Most people think of sauerkraut as a German creation, but laborers who constructed the Great Wall of China more than two millennia ago ate a version of sauerkraut regularly. Making crunchy, tasty sauerkraut requires only a few basic ingredients: heads of cabbage, salt and time for fermentation. But you do have to have the right utensils and equipment to do the job..
Collect several heads of cabbage.
Remove the cabbage's outer leaves. You want a clean firm head. Quarter the cabbage. Cut out the core.
Shred the cabbage. This can be done with a sharp knife. Large amounts of cabbage can also be quickly shredded with a kraut cutter.
Weigh the cabbage. Add 3 tbsp. of pickling (noniodized) salt for every 5 lb. of shredded cabbage. Mix well.
Place salted cabbage in the crock. Pound down thoroughly. You can use your fist, a potato masher or the end of a baseball bat. Be sure whatever you use is clean. Brine should begin to form as you pound down the shredded cabbage.
Repeat this process until your cabbage is gone or your cabbage is 3 to 4 inches from the top of the crock. You should now have a layer of brine 1 to three inches deep on the top of your compacted, shredded cabbage.
Press a large, clean plate into the top of the cabbage. The plate should be an inch or so smaller than the crock. The idea is to force the cabbage down below the surface of the brine. The brine protects the fermenting cabbage from the air.
Add a weight to the top of the plate to hold it down and keep the cabbage submerged. Any clean, heavy object will work. You could use canning jars filled with water.
Cover the top of the crock with muslin cloth to keep it clean. Fermentation will begin in a day or so. Bubbles will form as the cabbage ferments. Skim off any scum that forms every day or two. After three to four weeks, the bubbles will stop. You can remove and eat the sauerkraut.
- Good sauerkraut starts with good cabbage. Mature, firm, dense, clean heads make the best kraut. Be sure to remove any damaged areas.
- Be sure to use canning or pickling salt. Canning salt does not contain iodine. Iodine can make canned products mushy and discolored.
- Take the time to mix your salt thoroughly with the cabbage to insure uniform distribution.
- Spoilage is rarely a problem if the cabbage is properly submerged below the brine. However, discoloration or mold is an indication of a problem. Discard this material. The remaining material is fine in our experience. (Mold can form on the surface of the brine if you wait too long between skimming.)
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