A friend of mine in Ohio got me interested in trying sauerkraut when we visited their family last month. She had a simpler (read: less scary )method than a huge crock with somewhat smelly contents so I thought I would give it a try. I'll save mass production for another time!
The first step is to drill a hole in a Canning jar STORAGE LID. I measured the rubber bung and drew a circle on the lid as a guide and drilled accordingly. Drilling from the inside of the lid out (which is opposite of how I took the picture) seemed to give me better control of the bit but it still wasn't dead center which doesn't really matter. I recommend a scrap piece of wood underneath your drilling area or a huge stack of newspapers which is what I did.
This is a common item in wine making stores called an airlock. It gets filled with water to create a barrier so the sauerkraut can ferment and gases escape but no air can get in to cause spoilage. The airlock is a very "expensive and sophisticated" piece of equipment costing all of $2.50 in total but was free for me because my friend gave it to me! A way to a friends heart...
Insert the airlock... into the bung... into the hole.. into the lid - sounds like a kids song coming on! Remove the plastic cap on the top and add water to the line that is midway down the airlock. Replace the cap.
Grate your cabbage to whatever size you prefer. I choose to go middle of the road and was able to use my madolin slicer to quickly do the job. A food processor with an attachment will work as will a sharp knife and a cutting board.
I used a 1.5 litre canning jar for this project and I was able to fit almost an entire head of cabbage in it. Layer the cabbage with a sprinkle of salt ( I used a combined total of approx. 1 Tbsp.) and use something to tamp it down to help release the juice. The salt will also help the juices to release. I was able to repurpose a wooden pestle from from fruit strainer but a wooden spoon or the end of a rolling pin could work too if it fits in the jar.
The picture above is what it looked like when I just finished packing it. It needs to be packed down tightly! I used a leftover piece of cabbage and cut it to form a plug at the top of the jar and then added a little bit of water to get the process going. Then I added the lid and waited.
I was told it would be ready in a few days but I've had mine going for almost two weeks. I suspect that temperature has something to do with it. It has been quite cool in the house. I also discovered that it needs to ferment in a dark place - or be covered up. Oops I didn't do that but it seems to have turned out fine. You can leave it as long as you like.
The taste test has revealed a sauerkraut that is far more crunchy and delicious than the rather soggy store-bought-in-a-jar kind. I like it but I'm going to leave it another week or so and check it again. When it has reached your desired level of crunchiness you just remove the lid and put on a regular storage lid and keep it in the refridgerator. It will last for months.
Sauerkraut literally means "sour cabbage" in German. This traditional method of preservation (in large crocks) was a way to keep cabbage over the winter. Fermenting also preseves the vitamin C and other vitamins and aids in digestion.
It's good for you, it tastes good AND it's a great preservation technique - what are you waiting for?