When I first got Kurt, he came with a sauerkraut crock. That, and a few other random belongings, all of which could fit in the truck of his car: an army duffel bag full of camping gear, a pairing knife, stack of reference books and a set of medicine balls.
I, not being a fan of sauerkraut, didn't even know you needed a special pot for it. And I certainly didn't know that when making authentic sauerkraut, you leave a crock full of raw cabbage out on the counter for a week and a half, and occasionally (if necessary) skimming off the top layer of mold. That part kind of threw me, but seeing how this crock was one of Kurt's few proud possessions, there had to be something special about sauerkraut that I had been missing. He'd been right about everything else up to that point, so I opened my mind to fermented foods. Now, after having tasted Kurt's sauerkraut, I am no longer wary. I'm actually a fan.
My parents didn't have a fancy crock - they just boiled cabbage in a stock pot until it became slimy, colorless strings, then doused it in vinegar and called it kraut. No wonder I didn't like it! Kurt's sauerkraut is tart and crunchy like a pickle.
Apparently, to do it right, it helps to have one of these. Make sure you clean your crock very well before starting, because any trace of bacteria can hinder fermentation, and quickly leave you with an incredibly smelly, rotten crock of cabbage.
Here is our sauerkraut fermenting on the counter. The bag of water keeps pressure on the
vegetables, helping along the fermentation process.
To make naturally fermented sauerkraut, the process is very simple:
- Wash and shred a head of cabbage, omitting the core. (We also added a bunch of sliced radishes, 2 shredded carrots, two garlic cloves and fresh dill.)
- Add a big handful of cabbage (and other vegetables, if using) to the crock and sprinkle liberally with salt, about a teaspoon. Pack down cabbage with your hands. Continue layering cabbage and salt and pressing down the mixture until all of the cabbage is in the crock.
- Fill a quart-sized freezer bag with water. Gather the bag at the opening, twist closed and secure with a twist tie or rubber band.
- Place the bag on top of the kraut inside the crock. It should sit down in there nicely. Over time, the salt will draw out moisture from the cabbage. Also, the weight of the water bag will add pressure to the mixture below, and the moisture will become a tasty sour juice. Your kraut should be completely submerged in juice after sitting for 24 hours. If not you can add a bit of distilled water.
- Leave your crock in a place it will not be disturbed. Then you wait. You wait for what seems like forever. Check your sauerkraut every once and a while ... if mold grows on the top, that is normal. You just scoop it off and throw it away. After a week or week and a half, the sauerkraut should be ready to eat. The longer it ferments, the sourer it gets.