Another kitchen adventure…
June 4, 2016
…wherein we try our hand at making sauerkraut.
This all because of those two gorgeous heads of cabbage I got last weekend at the Farmers’ Market, that have been reposing in my outside fridge ever since. And while making sauerkraut is simple, it’s not that simple if you don’t have the stuff to do it with, or more particularly, in.
Actually, you can make kraut in a wide-mouth quart Mason jar, or any other relatively wide-mouth glass or plastic container. I would have made it in a quart jar, but for the fact those two heads of cabbage were going to make up nearly 10 pounds of kraut, and that’s a bunch of Mason jars full. I looked at Big Lots and WalMart, and didn’t find anything that was both suitable and big enough.
So I gave up and ordered a package of three 3.5 gallon food-grade plastic pails from Amazon, along with a three-pack of homebrew airlocks for fermenting containers. Because that’s what the cabbage does, resting in its brine for several days — it ferments. Which had Child A fairly terrified. “Will it stink? What if it explodes?” Drilled a hole in the lid of one bucket, so I could slip tab A (the airlock) into slot B (the lid), and we were off to the races.
So. I ran the two heads of cabbage through the food processor fitted with the finer slicing blade. That’s a huge timesaver; I’d have been hand-shredding cabbage all day. Then I proceeded to dive into my big mixing bowl full of it, sprinkled with salt, and essentially toss and knead the cabbage, squeezing it so’s to break down its cell structure and encourage the salt to coax the water out of it.
Specifically, it takes three tablespoons of non-iodized salt to every five pounds of cabbage. Out of the two heads that totaled a bit over 10 pounds, after I shredded them, sneaked some out on which to snack, scattered some over any nook and cranny in the kitchen, and cut the cores out, I had about nine pounds of shredded cabbage. So I tossed and squeezed and tossed and squeezed, and into my freshly washed bucket it went.
While I did buy some special equipment for this project (which will make this first run of sauerkraut pretty pricy, but subsequent efforts will be cheap), one thing I did not buy was a kraut tamper. There is such a creature — see this link — but I figured surely I could press the stuff down sufficiently by hand, or find something that would serve the purpose without paying another $18.99.
I did. It’s called an olive oil bottle. Works like a charm.
So I got all the cabbage shredded and salted and massaged and packed down in the bucket, where it filled the 3.5 gallon bucket about halfway. When I got it all packed down, I could see brine (created by the salt drawing the water out of the cabbage), but it didn’t cover the cabbage. So I went ahead and added about a quarter-cup of water, which I determined later I had not needed to do, as by the time I got the stuff weighted down there was a good inch, inch and a half of water over the top.
(Oh, Lord, now, I believe! Help my unbelief!)
One must weight down the cabbage so it says submerged in the brine. This was more of an issue than I’d expected it to be. I first grabbed a cake plate; too big. Put it back, got a dinner plate; also too big. Dammit. Looked at a salad plate; too small. H’mmm.
I finally located a shallow soup bowl that was about the right diameter. Turned it upside down. Put some plastic wrap over the cabbage surface, and the upside down bowl over that. Then I used a clean cottage cheese container filled with water to weight that down.
Set the lid with the airlock in it on the bucket, and ran into a problem. How in the Sam Hill do I get the lid latched down on this puppy? I pressed; no dice. I pounded with my fist. No dice. I knelt on it. Nope. I even, fergawdsakes, climbed up on top of it, balanced with one foot on each side of the rim, and bounced up and down. Nope.
No paperwork had come with these creatures. So I betook myself back to Amazon. And lo and behold, one of the reviewers had had the same problem as I had, called their customer service, and was told to use a mallet to pound the lid shut.
Bingo, sez I. So I had to put real clothes on and go to WalMart, where for the princely sum of $3.44, I secured a rubber mallet. Got home, lined up the lid, held it on one side and gave it a mighty whack on the other.
Glory. It worked. I worked my way around the rim, then popped the airlock back in its little hole, from which the pounding had dislodged it, filled it back up with water, and parked it out of the way.
In about four weeks, we should have sauerkraut. I will be checking back in with you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em to report.