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Wild Fermenting ~ Sauer Kraut

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How To Make Sauerkraurt by Sandor Ellix Katz



An evolving document to guide humans toward a just and sustainable future from his book, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.

This is an incredible book. Sandor covers in it vegetable ferments such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and sour pickles; bean ferments including miso, tempeh, dosas, and idli; dairy ferments including yogurt, kefir, and basic cheesemaking (as well as vegan alternatives); sourdough bread-making; other grain fermentations from Cherokee, African, Japanese, and Russian traditions; extremely simple wine- and beer-making (as well as cider-, mead-, and champagne-making) techniques; and vinegar-making. With nearly 100 recipes, this is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging fermentation cookbook ever published.

Sandor was generous enough to let us share with the CyberMacro Community his Sauerkraut Making Recipe. We also offer other sample recipes here by Sandor too. We sell his book, Wild Fermentation for $20.99 with free shipping in our online store. Please also follow the link to find out much more about Sandor and all the varied fermentation foods and topics he covers. We also sell various sizes of Harsch pots to make sauerkraut with.

Sandor offers workshops all accross the country, here is his up to date list of appearances.WorkShops

The Recipe For Making Sauerkraut

For me, it all started with sauerkraut. I'd always loved it as a kid in New York City, frequently chowing down on street vendor hot dogs, always with mustard and kraut. I also loved it on Reuben sandwiches— corned beef with Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, and cheese melted over it all. When I stopped eating meat, I ended up not eating much sauerkraut.

That is, until I hooked up for a couple of years with macrobiotics, a dietary movement with its roots in Japanese Zen Buddhist cuisine. The regime is fairly restrictive, mostly grains and vegetables and legumes, prepared in simple ways. The macrobiotic diet emphasizes regular consumption of miso, live unpasteurized sauerkraut, and other brine pickles to aid digestion. I started eating sauerkraut nearly daily and have been making crock after crock of the stuff ever since I learned how.

As I was completing my final revisions on this text and preparing to send it off into production, new research was published establishing sauerkraut's cancer-preventing properties. Cabbage and other Brassicaceae family vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard, kale, collards, bok choi, and many more) have long been recognized as rich in anti-carcinogenic nutrients. According to a new Finnish study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, fermentation breaks down glucosinolates in cabbage into compounds called isothio-cyanates, which are already known to fight cancer. "We are finding that fermented cabbage could be healthier than raw or cooked cabbage, especially for fighting cancer," says Eeva-Liisa Ryhanen, one of the paper's authors.1

Sauerkraut is generally believed to have been brought to Europe by nomadic Tartars, who are said to have encountered fermented cabbage in China, which has an extremely ancient and varied fermentation tradition. Sauerkraut is the German name; the French call it choucroute. It is prepared in any number of regional styles across Europe. In the war-torn lands of Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, cabbage is generally soured whole, in great barrels. A Russian variation uses apples to sweeten the kraut. Germans are so strongly associated with sauerkraut that they are known, in I derogatory slang, as "Krauts," and when! the United States was at war with Germany,1 sauerkraut was temporarily dubbed "liberty! cabbage," the precursor of "freedom fries."! In the United States, immigrants from! Germany who settled in Pennsylvania became known as "Sauerkraut Yankees." William Woys Weaver, author of Sauerkraut Yankees: Pennsylvania-German Foods and Foodways, recounts a Civil War episode revolving around sauerkraut. "When Confederate troops captured Chambersburg Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863, one of the first things the famished rebels demanded from the inhabitants were barrels of sauerkraut." Unfortunately for the rebel troops, they arrived at the wrong time of; year. The Pennsylvania Germans made kraut from the autumn cabbage harvest and enjoyed it during winter and spring. "No one in his right mind made sauerkraut in the summer. (Here in Tennessee, we harvest spring cabbage in June or July and do indeed enjoy summer krauts.)

The fermentation of cabbage into sauerkraut is not the work of a single microorganism. Sauerkraut, like most fermentation processes, involves a succession of several different microbial species, not unlike the life of a forest, in which a series of different trees follow each other as the dominant species, each succeeding type altering conditions to favor the next. Bacteria called Coliform start the fermentation. As the Coliform produces acid, the environment becomes more favorable for Leuconostoc bacteria. The Coliform population declines as the population of Leuconostoc builds. As acids continue to be produced and the pH continues to drop, Lactobacilus succeeds the Leuconostoc. The fermentation involves a succession of three different types of bacteria, determined by the increasing acidity.

Do not be deterred by the biological complexity of the transformation. That happens on its own once you create the simple conditions for it. Sauerkraut is easy to make.

TIMEFRAME: 1 to 4 weeks (or more)


Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket, 1 gallon/4-liter capacity or greater

Note that fits inside crock or bucket

l-gallon/4-liter jug filled with water (or a scrubbed and boiled rock)

Cloth cover (such as a pillowcase or towel)

INGREDIENTS (for 1 gallon/4 liters):

5 pounds/2 kilograms cabbage 3tablespoons/45 milliliters sea salt


1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. I love to mix green and red cabbage to end up with bright pink kraut. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.

2. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. About 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) of salt is a rough guideline for 5 pounds (2 kilograms) of cabbage. I never measure the salt; I just shake some on after I chop up each cabbage. I use more salt in summer, less in winter. It is possible to make kraut with less salt or with no salt at all; several salt-free kraut variations follow this recipe for those who wish to avoid salt.

3. Add other vegetables, if you like. Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables that I've added include onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, small whole heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, and burdock roots. You can also add fruits (apples, whole or sliced, are classic), and herbs and spices (caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries are classic, but anything you like will work). Experiment.

4. Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists or any (other) sturdy kitchen implement. The tamping packs the kraut tight in the crock and helps force water out of the cabbage.

5. Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock. Place a clean weight (such as a glass jug filled with water) on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.

6. Press down on the weight to add pressure to the cabbage and help force water out of it. Continue doing this periodically (as often as you think of it, every few hours), until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to about 24 hours, as the salt draws water out of the cabbage slowly. Some cabbage, particularly if it is old, simply contains less water. If the brine does not rise above the plate level by the next day, add enough salt water to bring the brine level above the plate. Add about 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of salt to 1 cup (250 milliliters) of water and stir until it's completely dissolved.

7. Leave the crock to ferment. I generally store the crock in an unobtrusive corner of the kitchen where I won't forget about it, but where it won't be in anybody's way. You could also store it in a cool basement if you want a slower fermentation that will preserve for longer.

8. Check the kraut every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes mold appears on the surface. Many books refer to this mold as "scum," but I prefer to think of it as a bloom. Skim what you can off of the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove all of it. Don't worry about this. It's just a surface phenomenon, a result of contact with the air. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes. In the cool temperatures of a cellar in winter, kraut can keep improving for months and months. In the summer or in a heated room, its life cycle is more rapid. Eventually it becomes soft and the flavor turns less pleasant.

9. Enjoy. I generally scoop out a bowl- or jarful at a time and keep it in the fridge. I start when the kraut is young and enjoy its evolving flavor over the course of a few weeks. Try the sauerkraut juice that will be left in the bowl after the kraut is eaten. Sauerkraut juice is a rare delicacy and unparalleled digestive tonic. Each time you scoop some kraut out of the crock, you have to repack it carefully.

Make sure that the kraut is packed tight the crock, the surface is level, and the cover and weight are clean. Sometimes brine evaporates, so if the kraut is not submerged below brine just add salted as necessary. Some people preserve kraut by canning and heat-processing it. This can be done; but so much of the power of sauerkraut is its aliveness that I wonder: Why kill it?

10. Develop a rhythm. I try to start I new batch before the previous batch runs out. I remove the remaining kraut from the crock, repack it with fresh salted cabbage, then pour the old kraut and its juices over the new kraut. This gives the new batch a boost with an active culture starter.

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