Fermenting your own sauerkraut is simple to do and takes very little preparation time--all you need is a head of cabbage (or more if you wish), salt, and a fermentation pot. I made some last week to help get excited for our Newfiki Festival. This Celebration of Eastern-European Cultures in Newfoundland takes place from March 20th-23rd. I myself am from an Eastern European family in Alberta and so had access to homemade
sauerkraut throughout my childhood. When I was older, I realized that I
would have to learn how to make it on my own in order to help keep our family tradition going. Mine is nowhere near as delicious as my grandmother's, but I am getting there. Here's a photo-guide of what I do:
|Step 1: Clean and chop or shred cabbage (shredding is ideal but if you don't have a shredder, a sharp knife will do the trick).|
|Step 2: Mix chopped cabbage with salt until each piece of cabbage is lightly covered (I try to use the least amount possible, but too little will be detrimental).|
|Step 3: Put the cabbage into a fermentation (stoneware) pot, a large glass container will do nicely as well. A lid is not necessary.|
|Step 4: Pack the cabbage down as much as possible, until its natural juices leave the cabbage. I pour in a little bit of cabbage at a time, and punch it down in layers. I am using an official sauerkraut puncher here, but you can utilize any kind of blunt tool, as long as it has been cleaned in very hot water. |
|Step 5: Once punched down, place a large heavy weight (such as a plate with a heavy sterile stone on it), onto the cabbage. This helps push the cabbage under the salty juices which is very important to prevent rotting--it cannot be exposed to air. If you weren't able to extract natural juices, that is no problem, you can add salted water and keep it submerged under that. Cover the top with a clean kitchen towel to keep dirt and dust out, then store in a warm place|
For fermentation to take place, there must be adequate salt and the pot must be stored in a warm place. In about 4-6 weeks the cabbage should be fully fermented and ready to eat. When it has started doing its job, it will take on a sour smell (which you will notice throughout your house), and it will also start bubbling. Be sure to check on it once a week to remove any 'scum' that might be forming on or around the plate. If there are signs of mold, simply remove before it takes over the whole pot. I once met a Bulgarian woman in St. John's who claimed that she could save any ailing sauerkraut, so if something goes wrong, there's always hope.
Good luck making your own sauerkraut and let us know how it goes.