A little while back, I posted a long-winded story about this cookbook I'd discovered called The Lost Art of Real Cooking. Unfortunately, the library is fairly strict about due dates and late charges and whatnot, so in order to maintain my book-borrowing privileges, I reluctantly gave The Lost Art back to its rightful owners. But even though I don't actually have the red-covered pages in my hands any longer, I have something just as special, a memento of our time together, if you will, in my refrigerator.
Does that not sound special to you? Well, I, my friends, have fallen as hard for this fermented cabbage as I did for The Lost Art itself. Textured with a crunchy bite, zesty with the spice of Thai chilis, and full of that distinctive sauer- flavor that makes this dish what it is... I still have a difficult time believing that the raw cabbage shreds I immersed in salty water and put away in the cabinet actually transformed into this party starter (put some in your mouth, and you'll see what I mean).
I've been eating sauerkraut straight-up ever since my first batch was finished. There's been talk about bratwurst and other meals, but so far I've been content to just eat-crunch-repeat with no accompaniment. I never knew how much I would love it.
I've decided to repost the recipe with added info and things to expect, now that I've championed this fermentation process. Not that there was really much to overcome. It's beyond simple to make. The bacteria do all the muscle work, letting you just sit back and wait. And wait. And wait. What the recipe lacks in difficulty, it makes up for with duration. It took 4 weeks of fermenting to give my cabbage the flavor I wanted, but it was definitely worth the wait.
1 large head cabbage, grated or thinly sliced
2 T. sea salt (the less processed the salt, the better)
2 Thai chilis, cut into thirds (optional)
large glass bowl or ceramic crock
small glass or ceramic plate that fits inside of the bowl
- Put the shredded cabbage into the glass bowl and sprinkle it with the salt. Stir it up well, and pound it for 10 minutes with a wooden spoon or mallet, being careful not to break the bowl.
- Allow the cabbage to rest for 30 minutes. The salt will draw the moisture out of the cabbage and create a natural brine. If using chilis, add them at this point, and stir into the cabbage.
- Add enough filtered/purified water to the bowl to completely cover the cabbage. Place the plate on top of the cabbage and press down firmly until the water floods over the edges of the plate. The cabbage should be completely immersed in the water. If not, add more water until it is completely covered.
- If the plate wants to float, fill a jar with water and place it on top of the plate to hold it down.
- Put the whole thing away in a cabinet, and let the fermentation process begin.
- Once a week, check on your sauerkraut. A yellowish scum may have formed on the surface of the plate. Do not be alarmed. Remove the plate, along with the water collected on its surface, wash it thoroughly, and place it back over the cabbage. If some of the cabbage is poking out from the edges of the plate and has also developed some scum, just scrape it off and discard it. The cabbage underneath will be fine.
- Also on these weekly checks, add more salted water if the level is low and the cabbage is no longer completely immersed. Just dissolve about a teaspoon of sea salt per cup of water and pour it into the bowl.
- Expect a somewhat strong, yeasty odor to develop as the process continues. It's not a foul or rotten smell but definitely a distinct one. Cleaning the plate off periodically will help to keep this to a minimum.
The length of time it takes for your sauerkraut to ferment depends on temperature. The warmer it is, the faster it works. In Seattle's fall, mine took 4 weeks. I expect the next batch to take longer with the cooler temperatures in my apartment right now.
- After the third week or so, begin to taste your sauerkraut when you check on it. It's done when your taste buds scream, "Yes, please!" Don't be afraid to let it go another week or two if you aren't satisfied with the flavor.
- Upon completion, store your sauerkraut in an airtight, preferably glass, container in the fridge.
This is one of the many variations on the method. Google will lead you to a myriad of sites describing this same basic process with slight differences in equipment and procedure. Experiment! And let me know how it goes.