Cabbage with a kick – sauerkraut

Prepare a warm, winter meal now, before the snow falls.

The weather has cooled and produce is being harvested in earnest. What can be done with all of the cabbage that has grown this year? Try preserving it as sauerkraut? This will make a good winter Rueben sandwich.

Fresh heads of cabbage need to be preserved within 24 to 48 hours after harvest. To make a batch of sauerkraut the ingredients are 25 pounds of cabbage and 3/4 cup of canning salt. Canning salt is non-iodized or kosher salt. Before working with produce, wash, rinse and sanitize all work surfaces, containers, equipment and utensils. Washing the equipment, utensils and your hands will help prevent cross-contamination of undesirable microorganisms. It is easiest to work with about five pounds of cabbage at a time. Steps to working with cabbage include:

  • Choose firm heads of cabbage
  • Remove the outer leaves and any leaves that are damaged or wilted
  • Use cold, running water to rinse the cabbage
  • Drain the cabbage
  • Quarter the heads of cabbage and remove the core
  • The cabbage needs to be shredded or sliced to the thickness of a quarter

Suitable containers to ferment the cabbage in are stoneware crocks, large glass jars and food-grade plastic containers. Michigan State University Extension advises to never use: Aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron containers. The lactic acid that is formed as the cabbage ferments will interact with the metal and could cause metal poisoning.

In a food grade container:

  • Combine about five pounds of shredded cabbage with three tablespoons of salt
  • With clean hands, mix thoroughly the salt and cabbage
  • Pack the cabbage in the container until it starts to produce juice
  • Repeat the process until all of the cabbage is in the container

The container should have four to five inches of space above the cabbage, but below the rim – this allows for expansion during the fermentation process. If the juice does not cover the cabbage, brine will need to be made. The brine consists of 1.5 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. The brine will need to be boiled and cooled before adding it to the cabbage.

Cabbage needs to be covered by at least one to two inches of brine. To weigh the cabbage down use a cleaned and sanitized plate or glass lid that fits inside the container of cabbage. If extra weight is needed, a clean and sanitized jar filled with water and sealed can weigh the plate down so the cabbage is completely submerged.

For ideal fermenting conditions the room temperature needs to be 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature the fermentation time will take about three to four weeks. If the room temperature is between 60- 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the fermentation time will take between five and six weeks. If the temperature falls below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the cabbage will not ferment. If the temperature goes above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the cabbage will go soft.

Be sure to check on the fermentation process about two to three times per week, just in case a scum forms. If the scum forms, remove it and discard.

To hot pack sauerkraut:

  • Bring the sauerkraut to a boil in a large pot
  • Stir so it does not scorch
  • Pack into hot, clean jars
  • Wipe the rim of the jar
  • Add the pretreated lid, (according to the manufacturer’s directions)
  • Process the jars, using the boiling water technique, 10 minutes for pints and 15 minutes for quarts

To raw pack the sauerkraut:

  • Fill the hot, clean jars with the kraut and liquid
  • Wipe the rim of the jar
  • Adjust the lid
  • Process the sauerkraut using the boiling water technique, 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts

Making sauerkraut now means that later when the snow flies, you will be able to enjoy either the Rueben sandwich or kraut and sausage for dinner.

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