I was recently flipping through the book Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live and I read some really general instructions on how to make sauerkraut. The author, Robyn Jasko, says to shred up some cabbage and/or other root vegetables (like carrots, etc), sprinkle salt on top, and use your hands to really crunch that salt into the shredded veggies. Put everything in a jar, push the veggies down so the liquid covers the solids, and let sit for a few days. (The liquid is produced when the salt draws the water out of the veggies. There is no extra liquid added.)
So the other day while I was cooking at least four other things for dinner I threw a half of a purple cabbage and two carrots in the food processor and shredded those babies up. I added 1 Tbsp of salt for what I guessed to be about a pound of veggies. This turned out to be a little too salty. The guideline is 3 Tbsp of salt for 5 lbs veggies, which is approximately 2 tsp per pound. When I had a minute or two between the other cooking activities I stuck my hands in this salty veggie mix and crunched it up as best I could. Everything started to look soggy and limp. When I got tired of doing that I stuffed it all in an old pickle jar and pressed it down with the back of a spoon. The liquid level was not high enough to cover the veggies, which worried me. I left the jar sitting on my kitchen counter at a room temperature of 79-80 degrees. (Fall hasn't really arrived in Central Texas yet.) I thought for sure I'd have a nice mold layer growing by morning.
|Sauerkraut fermenting in an old pickle jar|
But no. I ignored the jar of mush on Tuesday and on Wednesday (two days after making) I gave it a sniff. It smelled pungent and delicious! My mouth watered. I dared to take a bite and it was delicious. It tasted nothing (I mean nothing) like store bought kraut and it was a beautiful bright purple color. To me it tasted like good kim chi, which I adore.
Fermented foods are very nutritious. Wikipedia's entry on sauerkraut says:
"It is extremely high in vitamins C, B, and K; the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage. It is also low in calories and high in calcium and magnesium, and it is a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese."
I'm going to start making kraut with all of my leftover cabbage and root veggies. It was easy, cheap, and it's going to be a great condiment for salads and as a flavorful little side dish.