New Year's Day is less than a week away, and that means pork and sauerkraut at our house for dinner on January 1st. Despite some protests from me, my husband began making our own sauerkraut back in October, assuring me there would be no odor as it fermented in our rustic basement. He finally pulled it out for extended family to taste yesterday, and I must admit that it was a hit. It certainly smells strong when he first opens the bags, but the rest of the time, it went unnoticed as it went from raw cabbage to this excellent, live, lacto-bacillus, probiotic food. It's one of the best treats you can give your digestive tract.
My husband used this Wild Fermentation book by Sandor Ellix Katz for inspiration, but he modified the recipes based on our likes and what we had growing in our gardens. This is a terrific source of information on the health benefits of live-culture foods and gives detailed explanations of the fermenting process. It's full of recipes as well.
First, he began with two heads of green cabbage grown by a local Amish family. After peeling off the outer layers, he removed the hearts (cores.)
He then sliced the cabbage into thin strips, but a large metal shredder would have worked just as well. Next, he placed one of the shredded cabbages into a bowl and added 1 organic clove of fresh minced garlic, 6 finely sliced homegrown fatali peppers, and 2 Tablespoons of salt. He thoroughly mixed it all together in the bowl until some liquid formed. Then he transferred the mixture to a clean gallon jar and packed it down with a long wooden spoon until no air bubbles appeared. He then placed 1 Tablespoon of pickling salt and water in a gallon size ziplock bag. This was then placed on top of the cabbage mixture in the jar. There should be no air within the ziplock bag, and the bag of water must be heavy enough to force the liquid in the cabbage mixture to rise about an inch above the cabbage. This ensures that anaerobic fermentation will occur.
For the magenta colored sauerkraut, he added to the shredded cabbage 2 small organic diced onions, 4 large diced Japanese diakon radishes, 2 chopped cylindra red beets, and 2 Tablespoons of salt. The rest of the process was the same; it was just done in another jar.
Both jars were placed in our dark, cool basement, but they can be stored anywhere out of the way. My husband checked them every now and then to make sure there was no air trapped underneath the bags. Our sauerkraut was left alone in the basement for approximately two months, but for a good, tangy flavor, it needs at least four weeks. When it was ready, we just took out the bag and removed the amount of sauerkraut we wanted to eat. Then we placed the bags back on top and returned the jars to the basement until we wanted more. As long as water remains on top of the sauerkraut, it can be stored for many months without going bad. Once it has been removed from the jar, it should be eaten within 24 hours or refrigerated.
This was surprisingly rather simple and inexpensive to do, and it is so incredibly good for you. A warning though: once you remove that ziplock bag from the top of the jar, that sauerkraut will emit a pungent odor throughout your kitchen. There's just no way around that, I'm afraid. The flavor and freshness will make the odor worth it because homemade sauerkraut just doesn't compare to the canned or refrigerated versions you find in your grocery store.