I have always been hands on and keen to learn. My Mother and my Mother in law were both pretty practical women who took pride in providing the best for their families. They both worked. My Mom was a nurse and my Mother in law helped take care of the ranch. It never got in the way of gardening and producing fine healthy food.Traditionally pickling and fermenting vegetables was a way to ensure a supply of vegetables well into winter when refrigeration was unavailable
One thing I learned very early on was the art of making sauerkraut with the cabbages grown in the garden. It was a great day with Grandma and Grandpa on hand along with the kids to shred and pound the kraut. I was able early on to procure a beautiful 5 gallon crock which has served us well for over thirty years. Well worth the investment. These can be found in hardware stores and some farm stores such as Peavey Mart. The best kraut is made the old way.
Now you may wonder why in this modern day in age I don’t just buy a jar when I need it. Simply put it tastes way better. Also it is less processed and more economical. I ascribe to the closer to nature, less processed and local food movements. It is hard to improve on good basic old fashioned cooking. So on to the sauerkraut as I learned to make it.
You will need:
a crock or other large study container
A clean post or bat or similar object to beat the cabbage
a large jug of water or other similar weight
Coarse pickling salt
water bath canner
Into a clean crock place a layer of shredded cabbage. I have an electric shredder but you can also hand cut thin slices (the size of a dime) or use a manual cabbage shredder or mandolin. Do not add the core as it will make the kraut bitter. Now comes for the exact part. NOT. As with many old recipes and method this is subjective. For every couple of large bowls of shredded cabbage ( about a two inch layer in my crock) I sprinkle one handful of salt evenly over the layer. 2-3 tbsp. Now this can be adjusted to taste. Too little salt will result in a soft kraut. Too much will produce a pink discolouration over the fermenting process.
Now you get to pound it. The idea is to compress the cabbage and force out the juices. This is a great place to get the kids to help. Repeat the layering, salt and pounding until you have all your cabbage done. I did about two gallons of cabbage (2-3 cabbages) and ended up with six quarts of Sauerkraut which is enough for us at this stage of our life.
When you have filled your crock to the desired amount cover with cheese cloth. Place plate ( it should almost completely cover the cabbage) place the weight (jug) on top and place in a cool place away from the main household activities. The juice should cover the cabbage. Some people will add water but I have never had to do that. Less is more in my books. As the cabbage ferments it will produce an odor caused by the fermenting process. I like to leave my kraut about 3 weeks but anywhere from 2-6 weeks works. It is strictly a matter of taste. The longer it is left the stronger it gets. You may clean off the sides as you go along as you may see yeast growing.
When your kraut has fermented to the desired taste I then process it in a boiling water bath canner for 20 min. This stops the fermentation process and preserves your sauerkraut. Skim off the dark or yeasty part on top and discard before placing in jars.
Follow standard methods for safe home canning. I have a great book from Bernardin that has been my go to for years.
If you find sauerkraut a little too sour to eat here is a tip also from the mother in law. While heating grate a little raw potatoe and a dab of butter and cook. It mellows it out nicely.
Note: As the canning season comes to a close I start running out of jars. You may note the two antique jars I used. I happened to have some rubber rings so figured why not use them. Kind of a throw back to the two Moms.