterior circumference should be snuggly fit against the containers inner circumference so that an almost air tight seal is created. This is crucial, if the two don’t match up well, mold will grow on the cabbage rather then a natural fermentation. This is where I will offer my advice – this is where having a lid would come in handy. And please note the green all around the plate…because John is a science-y guy I feel the need to mock him for thinking this was a snug fit and wouldn’t allow air in. Silly boys.

 

Fill two zip lock bags full of water and place each bag into another zip lock bag. You are basically creating a weight to set atop the plate which is on top of the cabbage. The weight pressing down ensures the seal on the cabbage during the duration of the fermentation process.

 
Cover the top of the container with a breathable mesh like top. I used cheese cloth but a clean kitchen towel will work too.  Place in a quiet corner that does not get too much temp change. Let the cabbage become sauerkraut! This takes any where from two weeks to three weeks. After about the first week take the cover off and check to see if everything is going well… like there is no mold forming. OMG. How disgusting would that be? Open up expecting to see sauerkraut and seeing mold instead? Ew. I’d put the cheese cloth over the crock and then place the the lid over the cheesecloth. 

And that’s all there is to it! Really simple and it totally needed a really long and detailed step by step guide. And if you are wondering why there are no final finished product pictures of my sauerkraut adventures it’s because my plate was too small to create a seal and mold grew all over it. Very sad, but I hope you have better luck. Enjoy!
I hope you guys enjoyed this how to and I hope its given you the push to try your hand at making sauerkraut! I’m going to try this after midterms in April and see if my suggestions work better than John’s attempt. I think the theory behind my suggestions should produce non-moldy sauerkraut. Enjoy making sauerkraut!  


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