Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sauerkraut Makes Me Smile-Guest Blogger

My husband, Mark, is a true foodie with a love of cooking! He LOVED the movie Julie and Julia and we went on a month-long craze watching old shows of Julia Child. It was a lot of fun! Mark loves to try new things and here's one of his latest endeavors:

Last October, we went to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, VA. What a treat! Authentic homesteads from various locations and some dating back to the 1600's, have been reconstructed and manned for learning. They had English, Irish, African and American homesteads. There was also a German one, which brings me to the post for today.

At the German homestead, there was a gentleman docent who was demonstrating and describing various aspects of German farm life. In the kitchen, he showed me his sauerkraut and let me smell it! I was in heaven. I even called Angie over to check it out...trying to determine if I could get away with making it at our house. It worked, so I have been planning to make it for a while. The one thing that he told me that I had never heard, was to saute some onions and add it to the cabbage for extra flavor.

I have been looking for an appropriate crock to make it in ever since that vacation. I finally found one (actually a veggie dip chiller) that I thought would work. I made my first batch (only a half a head of cabbage) and obsessively checked it each day. It was smelling better and better every day. Finally a little over a week into it, I gave up! I had to try it. Yuuum! The kraut, though young, was delicious and for the next several days I enjoyed kraut dogs!

I shared some sauerkraut with one of the worship leaders at our church, who did not even put it on anything. He ate is straight, and confirmed my thoughts, that while it was definitely a "young" kraut, and would be better if it were aged longer, it was a success!

I decided I needed to go bigger for my next batch, so I now have a larger crock (thank you Salvation Army) and have batch 2 (in both the large and the small crock...since it would not all fit) going.

This time I am experimenting with the smaller crock and have added 3 squirts of hot chili oil (Asian) to the mix, for a bit of a kimchi vibe. I will let you know how that goes.

The clock it ticking soooo slowly, but I am determined to wait at least 2 weeks this time. I know it will be worth the wait.

UPDATE: I wrote this some time ago and the Sauerkraut is done and I have some observations. First, the timechart listed below works well...my favorite was right at 3 weeks. Also, the hot chili oil did NOTHING in that volume. I have switched back and forth on my hot dogs, etc. and the slight flavor that you get from adding a little heat does not help it in any way. If you want kimchi, make kimchi...don't fake it with a little hot oil.

Here is the recipe!

Easy Sauerkraut Recipe

You will need:

Crock, glass or enamel container (preferably with straight sides, especially if weighting using the 2nd method)
Cabbage (2 med-large heads = appx. 5lbs., but make as much or as little as you desire. I made 1/2 head of cabbage my first time, because I was not sure how it would go and only had a small crock that would work.)
Kosher salt or sea salt (ratio of 4Tbsp per 5 lbs. of cabbage...I have heard to never use table salt) Heavy duty food-grade plastic bags or 2 gal freezer bags
Wooden spoon

Optional - My Secret: (from the docent) onions! He did not give me any proportions, but this is what seemed to work for me. For each head of cabbage, saute 1 yellow onion over med-low heat in 1 Tbsp butter until soft, then brown to nice med-dark brown. Let cool completely then mix into your kraut with the salt. This will add an earthiness and layer of complexity to your sauerkraut. I had a hard time not eating the cabbage and onion mixture when I was putting it in the crock. (See the brownish stuff by the spoon? - That is the onions)

Instructions:

To prepare the cabbage, remove and discard the outer leaves. Wash and drain and then cut the cabbages into quarters while removing the core in the process.


Step 1) Shred Cabbage - I just cut into thin ribbon strips with a very sharp knife.

Step 2) Mix, with wooden spoon or very clean hands, shredded cabbage with salt (do not use table salt) and toss and mix thoroughly until kosher salt dissolves! (You can make as much as you wish as long as you use the ratio above) NOTE: If you plan on refrigerating and not canning use 3 tbs of salt not 4!

Step 3) When juice starts to form on cabbage from tossing - Pack the cabbage firmly and evenly into a clean crock, glass or enamel container. Press firmly to encourage juice formation.

Step 4) Make sure juice covers the cabbage completely! Prepare additional brine by putting 1 1/2 Tablespoons of kosher salt into 1 quart of boiling water. Dissolve salt and cool brine to room temperature before adding to the pot of cabbage.

Step 5) Once cabbage is immersed in brine water, you need to cover completely and weight it down a bit.
Here are a couple of options:

Place a large food grade, plastic bag filled with brine water and lay on top if cabbage... (use 2 large bags, one filled with brine mixture inside the other - this way if the inner bag breaks it will not water down the cabbage into a tasteless mess)

Lay plastic over the top of the cabbage (make sure that it overlaps enough so that when weighted, the liquid from the kraut does not spill into the plastic), then place a weight, such as a bowl or a sterile (boiled) piece of wood that just fits into the crock. The plastic will help form a seal, but will allow the weight to progress downward as the structure softens on the cabbage.

The cabbage must be well sealed all around with the bag, so no air can get in and contaminate the sauerkraut with unwanted yeasts or molds!

Step 6) Now cover the container with plastic wrap, then a heavy towel or cloth and tie securely into place. Do not remove this until fermenting is complete!
NOTE: I have not done this, but it makes sense, especially if you are concerned with airborne contaminants.

Step 7) Put in an area where the temperature will not be above 75 degrees. Fermentation will begin within a day, depending upon the room temperature.

If room temperature is 75 degrees allow 3 weeks for fermentation.
If temperature is 70 degrees allow 4 weeks.
If temperature is 65 degrees allow 5 weeks.
If temperature is 60 degrees allow 6 weeks.
NOTE: If temperature is above 75 or 76 degrees, the sauerkraut may not ferment and could spoil!

I have to confess...on my first batch, I could not wait...so it only went 1 1/2 weeks. It was delicious. A young sauerkraut is tasty as well. Can be eaten immediately if you desire!

(Optional: mix in 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed into 4 cups, enough for a couple of pints or 1 quart. This makes a tasty variation.)
NOTE: if you refrigerate, only rinse and toss with cold water to attain the tartness desired!

Adapted from a recipe by Lena Sanchez

53 comments:

Kelly said...

Great job Mark! My mouth is watering. No one in my family appreciates it. BTW I really love the red plate you displayed it on :).
- Kelly

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