Making Sauerkraut is A Welcoming House past time every couple of years.
We come together as a family and everybody does something, much like we did this last summer with using bushels of corn for so many things.
We came across a fantastic deal for cabbage at the Handy Hubby’s grocery store, where we could get as much cabbage as we wanted for around 15 CENTS a pound. I cant even grow it for that, honestly,
and so we knew we needed to jump on it.
While I am Scotch and Irish mixed, and am not super fond of sauerkraut, the Handy Hubby comes from a German family, and they all love it. Since jars of homemade food make wonderful gifts, we decided to just go with an even 100 lbs of cabbage and make it all into sauerkraut.
Do you know how good sauerkraut (or any other fermented item) is for you? It is chock full of probiotics and healthy bacterias….it has already been broken down so that your body gets all the good stuff without a lot of work. Frankly, between this, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha, I reallyÂ think it is helping my family eat and stay healthier after a rough winter with colds and the flu.
And making it is SOOOOOO simple.
Follow my picture tutorial to make your own, whether in a small batch of a half gallon jar, or large, like we do for a couple years. I sterilize all my buckets before use with boiling water poured over the insides after scrubbing well. We just used the 4 gallon buckets from the deli section at a large scale store. They come with lids, but as you will see from the pictures, we will not use them until the sauerkraut is completed, canned, and those buckets can get used for something else.
Start with pulling off the outer leaves of the cabbage. They not only spray these leaves, but these will hold most of the dirt and yuck that comes straight from the field. One thing is for sure, cabbages do NOT come ready-to-eat as do many things in the produce dept . (although I don’t trust that–do you?)
After that we wash them well, scrubbing anything off that we can see, and hand them off to the guy with the big knife. This time around we were blessed to have our Aka Mr Awesome over, who jumped in willingly and had quite the adventure (and lesson) in helping us. He cut each cabbage in half for us.
Next we break out our cabbage cutters, antiques that have belonged to families hereabout, or in Kurt’s family for generations. A simple wood box that slides over the cutting blades, and reminds you slightly of an old washboard. We carefully keep and clean these year after year, and they work amazingly well still. You can find them all over antique stores, and as you can see, with a little love, they are easy to restore and use again. Works better, and faster, than a food processor. No kidding.
After a couple cabbages are shredded, we sprinkle a light bit of canning salt (no iodine) on the shredded cabbage, and then start another bucket,Â
passing this one to the person with the heavy whisk for pounding.
Pounding releases the juices of the cabbage, which then mix with the salt, and make the sauerkraut begin to ferment quickly. This is the hardest work of all, we all agree, because your arms begin to hurt after a little bit.
So, do like we do and switch back and forth between people.
You will be amazed at how much cabbage packs down and what started as a full bucket becomes about 4 inches of packed cabbage in the bottom of the bucket. 🙂
Â Only about 40 minutes passed for us to shred and pack all 100 lbs of cabbage. As you can see below, it filled three, four-gallon pails, which, by the time fermentation is over in 6-10 weeks, will probably only be half full. But before you hit that step, you need to make sure to seal the buckets from any harmful bacteria that might get in there and spoil all your work. Here is how we do it:
Take a heavy plate, sterilized of course, and set it on top of the cabbage in the bucket. This is our “press” that will keep the cabbage from floating and pushing up during the next few weeks.
Next we use a rather unconventional, but very effective, way of keeping any yuck out. Take two garbage bags, rinse them off, then fill one with water and set inside the other bag. Why two? Well, because just in case the first one breaks your bucket of cabbage will not be flooded with water that has been sitting….and that is speaking from experience.
Then you take the bag, let out all the air, and allow the bag with water to spread out over the top of the bucket, filling every available open surface, and locking air out, and cabbage in. This method also allows you to check the cabbage easily without a lot of work.
Sounds pretty simple, right? And it is. We moved the covered pail downstairs to sit in an out of the way, not too warm place, for a couple months, and then we will can it up. Of course, if you make this on a smaller scale, you can simply put the sauerkraut into the fridge and it will keep for quite a while. It IS brat and hot dog season coming up, and bringing out a jar of your own homemade sauerkraut for the picnic table just might make you the hit of the party. Especially when you taste how amazing and mild it is compared to that store bought stuff.
A couple notes about the process for you to remember, from the Handy Hubby and I.
First of all, save the cabbage hearts. This is from the HH. With a little salt, these are a great snack.
Â And this is from me: be prepared for one heck of a mess. I now remember why I made it outside last time, because the back yard does not need to be swept or mopped. Also, you CAN save some of the inside outside leaves and make cabbage rolls with them if you want, its all about personal preference (and how much you want to move on from cabbage for a while, passing the leaves on to someone who can compost them!)
Â Hope you enjoyed it!
Many Blessings to you and yours,