First-ever Sauerkraut!

Sauerkraut waltzed into my life years ago, when we were living on Tancook Island, Nova Scotia. The good people of Tancook have generations of expertise and wowza, do they make a heck of a sauerkraut. It’s so good, in fact, that companies advertise Tancookstyle kraut!

Anyhow – I had never made it myself before now. I thought it was mysterious, complicated, science-magic. I was mistaken: it’s simple and downright glorious! My first batch was a total winner. Somehow, the timing and temperature were entirely perfect and this delicious fermented goodness tastes satisfyingly rich, even buttery. (Oh, I agree, I would never had said “buttery” and “sauerkraut” in the same sentence before today.)

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Sauerkraut day! Yum!

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I ended up with two batches, one litre/quart size that I started eating after four days of fermenting and which has lived in my fridge for a month and a half, being steadily devoured. In Wild Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz writes that sauerkraut can be ready anywhere between four days and several months, so just for the heck of it I left the smaller batch (about a cup) out for a little over a month. I don’t know what I expected exactly, but had the vague suspicion that the yeasts might make it a little alcohol-ish? Little drunk cabbages? It wasn’t that. 🙂 It is, however, delicious. I’m not sure that it’s so epic that I would refrain from eating the kraut for a month while it does its thing, but I would say that if I accidentally forgot a batch I would happily still eat it a month later.

Sandor also writes that many cultures (as in humans, not yeast) insist on a few mouthfuls of fermented food with every meal. Adding daily kombucha to my life a couple of years ago was a gut-changer (dude. so much better. if you have rumbly guts, give vinegary kombucha try and see how it feels. See here for a recipe and more info) so I decided to try Sandor’s plan and have been making a point of eating fermented foods at least twice a day. It has been entirely lovely, my friends.

Want to get your sauerkraut game going? I heartily recommend Wild Fermentation as an intro guide and general awesomeness. If you’re in a hurry and can’t wait for the paperback to arrive, Kindle and Kobo both have an e-book edition. All you’ll need is a cabbage, a knife and cutting board, a bit of salt, and something to squish the cabbage. Your hands will do just fine for that last bit. 😉 If you’re feeling fancy, there’s a company called MasonTops that makes a kit with the essential fermentation tools and I can recommend them from personal experience: Fermentation Kit with weights, packer, and one-way vents. Just add Mason-style jars.

Okay so anyhow, in a nutshell you do this (see photos above):

  1. Buy a beautiful cabbage, ideally grown locally.
  2. Slice the cabbage thinly. Save one whole outer leaf for step 5. I like to quarter the cabbage so the slices are short, not like sauerkraut spaghetti.
  3. Salt the cabbage in a big bowl (I use my trusty popcorn-party bowl, not classy but has been with us for decades). You’ll only need a tablespoon or two of salt, depending on the size of yo
  4. Squish the cabbage: the squishing and salt will bring out cabbage juice. Keep going until you can squeeze the cabbage and juice comes out: see Sandor’s book for an excellent photo and be sure to pose like Sandor to impress your friends. You’ll feel mighty.
  5. Pack the cabbage tightly in a jar and be sure that it’s covered by its own juices. If you had an obnoxiously dry cabbage, add a bit of water to cover. Place a piece of the whole outer leaf on top of the sliced cabbage, to keep the little bits from floating over the weight (step 6).
  6. Place a weight on top, then some kind of one-way venting lid (or at least, a cloth to keep out dust and curious flies).
  7. Leave the jars in a room-temperature location to ferment. Walk away. Feel good about your awesomeness.
  8. Check it after a couple of days, and keep checking every couple of days until it’s amazing.

Enjoy! Epic, delicious, bio-active, freakin’ nutritious, gut-happy sauerkraut that is head and shoulders above anything you’ve ever bought in a store.

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