Many of us start preserving with commercial pectin, following recipes that we think are easy and, for the most part, are. I remember thinking that fermentation, pressure cooking and dehydrating were far too complex and I would eventually learn how to do them.
The truth is the `more advanced` preserving techniques are often the easiest.
Here`s the complete list of ingredients to make sauerkraut:
For every 5 pounds of cabbage, you use as little as 3 tablespoons of salt. A large head of cabbage is about 5 pounds and the freshest cabbage you can find, the better.
There are many recipes on the web – unfortunately not a lot of variance between them and I`ve found many that seem to have copied and pasted the recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Rather than just copying and pasting we`ll send you there for the fine details if you are interested once you read a high-level walk-through below.
The process is simple:
- Clean everything well
- Grate your cabbage – most recipes work about 5 pounds at a time
- Toss with salt (most add it as they grate)
- Pack into a large crock or similar vessel.
- Push down hard; this begins to draw the liquids out.
- Cover the entire mess with a plate, weight it down (a clean jar filled with brine often helps). Ensuring all of the product is covered with brine is critical.
- Within 24 hours you should have the complete cabbage covered with natural brine (if not, you`ll add more brine – more info will follow)
- Cover tight
- Skim any `scum`off that appears every few days.
- Depending on the temperature you are storing it in, fermentation will be done in 3-6 weeks (warmer temperatures finish earlier though may be softer). You`ll know it`s complete when the bubbling is finishes.
You can add other vegetables – hot peppers slices, shredded carrots, red cabbage and more. You can keep the kraut in it`s crock, fridge, freeze or waterbath – the former techniques will tend to have a better texture while the later ones will last longer.
There`s something magic about seeing fermentation in action – it`s like a delicious, controlled rot that seems so counter-intuitive to consume that it`s delightful.
It`s ironic that the `advanced techniques` I avoided for so long are actually so much easier than many that I started with.
For the full details on how to do this, check the link above – would love to hear any of your experiences.
This is part of our series of posts linked to our Preserving Autumn article in Edible Toronto. The posts will update daily from September 18th and you’ll be able to see all of the posts in the series by clicking here.