When many Americans still lived a rural live style before the 20th century, they didn't know that sauerkraut was one of the only winter sources of vitamin C, but they did know that it prevented scurvy for sailors at sea. Today, the canned product that we call sauerkraut is a poor substitute for what was previously fermented in a ceramic crock. Ceramic crocks are hard to find today, but you can make the same delicious sauerkraut by using a 5-gallon food-grade bucket.
Things You'll Need
- 9 tablespoons pickling salt
- 15 pounds cabbage
- 5-gallon food-grade bucket
- Plastic wrap
- 2 bricks
Use fresh cabbage. You can use winter cabbage that you grew yourself, buy it from the farmers' market or buy it at the supermarket when it's in season. If harvesting your own, let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Remove any undesirable portions and outer leaves from the cabbage heads. Wash the cabbage and allow it to drain.
Cut the cabbage into halves and remove the core. Use a hand shredder, sharp knife or the shredding attachment on a food processor to shred the cabbage into about quarter-inch thick pieces.
Place 5 pounds of the shredded cabbage into a bowl and mix with 3 tablespoons of salt, then transfer the cabbage into the clean bucket. Pack the cabbage firmly and evenly into the bucket, backing in with a plastic or wooden spoon, pressing down until the juice comes to the surface. Repeat the process with the remaining 10 pounds of cabbage.
Cover the cabbage with plastic wrap and place a plate on top. The plate must be small enough to fit inside the bucket but large enough to cover the cabbage. Put two clean bricks on the plate to press the cabbage.
Notice bubbles of gas forming on top of the cabbage: This indicates that fermentation is occurring. Keep at room temperature, between 68 and 72 degrees, to facilitate proper fermentation. Fermentation takes about four to six weeks.
Remove any scum and excess liquid from the top of bucket once fermentation is complete. Pack the sauerkraut in quart jars, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Tips & Warnings
- If your sauerkraut is too soft, you didn't use enough salt. If it is pink, you used too much salt.
- If your kraut smells like it's rotting, the cabbage is not covered sufficiently to exclude air during fermentation.
- Scum does not cause trouble as long as you skim it off before it stops fermentation. Remove it every day or two.
- Dark sauerkraut can be caused by insufficient brine too high of temperatures during the fermentation process.
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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