Homemade Sauerkraut

This past summer we grew three large cabbages.  I planted four but at the end of the season we had a rainy spell and one ended up rotting from the inside out.  Each cabbage ended up weighing in at about 10 pounds once it was trimmed down to the edible portion.

Since the variety I planted was a white kraut cabbage, I figured I should try making some.  Besides, one can only eat so much cole slaw.

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I found this amazing tutorial on how to make sauerkraut in small batches: http://www.killerpickles.com/klassic-kraut/

I wanted to do it in small batches because if something went awry I didn’t lose the whole batch and all my time and effort.

The recipe calls for a 2 pound cabbage but since mine were much bigger than that I simply weighed the cabbage with my kitchen scale and scaled the recipe accordingly.  Essentially, half a tablespoon of canning and pickling salt per pound of cabbage.  Canning and pickling salt is ideal because it doesn’t have any additives that will discolor your produce.

I shredded the cabbage using my mandolin slicer.  The one I have has an adjustable blade so you can set the thickness.  The first batch of cabbage I did at 3/16 inch, which was a little too thick for my liking.  My subsequent batches I shredded at 1/8 inch.

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It was actually quite an ordeal… hack off a chunk of cabbage with a big knife, shred on mandolin, repeat.  I do have some large, flexible cutting boards and they were nice for transferring the cabbage from the counter to the pot.

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After salting the cabbage and tossing it a bit I didn’t press it by hand – I had far too much.  I put it in my pressure canner (because I don’t have much else big enough to hold it all!), put the canning rack on top of it, then filled an ice cream bucket with water (I made sure the cover was on tightly), and put the bucket on top of the rack to press the cabbage.  I let it sit for three or four hours…  I did this part in the late afternoon (during nap time) and finished up the process after dinner.

After the cabbage pressed, I packed it very tightly into wide mouth quarts (that had been sterilized in boiling water) using a thick wooden spoon to firmly press it in.  To divide it equally between the jars I used her two pounds per quart recipe as a guide as to how many jars I would need and just went back and forth between the jars scooping and packing to get a relatively equal amount in each jar.  Once all the cabbage was in the jars I evenly distributed the cabbage juice from the bottom of the pot.

I cut circles out of cabbage leaves to fit edge to edge inside the jar.  After placing those in the jars on top of the packed cabbage I used glass vase fillers tied in a pouch of cheesecloth to weigh down the cabbage leaf.  I had sterilized these in boiling water, too –  I just put the pouches in a wide mouth pint full of water and put that in the boiling water along with my quart jars.

I topped the jars with canning lids and rings.  I set them in shallow plastic containers (good thing… I had a good amount of leakage on one batch) and left them to fester for about 6 weeks.

I made three batches, all with different start dates because I didn’t want to harvest all my cabbages at once.  How did I keep them straight?  I used different colors of vase fillers for each batch.

After the cabbage fermented for just shy of 6 weeks I canned the kraut. Here I have the lids off and have removed the vase fillers.  You can see the cabbage leaf set on top…

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I poured the contents, sans cabbage leaf, into a large pot.  It ended up being far too much kraut for my blue pot, so I had to switch to a big stockpot.  It doesn’t have a heavy bottom, so it’s not great for things that need to boil for a long time, but the kraut just needed to come to a simmer so it worked just fine for this.

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Once the kraut was at a simmer and my jars were ready I packed the kraut into the jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  I used wide mouth pints for this just because we have a bunch of them on hand.

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I removed the air bubbles and added the liquid from the bottom of the pot and remeasured my headspace.  I wiped the rims (very important here – you don’t want a strand of kraut to interfere with your jars sealing), placed the lids, and secured the rings.

The jars processed in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes (per the Ball Blue Book).  Start the processing time when the water reaches a rolling boil.  Once the processing time is up, turn off the heat and let them cool in the canner for 10 minutes.  After that I remove them and place them on a kitchen towel in a draft-free area to cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

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After 24 hours I remove the rings, check to make sure the jars have sealed, and label the lids. My homemade kraut is ready for storage!

My first batch fermented in 5 quart jars and yielded 8 finished pints.  I have 7 more quarts fermenting, which should be about 12 more pints, give or take.  Looks like we have lots of brats and maybe a few reubens in our future!  What else would you do with homemade sauerkraut?

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