Hi, Kathryn Lukas here, the founder of Farm House Culture. Today we’re going to make some really good tasting kraut.
Making good kraut is kind of like making good bread - it’s generally pretty easy, but doing it really well takes some good tips. Today I’m going to show you some tips to make great kraut every single time.
The first thing you’ll need, of course, is cabbage. Today’s recipe calls for a 3 lb. head of cabbage. The greatest thing about cabbage is that it comes in it’s own kind of little package - you don’t really have to wash it if you just peel the outer leaves off.
You can use green cabbage, red cabbage or white cabbage. We’re in California so we’re using green cabbage. It’s crunchier, it’s a little less sweet. It’s delicious.
The first thing you’re going to do is core your cabbage. So go ahead and cut the cabbage in half, and then cut two little V’s, just a few inches deep, on either side of the core in order to remove it - kind of like you’d do with an apple or tomato.
Now I like to shave my cabbage, a technique that an older woman in Germany taught me. Basically, it gets you a really great, clean cut on your cabbage. Keep on chopping your cabbage until it is at the size that you prefer.
Next you’ll want to transfer the cut cabbage to a nice bowl with ample space - in this case we’ll be using a big stainless steel bowl. Make sure your bowl has enough space, because you’ll be massaging the cabbage with some salt, and you don’t want to do it in a really small bowl.
Next we’re going to add the salt. So for 3 lbs. of cabbage we’re going to add 1tbs. of salt. If you’re doing this by weight, in larger quantities, you can use anywhere from .08% salt to 2% salt. We like 1.5% salt by weight. You’ll want to use a really nice, coarse, quality Sea Salt, maybe a local salt. The most important thing is that it is a pure salt. You want 95% sodium chloride - it’s very important. Ball pickling salt will work just fine too.
Next you'll need to massage the salt into the cabbage to draw the water out. One great way to do this is to massage your cabbage for a few minutes, walk away for 30 minutes, have lunch, come back and voila - most of this work will be done for you. What you are looking for is for all the water to be drawn out of the cabbage by the salt and to start seeing a salt-water brine starting to form at the bottom of the bowl.
Take a look at how much brine is down at the bottom of your bowl - it is truly amazing the amount of water that just a little bit of salt will bring out of your cabbage!
Once you’ve got your cabbage massaged, that’s when I like to add my other spices and vegetables. Today we’re adding a tablespoon of carraway and some carrots. You can choose any vegetable really, as long as you follow the 25% rule - to not add more than 25% other vegetables. Especially high sugar vegetables, because you can get slimy kraut.
If you keep it at 75% cabbage, and 25% other vegetables, like onions, radishes, cucumbers and, gosh, what else? Parsnips, turnips and more - you can do so many great things. I like carrots, I always put carrots in mine, because I like the color.
So just gently mix in your extra ingredients, and get it ready to go into a container.
So we’ve got our cabbage salted and massaged - it’s salty, juicy and ready to go into a container.
Today we’re going to use a good old mason jar - easy, inexpensive and accessible. You can also use nifty kits like the Perfect Pickler. If you really want to ferment big batches in style, a classic stoneware pickling crock will serve you well.
Put your jar directly over the bowl, so as not to make quite the mess, and begin packing your kraut into the jar. Go ahead, don’t be afraid to get your elbow grease into it, and don’t forget to pack all of that really great juicy kraut at the bottom of the bowl.
Once you’ve packed the jar full of kraut, the best way to keep the kraut submerged under the brine is to use the leftover cabbage leaves and stuff them into the top of the jar - it keeps all kraut submerged at all times. Of course you can check out our crock accessories to find weights that can serve this purpose as well.
Now you’re ready to find a good location to let your kraut ferment.
Tip: Place your jar inside of a bowl while it’s fermenting just in case there is any overflow or spillage.
Ideal fermentation temp is 64 to 67 degrees Farenheit. What’s really most important though is that you put it somewhere where the temperature is not wildly inconsistent. You don’t want it to be 40 degrees at night time and 70 degrees during the day. One of my favorite places to keep my fermenting kraut, in wintertime especially, is right on top of the fridge next to my other ferments.
One of the things you'll need to do, especially during the first few days of fermentation, is to burp your jar to let the gasses out. Just simply open your lid, and close it, it’s that simple. That allows some of Co2 created by the fermentation process to off-gas. Kits and crocks like the perfect pickler have nifty double-airlock systems that will automatically let the off-gassing happen so you don’t have to worry about it.
If you want to learn more about the art and science of fermentation, there are a lot of good resources out there. Head over to the pickling & fermentation section of our Homestead Library. Or you can simply find everything you need to get started in our Pickling & Fermentation Department.
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