Sauerkraut July 6, 2010Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Vegetables.
In case you haven’t realised by now, I’m a big fan of pickled things – and I always have been. The only thing that has changed is that now I attempt to make my own pickled things, rather than relying on store-bought! This has a number of advantages, the first being that I can control the flavour, adding and subtracting spices and other flavours as I wish. It also has a distinct disadvantage: I have only myself to blame when I run out!
This time, I decided to make some sauerkraut. This mainly came about because I had a cabbage in the fridge that I needed to use up. As you can see, it was a red cabbage, and although you can definitely make sauerkraut with both red or white cabbage, white cabbage sauerkraut is perhaps better known. Another thing to note is that there are several methods which can be used to make sauerkraut and the one I used was not, strictly speaking, the traditional method. I’ll explain why this was the case as I go along.
To start with, I sliced my cabbage into strips and pieces. I separated it with my hands and sprinkled a fair amount of salt over it.
I let this sit, mixing and tossing the cabbage with my hands from time to time, and after a while, juice began to ooze out.
According to traditional sauerkraut recipes, the cabbage should release enough juice to cover the whole amount of cabbage, and act as a brine during the fermentation process. However, for reasons I cannot discover, my cabbage did not release that much juice. After leaving it overnight and adding a bit more salt in an attempt to release more juice, there was still not nearly enough to cover the cabbage. If the cabbage is not covered by the brine, it will remain exposed to the air and mould and other bad things can grow, potentially spoiling the whole batch of sauerkraut.
Since I did not have nearly enough juice, I mixed up a brine of salt and water to add to the cabbage juice mixture. I packed the cabbage into a jar, pushing it down as far as it would go, and added the brine on top, ensuring that all the cabbage was covered.
As you can see, I didn’t fill the brine right up to the top of the jar. To further ensure that air wasn’t going to get into the jar, I filled a ziploc bag with a bit of remaining brine. I folded this over the top of the jar and into the liquid. This helped push the cabbage down even further, making sure it wasn’t anywhere near the air! I used brine in the ziploc bag in case it leaked – if I’d just used water, the brine may have become diluted. I left the jar in a cupboard which was relatively cool for the fermentation process to begin.
After this, it was merely a matter of waiting and checking and waiting some more. Several of the sauerkraut recipes I’d read said that the sauerkraut would be ready after a week. I did try it after a week and while fermentation had definitely begun, it was more salty than properly fermented. I checked it at the end of week 2 and it was not until week 3 that I decided the sauerkraut was ready. This may be my personal preference – I do like my pickled things on the ‘well-pickled’ side, but I’d say in general sauerkraut will take 2-3 weeks to ferment, rather than the 1 week I had read.
After I declared it done, I removed the ziplock bag (which had not leaked!) and put the jar in the fridge to stop fermentation. The brine had turned a lovely shade of bright pink, as had the sauerkraut. Here’s the final result:
I probably shouldn’t confess that after I took that photo, I ate the sauerkraut straight off the plate – but that’s what happened! This sauerkraut tastes miles better than any I’ve had from a store. The cabbage continues to have a slight crunch, unlike store-bought sauerkraut which seems to have almost no texture at all. The flavour is also a lot more prominent and has a depth lacking from the store-bought variety, which often just tastes like vinegar.
This method could easily be used to pickle other vegetables and this is certainly something I’d like to try. Different flavours and spices can, of course, also be added. For now though, I am quite satisfied eating my bright pink sauerkraut, and dreaming about other pickled things.