Chefs on the Farmby Shannon Borg & Lora Lea Misterly
Store-bought sauerkraut is rarely made by traditional methods, and it just doesn't taste as good as homemade. Traditional sauerkraut requires fermentation, a process that is healthful for human digestion and helps prevent cancer. Most of us don't get enough fermented foods in our diets. Making your own sauerkraut is quite easy, and the result is a buttery, tangy staple that will keep for months. Note:
For best results, choose a freshly harvested cabbage that is firm and heavy; an older cabbage may not yield the liquid necessary. Makes 1 gallon (16 cups)
• 5 pounds cabbage, sliced or grated
• 3 tablespoons sea salt
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with layers of salt. Pack it into a ceramic crock, a food-grade plastic bucket, or a large glass jar, tamping it down hard as you go. Fit a plate or plastic lid snugly inside the crock, and put a clean weight on the cover. This weight should force the water out of the cabbage and keep the cabbage submerged under the brine (the salted water). Cover with a towel.
Periodically press the weight down to force water out of the cabbage. Do this for about 24 hours, or until enough liquid has risen above the cabbage to completely cover it. After 24 hours, if the brine has not risen above the plate level, add enough salt water (1 teaspoon of sea salt dissolved in 1 cup water) to bring the brine level above the plate.
Let the kraut sit in its weighted bucket or jar covered with the towel in a cool, dark place for 2 to 6 weeks. Skim any funk from the brine. Taste the kraut; it will be tangy in the beginning stages and mellow as time goes on. When the flavor is appealing to you, skim the kraut and pack into sterilized glass jars. For optimum health benefits, store in the refrigerator until use. To preserve for long periods, process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.
Variations: Add shredded carrots, beets, or other root vegetables to the cabbage. Apples, cherries, caraway seeds, or other seeds add color and variation.