The Shed

The Shed
The Shed

Monday, July 16, 2012

FARM GIRL'S CORNER - More cabbage comin' atcha, with a side trip into sauerkraut

Hi again its me, farm Girl! Did you order your fall seeds and plants yet? Well let me remind you again, because it may be almost too late - and in some northern zones is already to late - to order your cabbages.

There are so many reasons to grow a fall crop of cabbages, not the least of which is that these vegetables do better in general growing into cool weather rather than out of it and as a result tend to be heavier, more uniform and many say tastier than their spring counterparts.

This fine example, as our pals at Baker Seed's* remind us, can be made into excellent slaw, and kraut as well.

Ray Kukkee of Incoming BYTES knows something about first rate Sauerkraut and is going to share his excellent recipe with us. (This recipe cannot be found on Unnatural Foods, because there is nothing unnatural about it. So pay attention!)

*Baker seeds, over 1400 heirloom seed varieties!

Do you like sauerkraut?

You'll love this recipe. It's easy and produces an excellent product with a minimum of problems. Even a small half-batch (ten lb. ) with time and some patience will make about 3-4 quarts of tasty sauerkraut!
Cleanliness is absolutely essential. This is a fermented food product and does present opportunities for contamination if adequate care is not taken. . Bacteria convert vegetable sugars into acid, which provides the unique flavour and acts as a preservative. The more care taken in making it, the better it seems to turn out!

For a full 20 lb batch of sauerkraut you will need:
  • 20 lbs. of freshly shredded*cabbage
  • 12 Tablespoons coarse **pickling salt.
  • A sharp knife or kraut cutter.
  • A 5-gallon container. A ceramic or stone crock is ideal, but a glass jar or other suitable container like a clean, food-grade 5 gallon pail will suffice. Do NOT use plastic bags or containers that are not food-grade plastic. * See the precautionary note below on zinc-coated (galvanized) metal containers.
  • Jars & lids for storage or suitable for canning (preserving).

Special Notes: Cabbage, Salt and Containers
  1. *Fresh cabbage usually has more juice and will make a better product without the necessity of adding brine. Cabbage species considered to be "fall storage" may be preferred for this process because of the solid, juicy nature of those cabbage heads right out of the garden,-- but try a batch with earlier summer cabbage too! Red cabbage does ferment well, but results in a less attractive product than white cabbage.
  2. **Iodized table salt is NOT suitable for this process. Iodine can destroy the bacterial ferment. Use only non-iodized pickling salt. Also, Do NOT use more than 12 tablespoons of salt for a 20 lb. batch. More is not better. Excess salt can hinder, and too much salt may prevent fermentation entirely.
  1. CAUTION: Carefully AVOID using galvanized metal containers. Sauerkraut is acidic in nature and release zinc, which can be toxic.


  • Sanitize all equipment including the fermenting container.
  • Finished quantity required is 20 lbs of fresh shredded cabbage, so allow extra weight to allow for defective leaves, waste and core removal
  • Remove all damaged outer leaves and the stem. *watch for insects!
  • Rinse cabbage in cold water, cut the heads in quarters, removing stem and cores.
  • Shred or cut the cabbage uniformly --about the thickness of a quarter. Uniformity is necessary for an even, high-quality ferment.
  • Work in 5 lb. portions. Place 5 lbs of shredded cabbage in your fermenting container and add 3 tablespoons of salt, sprinkling it evenly. Mix the salt into the cabbage and pack it firmly using a masher, clean hands, or a suitable kitchen tool until the salt begins to draw juice from the cabbage. The cabbage will change in appearance as juices are drawn from it.
  • Continue adding the rest of the cabbage in 5 lb. layers, adding salt, mixing and compacting each layer.
  • Finally, mix, press and compact all of the cabbage uniformly and thoroughly, and press down until it is covered with it's own juice.
  • Install a suitably-sized food grade plastic or ceramic dinner- plate and a suitable *weight which will fit neatly inside the ferment vessel and press all of the cabbage beneath the liquid. Wipe down the walls of the mixing vessel carefully with a clean cloth, removing any bits of cabbage.
  • (*Use a heavy food-grade plastic bag full of water, suitable container filled with clean water for a weight, or even bricks in a plastic bag. I use a 1-gallon food-grade plastic ice cream container with it's own lid, filled with salt brine).
  • If there is inadequate liquid to cover the cabbage with an inch or more of it's own juices, it will be necessary to add brine to the ferment. Use 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt to a quart of water. Add only as much brine as you need to cover the cabbage properly.
  • Cover the vessel with a clean cotton cloth tied or otherwise secured to keep out dust, moulds and insects.
  • Note: Keep the ferment at room temperature 70-75F; if it is cold, the batch will either ferment very slowly (perhaps take 6 weeks! ) or if below 60F, not at all. Remember that the longer a ferment takes, the greater the opportunity for contamination and spoilage. Equally, being too warm at 80F+ almost guarantees soft, poor quality, or spoiled sauerkraut.
  • Inspect your ferment in about a week. If the ferment is progressing properly, it should show bubbles around the edges of the liquid and will have a typical fermenting bouquet. Check carefully for any moulds developing around the edges and remove if observed. Remove and clean the weight if necessary, and wipe down the interior walls of the vessel to a clean state with a clean cloth dampened in salt brine as necessary.
  • Keep the fermenting vessel at a stable room temperature for three to four weeks. Do not eat sauerkraut before the ferment is completed!
  • Bubbling will cease when the ferment is finished.
  • Your new batch of properly-fermented sauerkraut should NOT be slimy, smell bad, or look moldy or darkly discoloured. Cabbage properly fermented will typically have a pale 'translucent' look. The taste should be sharply acidic and fresh, typical of excellent sauerkraut. 
Sauerkraut can be cooked, preserved, or eaten as is when the ferment is completed, but aging it for a couple of additional weeks can improve the flavour. If you decide to age your sauerkraut in the ferment container, inspect it regularly and remove any moulds quickly for the highest quality product.
To Store or Preserve your sauerkraut, pack it into clean sterilized jars. Ensure there is enough juice in the jars to cover the fermented cabbage. Sauerkraut will keep for several months if stored in a refrigerator.
To can sauerkraut, fill clean, sterilized jars and remove air bubbles. Top up with juice, allowing a half inch of head space, and install lids reasonably finger-tight. Process pint jars in a boiling water bath for ten minutes and quart jars for 15 minutes. Properly preserved sauerkraut will keep for several years. Enjoy!

**Credits: The original salt/cabbage proportions and cautions used in this recipe may be credited to the Ohio State University Extension Fact sheet on Human Nutrition HYG 5342-97 . The salt ratio is critical for a balanced recipe that ferments completely in the shortest possible time to minimize the opportunity for spoilage.


Thanks, Raymond! We intend to try this delicious kraut project as soon as we harvest our Megatons! As always, thanks for visiting Farm Girl's Corner!


Farm Girl's note: Pictured above is the only acceptable method for "smothering ones wiener with kraut". The grotesque and morally reprehensible visual pun which a besotted Uncle Mac inflicts on us all during the Super Bowl Game each year is not. I know that he's beyond befuddlement by the fourth quarter and is already calling the winning quarterback "Bart" even if the Packer's are not playing, but there are things one does not do, and which moreover, do not ever need to be done.

Worse, after we have all admired his wit he flips the kraut back in the warming pan.

Lead photo courtesy of April May Maple who retains all rights:

Lead photo model: April May Maple

1 comment:

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Hi Mac and Farm Girl! Thanks for featuring this sauerkraut recipe.

I can hardly wait to hear how this recipe works with Megaton cabbage! See the kraut in the bottom picture?

That is exactly what good sauerkraut from this recipe will look like! That is exactly the right colour!
Make some, and enjoy it!