by Todd Walker
I always wipe down the shopping cart handle with the handy sanitizing wipes at the grocery store. I’m doing my part in the war on germs being waged in our society. Anti-bacterial soap, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer are only the tip of our modern microorganism warhead. Pasteurized and irradiated food is a relatively new practice. Sterile is good, right?
Fermented foods have sustained humans for thousands of years. When it comes to our gut flora, exposure to bacteria is a good thing. Fermented foods offer the sterile gut a healthy dose of probiotics to help balance our intestinal flora. In a prolonged emergency, the skill of fermentation will become very useful – even life saving. When the lights go out, a lot of sub 40 degree food will go to waste.
My sauerkraut will last for years if it had to. Around my house, it doesn’t stand a chance lasting a year. If you hate bland, over-processed store-bought kraut, this stuff will make your taste buds and gut flora smile!
Here’s a healthy alternative for storing the abundance of produce from this years growing season…
Make Your Own Down and Dirty Sauerkraut
A.) Gather the Stuff
In this batch, I used one head of white cabbage, one head of red, and about 9 carrots, and some sea salt. You’ll need 2 or 3 wide mouth quart jars with lids. Always use glass to store the kraut to prevent acidic reactions with metal material. I used stainless steel pans to mix the kraut, but only leave it in long enough to mix it. You should really use non-reactive containers in the whole process.
B.) Shred the Stuff
Shred the cabbage or other vegetables you want to add to your kraut. I use a food processor for a down and dirty (quick) method. Some folks like to slice it with a knife to get the desired length on the kraut. If you’re fortunate, you own a cabbage cutter.
C.) Spread the Stuff
Spread a layer (about an inch or so) into big container. Sprinkle some sea salt over the layer. How much? I don’t know. I don’t make stuff with exact recipes. You may also like to add a tablespoon of caraway seed. I’ve never tried it, but have heard it’s good. Keep adding layers of cabbage and salt until all the veggies are in the container.
Food processor with some red cabbage below.
D.) Squeeze the Stuff
I put all the shredded future kraut into a larger container. You should let the mixture set for about an hour (some recommend 24 hours – but who’s counting) to let the salt begin drawing the moisture out of the veggies. I didn’t wait since I used stainless steel this time. I just started squeezing the juice out. You’ll notice the brine starting to pool at the bottom of your container. Keep squeezing. Some folks call it messaging. I brutalized my kraut for about 20-30 minutes.
E.) Pack the Stuff
Once there’s a fair amount of brine in the bottom of your container, start filling the quart jars. I try to leave about an inch of head space. As you fill the jar, you’ll want to use a utensil to pack the kraut layer by layer. I used a big wooden spoon. The micro lovelies like it packed tight for better fermentation.
F.) Brine the Stuff
Once filled, make sure the veggies are covered completely with brine. I’ve seen people use a piece of cabbage to cover the kraut with a weight of some kind. I didn’t use that method. I just made sure I had enough brine to cover. Use any left in the big container to pour over the jar contents. If you don’t have enough brine, dissolve a little sea salt in distilled water as your brine. Pour enough to cover.
Cap the jars with lids and screw the rings down loosely so gas can escape. Sit containers on a counter out of direct sunlight. Check the jars every day or so to make sure the brine is still covering the kraut. You may have to press the kraut down on each check up to ensure it stays submerged.
G.) Label the Stuff
Label the lid with the date of processing. Put it away and let nature do the rest. I let this batch sit for about a week. I just opened a jar and enjoyed its goodness.
I just found 4 crocks at a yard sale this morning. I paid seven bucks for the whole lot. I plan on using the largest on my next batch of sauerkraut.
Do you make your own sauerkraut? Share your tips and recipe in the comments.
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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Mmmm good. I got a homemade jar from a local foraging expert last week and it was awesome. Will be following your recipe this week.
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So thats it? no sealing the lids later? No heating to eat? Just eat it this whay ? can you cook it like city folk do ? How long will it keep?