Canning & Preserving - The Fall Series: Classic Fermented Sauerkraut

It's October and what better time to ferment some cabbage eh? We'll need something to go with the sauerbraten, the schnitzel, the bratwurst and the other fermented delectable...BEER!

This is my first attempt at making true fermented sauerkraut. If you can buy sauerkraut off the shelf, it's more like cabbage pickle. Fermented sauerkraut needs to remain refrigerated to keep all of the beneficial probiotic bacteria alive. Since it's a process that takes place over a week or two, I've posted the whole recipe and I'll give you a weekly update with pictures.

This recipe makes 2 quarts and is from the Sherri Brook Vinton's book "Put 'em up!"

You'll need:

5 pounds green cabbage (1 large head or 2 small)

5 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 tablespoon juniper berries or caraway seed (I used caraway seed)

We start by quartering and coring a large head of cabbage and shredding it finely. You can do this with a knife, a mandoline or a "kraut board" (talk about a task specific tool!). You cannot do this in a food processor as I found out while trying to take a shortcut. You get what looks like the chopped coleslaw found in the plastic containers in the deli section of the grocery store. I wound up using a handheld mandoline.

Put all of the sliced cabbage in a big non-reactive bowl. I used my biggest wooden salad bowl. Toss with salt and juniper berries or caraway seeds until completely combined.

Transfer to a 1 gallon glass jar or ceramic crock and press down. Top the cabbage with a clean plate that is just smaller then the opening of the jar. Fill a clean quart jar (you knew there was a reason you saved that empty jar!) with water and use it to weigh down the plate. Cover with a clean dish towel and put it in a cool place.

Check the kraut after 24 hours. With the help of the plate, all the cabbage should be submerged. If it's nnot, pour enough brine (1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup water) over the cabbage to cover it.

Check the cabbage daily. Tiny bubbles should be rising through the liquid (easy to see in a glass container). If a scum (gasp!) has formed, don't worry!! Just ladle it from the top of the liquid and wash and replace the plate and jar. Add more brine, if needed, to keep the cabbage submerged. The kraut will be fully fermented in 1 to 2 weeks at room temperature or 3-4 weeks in a cool basement. You'll know it's done when it stops bubbling and is a pale golden color. When it's ready, refrigerate and enjoy!