November 21, 2007

Simple, Fresh Sauerkraut

7 cups finely shredded cabbage
4-5 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Mix all ingredients together until the cabbage starts to leak water. Place in a large, nonreactive container. Pack the cabbage in tightly. There should be enough liquid to cover the cabbage. If not, pour some some brine (16 oz water, 1 tablespoon sea salt) to cover. Weigh down the cabbage* (keeping it below the liquid) and allow to ferment in a cool, dry place for at least 1 week. Check it daily and skim off any scum* that may float to the top. After fermenting, refrigerate in an air tight container.

*I put the cabbage in a huge jar with a very wide mouth and weighted down a shallow bowl with a quart bag filled with water to press down the cabbage. It worked well.
**I really didn't get any.

My thoughts:

As I think I've mentioned before, serving sauerkraut on Thanksgiving along side the turkey and mashed potatoes is a longstanding Baltimore tradition. It wasn't until I was in college before I realized that this wasn't something the rest of America did. It just makes sense to have something pickle-y and sour as a foil to the sweet-tart cranberry sauce and creamy potatoes. Or at least it does here in Baltimore.

I never gave making sauerkraut from scratch any thought before but I was emboldened by my kimchi success. I did some research but couldn't find a really definitive recipe (I couldn't even find consensus on how much salt to use per pound) so I just gave it my best shot. Basically, sauerkraut is nothing more than fermented, salted cabbage so the margin for error is less than one might think. I added caraway seeds for a more Germanic touch and then waited for about a week. The result: slightly crunchy, perfectly sour, kraut! I feel like a magician.