Friday, May 25, 2012

Standards: Sauerkraut

It seems, I am on a roll with my basic, go-to foods lately. Maybe it's the weather, perhaps I'm a touch stressed, what ever the reason I seem to have fallen comfortably backwards onto some very basic "standards" as of lately.

Brassica oleracea  in all its glory
I had a visit to my favorite place for produce, Contended Acres, and had a nice little visit with Farmer Bill.  He had lots to choose from that morning; Fava beans, fennel, cabbage, snow peas, strawberries, turnip greens, kohlrabi…and I bought all of it.

But, that one giant head of cabbage sitting lonely in a basket called out to me, as cabbage sometimes does. It told me, "Turn me into your favorite comfort food, BitterSweet. I won't disappoint you!"  and so, because I do not like wasting time arguing with cabbage heads, I did as I was told. Now I have two and a half lovely jars of what will become sauerkraut fermenting on my counter top.

It's a handy thing to know how to do. You never know when cabbage will make these sorts of demands of you.







You will need:
  • 4-5lb head of cabbage
  • Kosher Salt
  • 2 quart sized sterilized mason jars
  • a dish towel
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, rinse and set aside.

With a sharp knife quarter the cabbage and give a good rinse.
Remove the core and shred the cabbage.

Sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons of Kosher Salt, toss to distribute, stuff into sterilized mason jars.



Take the reserved outer leaves from the cabbage and cut into squares big enough so that it will fit over and cover the shredded cabbage in the jar. This will act as a sort of a lid to keep the shredded cabbage from floating up and stay submerged in the liquid that the cabbage will give off.

 You might need to weight it down with a small cup or shot glass, just be sure the shredded parts are submerged. If by chance the cabbage does not give off enough liquid to cover its self, you should mix 1 teaspoon of kosher salt into 1/2 cup of water to make a brine and pour in just enough to cover the cabbage.



--



Cover the jars with a dish towel or cheese cloth to keep any foreign bits (like fruit flies, dust and pet hair) out and set the jars on your counter top.

Depending on how sour you like you sauerkraut will depend on the time you let it ferment. I like to give mine a taste after about 3 days but normally I like to let it ferment for about a week to 10 days. It will depend greatly on the weather and the temperature.

You will know it is close to done when it occasionally smells sour and earthy, like one of my Hungarian Gypsy ancestors might be hiding in you kitchen somewhere.  [ Editor's note: waiting to pinch your cheeks, you silly édesem! ]

I  decided, as an experiment, to add a little of Lev's Probiotic Green Tea Vinegar to one of the jars. The pro-biotic vinegar contains live lacto-bacillus and other cultures and with those microbes, I'm betting I could get the fermentation process started faster and to maybe add a little extra kick.

The other jar I left alone.

It's been 4 days. They are beautiful and smell quite delightful. The jar I added the probiotic vinegar to did not ferment any faster but it does have a more developed, deeper flavor than the other one.  I will be adding it as a regular ingredient in my kraut making process from now on. I love when food experiments good well!

--
Happy cooking! ~ 99% Bittersweet