Saturday, November 13, 2010

In a sauer mood

My kitchen stinks, literally. Actually I somewhat like the smell of fermenting cabbage, but when I come home, open the door, and get a first whiff of the trapped vapors, it can be unpleasant for a moment. 2 days ago, I started my second batch of delicious kraut! Thank you Suzie's Farm for providing such beautiful cabbages!

This time I thought I'd do a mix of red and green cabbages. I know it'll all be a beautiful purple-y pink in the end!

If you are indeed a kraut fan like I am, and would like to try this fun in your very own kitchen, I am going to explain what I did. But first, did you know sauerkraut (and almost all other fermented foods) are jam packed super-foods? Ads should be saying Got kraut? imagine? With little dangling hairs of kraut on the celebrities lips, hehee. Anyway, you can read some of the wondrous capabilities of kraut here.

There's probably just as many methods to preparing kraut as there are people making it, but go with whatever sounds right for you. You can put most any veggies, spices, herbs, and even certain fruits into your kraut! I used about 16 cups of shredded cabbage. I chopped it all into thin shreds with my sharp knife, but if you have a mandolin or veggie shredder, that would work just as well. For my fermentation vessel, I use an old genuine crock just like my grandpa used to. I scored it at a flea market in Wisconsin this spring with my sister and mom. I was on the prowl for the perfect one that wasn't too small, but wasn't too huge that I couldn't take it back on the plane either. Most antique stores have them, but make sure if you find one, that it has a nice intact glaze an it's not cracked or chipped. One could also use plastic buckets, but NO metal. Apparently the brine can leech out metals into your kraut. Ick. I'm tellin ya, kraut has super powers! If you have a slow cooker with a ceramic insert, those can often work well, too. I sterilized mine by pouring boiling hot water over it before I began.

Into the crock is a layering of the ingredients. Your most basic kraut is cabbage and salt. I of course like to add a couple of other seasonings. This time in addition to the 3 T. sea salt, I added 1 T. dried dill, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 T. mustard seeds, and 1 T. caraway seeds. Total experiment, and we'll see how those flavors all worked together in a few weeks! Onto the layering..... 4 cups cabbage in, sprinkle some salt and some spices and punch cabbage down (i used the tamper for my blender- but use whatever you want- fist, wooden spoon, etc.). This forces water out of the cabbage creating its' own natural brine. Repeat layering and punching down 3 more times. The cabbage should be good n juicy by now!

Now for the pressing.... Find a plate that fits inside, preferably ceramic or glass, and push down on top of the cabbage. Next you'll need a weight. I used a glass gallon jug filled with water. Fit the weight on top of the plate, cover the whole shebang with a towel to keep out debris and bugs, but so it can also freely breathe and VOILA! You just made kraut my friends! In a couple of weeks it will be ready to enjoy!! Keep this stinker in a well aired place if you can, not too hot and not too cold. The warmer it is the faster it will be ready, and vice versa if you put it in a cold spot. You can leave the crock in a cool place for months to get it REAL good and fermented! When I made my first batch this summer I think I only waited 8 days and she was ready. It was warm in my kitchen, so it didn't take long at all. Now it's averaging around 55-65 degrees here in my kitchen in this San Diego November, so I'll probably let it sit for a few weeks. Every few days you can check in on it. Scrape off any foam or mold that might develop, rinse the plate and weight and replace it back on top of the kraut. This website has great info on all things fermented, should you be gripped with curiosity!

You can decide when your kraut is tasty enough to devour. Throw it on sandwiches, tofu dogs, salad, or just reach in and grab a fork full as a snack. It's so delicious and as you know, nutritious. My favorite is to eat it on fresh sourdough bread with avocado, YUM! Tempeh reubens, too of course- my all time favorite :) I'll post pics and updates as i "harvest" my kraut and jar it up. For now, I'll just enjoy its' perfume.....

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