Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sauerkraut 2015, Making Kraut




Way back in July, I planted a number of cabbage seeds in hopes that they would grow into beautiful heads of greens.  About a month back I determined that they were ready for harvest.  Last weekend, they were harvested!  (With three very young kids, it's hard to get a lot of things done.)  In all I think I harvested about 20-25lbs of cabbage... if I can ever remember what kind, I'll try to post it up here.

So what do you do with 25lb of cabbage?  Ferment it!

In my last post, Sauerkraut 2015, V2.0 - the story behind the story... I described the reasoning for eating fermented - using naturally occurring lactobacillius vs yeast, which makes alcohol -  foods.  But one of the hardest things to do is find them AND afford them.  At the store a small jar of Kimchi is $6 and Kambucha costs more than a bottle of pop (I don't drink that either).  But because I have the cabbage, I can make my own for very little cost at all!

I'll start from the beginning and talk about the different tools as I go through the process.  Then I'll go into further detail on how we made ours.

Tools for the job:

Some of the tools I used...

Mandolin Slicer

One of my favorite tools to use in the kitchen is a Mandolin Slicer (I need to write a review of it).  I think the model I have is a Borner V-slicer I got off Amazon (I think it's this one).  It's awesome for making thin slices, sticks or cubes out of just near any vegetable.  Just make sure you use the holder... I've caught some skin on those blades a time or two and it is not fun!  Yea, it was a little pricey, I know... but it sure makes things go faster!  I used this for slicing the beets and the carrots.

A good knife is a must!

Knife and cutting board

I've heard of people using pieces of plywood for cutting boards.  Not a horrible idea honestly.  Put some polyurethane on there and it would probably work just fine for a while.  For a knife, we have a nice Henkel kitchen knife that I love!  I've heard of people finding great deals at Goodwill, so you might want to give that a shot if you don't have one.

Bowls and Buckets

As you work, it's really nice to have a place to put all of the shredded veggies, especially if you are doing a large batch like we are!  Note: Most recipe's I've found are either for 1 quart of kraut or 50lbs of cabbage at a time.  You'll most certainly need some big containers if you are doing a 50lb batch!

Zero your scale for whatever container you are using

Kitchen Scale

One of the critical aspects of making fermented food safely is the ratio of the salt to the veggies.  In the picture above, you can see that I am using a LEM 22lb kitchen scale.  

5lb Cabbage per Tbsp Salt

For this recipe I would go with 5lbs of cabbage/veggie mix per Tbsp of salt.  (This salt is awesome by the way!  It makes my food taste so much better than the regular table salt.)  If you don't have enough salt, there are some nasty things that can grow in your kraut, and it won't be good!  I highly recommend you use something more accurate than your bathroom scale...

Fermenting Crock

You don't have to go out and get one of these... you could probably use the bucket in the picture above!  You do not want to use a metal container as it will react with the acid the fermentation process creates, or so I'm told.  Anywho, I got my 5gallon crock for my birthday last year, and it's a beauty!  Made not only in the good ole USA, but right here in O.H.I.O. as well!  (Go Bucks!)

Weights are used to keep the whole mixture submerged.

Fermenting Weights

While just about anything, from a smooth rock, a piece of plywood or a plate, all the way down to some specially made weights, will do the trick, it is important that you keep everything you want to ferment submerged during the fermentation process.  This keeps nasty stuff like mold from growing in your mix.  Every day or so you also want to check your mix for any scum floating on top and get it out!  If you don't have enough brine in your crock to cover everything up, you'll need to add more.  The ratio is 1 quart water to 1 qt to 3 tsp salt, according to these guys.

Making kraut:

A cabbage slicer

Slicing Cabbage:

After harvesting, or bringing it home from the store, the first thing you'll need to do is cut up your cabbage.  I'd love to have one of these bad boys, pictured above, but I currently am blessed with a nice kitchen knife and cutting board.  So instead of nice even slices, I have to use my knife to do my best to evenly slice the cabbage.  An evenly sized mix is essential as the smaller the veggie slice, the faster it will ferment.  The goal here is to keep everything going at the same speed so you can get a consistent taste and texture... unless you're not into that sort of thing.  To each his own...

Sliced beets make a nice addition to the kraut.

To add some color and taste, we add beets and carrots to our ferment.  As I mentioned before, Fresh and Fermented has a great recipe for this, which also calls for some green onions.  We loosely followed the recipe last time and it was great!  This time we left out the green onions and the beets and carrots were probably not to the right ratio, but I think we'll survive.

"Too much salt is bad for you!"

That's what we are told my the mainstream, but I don't know if I believe everything they say.  I tend to think that sugar and grains are bad for me too, but I don't see any doctors standing up and telling people to cut that out of their diets, do you?

Anyway, for every 5lbs of cabbage and veggies, I would toss in 1 Tbsp (the big measuring spoon, in case you are wondering - 15ml?)  After that comes the fun part, unless you are tired.  At this point you need to put your mix, in your bucket or bowl, on the ground or something sturdy.  I like the ground because it let's me put my weight into it.  Then take all your frustration from that week and take it out on the cabbage mix.  That's right, pound the snot out of that stuff!  Really, do it!

The mix, salted and ready to receive your frustration!

The idea here is to break the cell walls of the veggies, causing them to release all of the water they are holding.  You really shouldn't have to add a brine to your ferment, as there should be enough water in there to do the job.  Some people will go ahead and use a cabbage stomper, like this one, or this one, but I prefer to hold onto my $30 and use the one's God gave me (my fists).  Alternately, there's a really good chance a 4' long section of 2x4 would do that job too!  (Just make sure it's clean first.)

After you smash, stomp and beat your cabbage, it should release it's water for you.

After you have filled up your crock, bucket, mason jar, or whatever with your mix, you'll want to do something to make sure it doesn't float to the surface.  I like to take some of the less desirable leaves from the cabbage (you won't find these on the store shelves, I guarantee it!) and make a matt of leaves on top of the mix.  Then when I put my weights on top, these keep anything from slipping through the cracks.

Ready to add weight.
As I said, I got the crock for my birthday last year and this year I got the weights.  They are good for confidence, although in the future I'll likely use a board with a mason jar full or water to keep everything submerged.

Submerging the mix.

Once you get everything submerged, you are practically finished!

Sit back and relax!

Last time we waited about 2 weeks for the process to go before putting it in jars and refrigerating it.  This time I plan to let it set for about three weeks before tasting it, and we won't take out the whole batch to refrigerate either.  This is supposed to be a food preservation method, and refrigerating 4 gallons of it does defeat the whole purpose!

Remember, the longer it ferments, the more "flavor" it develops.  You will have to experiment to determine when you think it tastes the best.  When it get's there, refrigerate it!  Please, whatever you do, don't can your fermented products!  Keep your friends alive!

Ohio Cast Stone
Fresh and Fermented - the book

Okay, let me know if I missed anything. Have a good weekend and God bless!

(This was supposed to post on 10-12-15, but there were some issues... I also had some fermentation issues with this batch.  Hopefully I'll be able to remember to put the pic's up soon!)

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