I never liked sauerkraut as a kid; but somewhere along the line my taste buds grew up, and I started liking a lot of those things that used to seem too strong, like kraut, mustard, or sharp cheeses. Like most things, however, kraut is better when you make it yourself. We didn’t grow any cabbages this year, but I decided to make some anyway. Call it practice for next year.
It’s extremely simple to do. All you need is cabbage, a good quality salt (preferably sea salt), and canning jars. The canning jars make it much easier than the old crock method. Caraway seeds are common, but optional.
Chop the cabbage with a cole slaw cutter or food processor. Some people like larger chunks and some like a finer texture, so use your own judgment. Put the shredded cabbage in a large bowl, with enough extra room to toss it a bit with your hands. Add two teaspoons of salt for every pound of cabbage. Optionally, add a teaspoon of caraway seeds per pound of cabbage. Stir this all up, then pack it tightly into canning jars, leaving at least an inch of head-space at the top. Pack it down with a wooden spoon or something, to remove most of the air space.
When you have all the mixture packed into jars, add enough filtered water to cover the cabbage. Clean off the tops and threads of the jars with a wet paper towel or rag, and screw on the tops. Don’t screw them down tightly, so the gases created by the fermentation can escape. Sit the jars in in a tray or some container that’ll catch any liquid which squeezes out. Put them away, preferably somewhere dark and room temperature. Within a few days, it will be fermented and can be eaten, but will keep for months and continue to improve in taste. If anything goes wrong, it’ll get a truly nasty odor; throw it out if that happens.
When you’re ready to use it, one of my favorites is to simmer some Cajun bratwurst slowly until cooked through, and then add a jar of kraut to them and continue cooking while the flavors merge. If I don’t have Cajun brats, I use ordinary brats and add plenty of cayenne pepper to the kraut. Enjoy!
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