A documentation of my preservation and preparation of local foods as I work through the seasons. This will serve as a reference tool for me in the future and as a sharing guide for family and friends...and anyone else interested. Hopefully, I can offer some useful methods, tips and recipes to share with everyone--be they novice or pro--and encourage them to join me in the exciting world of preserving and cooking with local foods.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making Sauerkraut

Making sauerkraut signals the end of my preserving season.  It means I can settle in for Winter with a stocked pantry and full freezer.  I always wait until the first week in November to do this as that's when the inside temperature is best for fermenting; approx 65-72 degrees.  (At temperatures lower than 60 degrees, the kraut may not ferment; above 75 degrees the kraut may become soft.)  It's also best to use late-season cabbage--it's more juicy-sweet and flavorful.  Using my traditional kraut crock, I shred two large heads of cabbage which packs the crock full and yields about 8-10 pints of canned sauerkraut.  The crock measures 12" high by 8" in diameter.  It isn't necessary to can sauerkraut; fully fermented kraut can be kept in its fermenting container for several months and it will continue to ferment, getting healthier and developing complex flavors.  Alternatively, it can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months where the flavor will mellow.  Recipe below picture.

Sauerkraut=nutrition.  It's fermentation increases vitamin levels & produces helpful enzymes, antibiotic & anticarcinogenic substances.

10 pounds of heavy, dense red or green cabbage (approx. 2 large heads)
6 Tblsp. of unrefined sea salt
Method:  Discard outer leaves from cabbage.  Rinse under cold water and drain.  Slice cabbage thin--about the width of a quarter.  I use the shredder setting on my mandoline--works great!  Working with 5 pounds of shredded cabbage at a time, add half of salt and mix well with clean hands.  Let sit a few minutes until cabbage starts to "juice".  Pack tightly into stoneware crock or food-grade plastic container.  Repeat with remaining cabbage.  (I make coleslaw with any extra over 10 pounds.)  Continue to pack tightly into container, pressing down until juice rises above cabbage.  To avoid spilling juice, rim of container should be 4-5" above liquid. Put plate on top of cabbage, under liquid.  (Note:  If you need more liquid, boil and cool more brine: 20 grams of salt per quart of water.) Weigh plate down with heavy, clean rock or 2 quart jars filled with water.  Put towel over top of all to keep out dust and other particles.  Check a couple of times a week to be sure cabbage is below liquid and to remove any scum forming around/under jar.  Scum or darkened cabbage will not make you sick, it just looks bad.
To Can Sauerkraut
Fill hot jars firmly with kraut and liquid, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims and add lids & screw bands.  Process in boiling water bath: pints 20 minutes and quarts 25 minutes. 

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