Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Make Sauerkraut

Every fall I start thinking about making my own sauerkraut.  Making your own sauerkraut is really a very simple process once you are familiarized with the steps required.  The process is very similar to making kimchi but kimchi is much more complicated in regards to spices and different steps, and for that reason I prefer to make sauerkraut.  I have written about the process before on this blog (How to make sauerkraut) and will summarize briefly here:
  1. Shred your cabbage.
  2.  Thought mix shredded cabbage with sea salt by hand.  The salt will draw the liquid out of the cabbage.  Do this in a crock or straight walled jar.  There is not set ratio of salt to cabbage, this is simply a taste preference.  You do need enough salt though to draw enough water out of the cabbage. 
  3. Weigh and press down the cabbage so it is below the liquid mark.
  4. Cover the entire container so dust will not contaminate the process.
  5. Wait until bubbling stops before removing weight to taste sauerkraut.  Press down on the weight daily to push out gas bubbles given off by fermentation. Bubbles generally stop before two weeks.  
  6. Sauerkraut can be stored for weeks at or below room temperature if it is submerged below the water level.
 And that's the basics of making sauerkraut.  The first time is most definitely the scariest time.  But after that it gets pretty easy.  Here are some tricks to making sauerkraut:
  • More salt will slow the entire fermentation process significantly but will preserve the sauerkraut for longer periods of time.  It takes very little salt though to make sauerkraut and to preserve kraut with low salt, simply place it in the fridge.  Adding more salt and refrigerating after bubbling has stopped a few days is the safest way of making sauerkraut for the first time.  After doing this you can experiment with adding less salt.
  • If temperatures are going to higher, say above 75 degrees add more salt.  This helps control yeast and microbial growth.
  • Lower temperatures require less salt because the lower temperatures help control yeast and microbial growth. 
  • Different temperatures and amounts of salt will change the flavor of the sauerkraut.  Play around with these in different batches to see what tastes best to you.  I prefer sauerkraut when average daily temperatures are in the 60's and with a low salt content.
  • You can add any seasoning or vegetable to your batch as long as it doesn't add to much sugar or starch.  For example, peppers, onions, garlic, radishes, and ginger can all be added.
Some things to watch out for:
  • If your batch of kraut goes on bubbling for a long period of time after the initial two weeks, throw it out, it has gone bad.  Do the same if it stops bubbling and then starts again.
  • The sauerkraut should be a pale color unless you add veggies that have color in them like purple onions or purple cabbage.  Then the sauerkraut will take on a purple color.  If the sauerkraut takes on an off color or is brownish it has gone bad and you need to get rid of it.
  • If the sauerkraut is slimy or smells weird it has gone bad.
  • Any sauerkraut exposed to the air and not submerged under the liquid will go bad.  

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