Sometimes I am far too confident for my own good. Like last summer when one Saturday I attempted to can three things. Yes, that’s right. I basically lost my mind and decided I would make jam, green tomato relish, and sauerkraut.
The green tomato relish was a success, but it nearly killed me. I’ve been doing small-batch canning and this recipe was like the canning I remember from my childhood: unbelievable amounts of food and massive yields–I used the largest bowls and pots I had and they were too small.
The sauerkraut came out beautifully, but the brine was watered with my own tears. It was such a miserable experience that I vowed never again.
But like women who swear they are never going through childbirth after the agonies of labor, only to find themselves doing it two or three more times, tonight I decided to make another batch of sauerkraut.
It’s deceptively simple. This is all you need (see the Food in Jars blog for specifics):
- a 2.5 – 3 lb green cabbage
- 1 tbsp of kosher or sea salt
- 1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
- 1-3 tbsp of distilled water
Have you ever chopped up an entire head of cabbage? Or seen someone do it? This is what it looks like. See that jar? All of that has to go in there.
This is where annotating a recipe comes in handy.
So first thing I noted from last time was “need a block of time.” The second was “use big stock pot.” This is key, because basically you’re going to sprinkle the salt and caraway seeds into that mass of cabbage and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes and then you’re going to mash the hell out of it. Or you’re going to do the third thing I wrote which was, “use your hands.” For about five minutes you’re going to work that salt and caraway in there.
Then the fun begins.
You start taking spoonfuls of the cabbage mixture and using a one-quart, wide-mouthed jar (this is important), you begin packing it in. It’s kind of like trying to pack a zillion people into a Ford Escort. This is what takes time. For every spoonful, you send a lot of time with the handle of wooden spoon trying to jab it in as far as possible and then you repeat. And eventually, somehow you get all that cabbage into the jar.
You cover it with a couple of tablespoons of the distilled water and you put it in a cool, dark place to ferment for about a month, opening the jar periodically and skimming off the top foam that forms. And then you have sauerkraut!