Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A new German adventure !

Ok, I have decided. I am taking the plunge. I am going to master this. I've decided it's time that I start to embrace some of the foods I think I don't like (there aren't very many by the way) and try them, and even better, learn to prepare them. So armed with loads of info from some very experienced people to guide me, I am embarking on a new adventure. A German one. A stinky one. I am going to make sauerkraut.

What's the big deal you ask? I have been convinced most of my life that I don't like sauerkraut. To be perfectly honestly, I never really did. Having a mother who was born and raised in Germany meant more than my fair share of sauerkraut on the dinner table, and with the exception of oysters, if Mom made it, we ate it or went hungry. Lots of celebrations at the German American Society meant.....more kraut. An entire summer spent in Europe.....more kraut. When I reached adulthood I swore I'd never cook any of those foods, the ones I was forced to eat as a kid- turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga........sauerkraut!

I am very fortunate to have so many experienced canners, preservers, and homesteaders as friends. Most of not all of them have some experience with fermenting kraut, and since I'm a total newbie, I need the advice! After spending a lot of time talking with several people I feel like I can do this- and it's much easier than I ever imagined it would be. Two ingredients- cabbage and salt. The amount of cabbage is up to me. Since I have zero experience, I am definitely starting SMALL- using a good size head of cabbage and a small bucket. I'm thinking a few quarts of finished kraut will be a success if this novice can pull it off. 

The process is simple. Slice the cabbage finely. Obviously, the actual size is up to you. You don't want big HUNKS but you also don't want thread-like shreds. You can use whatever method of slicing you like. My friend Ben advised me to not cut it TOO small but to get a good chop on it. I can see why- adding the salt will release the juice from the cabbage, which is what forms the brine. The more cut surfaces, the more brine will be made faster. The Ball Book recipe for kraut uses about 25 lbs (5 heads) and one cup salt. I am planning on about a head to start my small experiment so I will need to do some math with the salt. Too much salt, I'm told, will prevent fermentation, and I'm sure won't taste very good. 

Once the cabbage is sliced, you need to layer it in the CLEAN container you plan to use for fermentation, alternating with salt and using hands, work the salt into the cabbage well, massaging it, crushing it a little, to help break it down and get the juices going. If you get this step right you will have enough brine to cover the cabbage completely. Ball has a brine recipe on their website if you don't get enough from the cabbage. Then weigh the cabbage down with a plate to keep it submerged, cover with a towel to keep multi-legged friends and junk out and place in a 70-75 degree area and let nature do it's thing. It should take a few weeks for the process to finish, and you'll know when it stops bubbling. Skim off any scum as it forms. 

You can do a few things to make your kraut a little different. You can add caraway seeds or juniper berries for a different flavor. You can use white or red cabbage- pink kraut- that's an interesting idea. I didn't do any of these things this time. For me it was a learning experience and I'll try those other ideas later. 

After it's been fermented you can either can it (it's a waterbath canning item so it's easy) or just store in the fridge. It stores well in the fridge for a very very very very long time.

So, now I have my cabbage brined and covered and ready to do its thing. You'll have to stop back by in a few weeks and see how it turns out.

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