I tell you, it’s just been a nostalgic week for me, and it’s only Tuesday! First the old recipes, then making bread, and today I started a crock of kraut! I remember when we would visit my grandma Minnie in the summer, she would have a crock of kraut fermenting on the enclosed porch. She loved her sauerkraut and so did I.
A couple of years ago my hubby surprised me (or attempted to surprise me) with a 5 ltr. Gartopf Pickling crock. I could hardly believe my eyes when the UPS man rang the bell and there sat the box with Paul’s name on it and “5 LT GARTOPF PICKLING CROCK” in large, black letters on all 4 sides! LOL! Dear man, up until that moment he really had me stumped as to what he was going to get me for my birthday that year. Something that NEVER happens as he usually just has me order what I want.
Anyway, on to the fermenting fun. Sauerkraut is not hard to make and you really don’t need special equipment to do it. Just a glass or crockery container, cabbage, salt, and a weight. Let me show you. For new years our local Kroger was selling cabbage for $.25/lb. I bought up a couple of heads each weighing about 4.5lbs. You will need about 3 T. of salt for every 5 lbs of cabbage.
To start you want to shred your cabbage. This can be done with a mandolin as I have here or with a knife. As a matter of fact, when I get down to the bits that won’t on the mandolin, I use a knife to finish it off.
After shredding one head, I put it all in a big bowl and salt it down. After salting it I toss it around with my hands to make sure that the salt is distributed evenly throughout.
Then, into the crock it goes! I use a potato masher to tamp it down really well. The idea here is to bring out as much of the cabbage’s moisture as possible.
Because this is not traditionally cabbage season, I figured these were stored heads and would not be as moist as fresher heads. I must say though that they did give more moisture that I expected and I was pleasantly surprised! (The flavor was nice and sweet too.) Still, there was not quite enough moisture to cover so I added probably 3/4 C of water to help it along. As the cabbage gives of more of it’s moisture I should get about an inch or two of water above the line of cabbage.
After getting all of the cabbage tamped down well, I put down a layer of plastic wrap.
Then we need to create weight. As the cabbage gives off more fluid it will have the tendency to float. We want to avoid that and keep it all compact so that it will ferment. We’re also trying to create an “anaerobic” atmosphere to prevent growth of white kahm, a yeast, as much as possible. My crock is designed to help create an air-tight environment, but if you don’t have a crock like mine with a lid you can use a plate with a rock wrapped in a plastic baggie or a jar filled with water to weigh yours down.
My crock comes with these nifty little weights to help hold it down, but I don’t find them to be quite heavy enough so I add a jar of water to the top. Usually I add a quart jar but the crock was so full that I could only fit a pint jar inside this time.
Finally I put on the lid. There is a cast gutter around the rim where the lid sits. When it is filled with water it allows the gasses from fermentation to escape but keeps air out. Over the next few weeks I will need to make sure that this gutter remains full of water.
If you are using an open crock with a plate and a weight you will want to check your process from time to time to see if any of the white yeasty substance is growing there. If it is, simply skim it away. It will look gross but it doesn’t mean your project is ruined.
The fermentation of the kraut will take 4 to 6 weeks. Fermentation is affected by the ambient temperature. The warmer the temperature the faster the fermentation process. In temperatures between 68-75 degrees the process will generally take 3 to 4 weeks. Once it is finished I will pack it into sterile jars and can it!
I love my crock. I can do so much more in it than kraut, though to date that is all I’ve ever done in it. I hope to have enough cucumbers this year to try making pickles in it next!
If you are interested in a fermenting crock like mine, the Hubs bought my crock from Lehman’s. They are also available at Amazon. Both places carry them in a wide variety of sizes and the price isn’t bad. 🙂
I can hardly wait to have a taste! Happy fermenting!