This weekend I took time to do both some harvesting and preserving. My wife had recently suggested we make lacto-fermented sauerkraut with some of the fall cabbage, and I thought it was a great idea. I hadn’t made sauerkraut in years, and since we had several heads of cabbage that needed harvesting it was a good time to make some the old-fashioned way. Even though lacto-fermented foods are all the rage about now, it’s really an ancient food preservation technique for sure.
I have an old five gallon stoneware crock I have used to make sauerkraut in big batches. We don’t need nearly that much for the two of us, so we decided it made more sense to make it right in the jar. I ran some wide mouth jars through the dishwasher to make sure they were clean. I used canning jars even though we plan on storing the kraut in the frig, and not processing it. That way all the beneficial bacteria will be there in the finished product.
I began by cutting the cabbage in fourths, coring it, then slicing it into thin shreds. I sliced up about 2 pounds (900g) of it in all, put it in a glass mixing bowl, then I added 4 tsp (20g) of fine sea salt and mixed it in with the cabbage. That works out to be slightly more than 2% salt by weight. I let that sit for about 15 minutes, then I mashed it down with a potato masher to start releasing the juices. Alternately you can massage the cabbage with your hands until you are able to squeeze liquid out of the cabbage. I let it sit for about 15 more minutes, then it was ready for the jar. It is important to use salt without iodine or other additives, as they can inhibit the growth of the bacteria that turn the cabbage into sauerkraut.
I spooned the cabbage and juice into a quart jar, leaving about an inch of room at the top for the cabbage to expand as it ferments. It takes about a pound of cabbage (450g) to fill a pint jar, and two pounds to fill a quart jar. The general rule of thumb is to add about 1 Tbsp of sea salt per quart jar of sauerkraut, though some sources recommend either a bit more or a bit less. I screwed on a lid and ring and left it a little loose to allow gas to escape. The cabbage needs to sit and ferment for a couple of weeks at a cool room temperature (under 75°F/25°C), though warmer temps are fine too. After that it is ready to eat, and can be stored in the refrigerator for later use. It will continue to develop its flavor once it is refrigerated, and it should keep that way for at least a year.
Since I was in kraut-making mode, I also decided to make something I’ve never made before: turnip kraut. A popular restaurant in our area serves this up on their salad bar, and it is delicious, with a spicier taste than cabbage kraut. They do a real fine shred on theirs and peel the turnips first, and it almost looks more like horseradish than it does kraut. I decided to leave the peel on ours, since I had some colorful turnips I wanted to use for one batch.
This is my first year growing the Tsugaru Scarlet turnip. It is a Japanese hybrid I got from Kitazawa Seed that has a scarlet red skin and white flesh that is flecked with red. It’s a beautiful turnip, and I thought it would make pretty kraut or even pickles for that matter. I decided to shred the turnips by hand using a medium flat grater. I wasn’t fixing enough of them to warrant getting out the food processor, and frankly I usually just use the hand graters anyway. I have a set of three of them that belonged to my mother, and they see a lot of use in our kitchen.
The shredded red turnips were lovely, looking more like red radishes than they did turnips. I decided to make another jar of turnip kraut using purple top turnips, since I have plenty of those in the garden too. I processed the purple top turnips into shreds using the same medium grater. For both batches, I added 2 tsp (10g) of salt to a pound of grated turnips.
Since I had a bit of extra cabbage and turnips (salted already) left over after filling the jars, I decided to make a batch of mixed kraut as well. I grated a carrot from the garden using a fine grater to add to the mix, and packed it all into a wide mouth pint jar. When I was finished I had a quart jar of cabbage, two pint jars of turnips, and a pint jar of mixed kraut. It certainly made for a colorful mix in the jars, and I hope it tastes as good as it looks.
For making the cabbage sauerkraut, I referenced two books I have about fermenting foods: Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin and The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Fermenting Foods by Wardeh Harmon. For the turnip kraut, Mother Earth has an article from way back in 1983 titled How To Make Turnip Kraut that outlines the process.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our sauerkraut making fun here at Happy Acres. I hope to do some more pickling with our fall veggies later in the week.