Use garden cabbage to make your own kraut

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If you’ve been a subscriber here at The Hot Mess Press for some time, you no doubt have come across posts where I have encouraged readers to grow their own food and to try to naturalize their everyday diets as much as possible. I have also, on occasion, sung the praises of fermentation. We are coming into the harvesting time of year for home gardeners, many of whom grow cabbage. So, this post is dedicated to garden cabbage. It’s intent is to encourage you to make your own sauerkraut. This is a fermented food that has many health benefits.

If you don’t have a garden, or do, but you didn’t grow cabbage this year, no worries. Just find a friend who did and trade one of your crops for some cabbage. If you don’t know anyone who grew cabbage, find a farmer’s market. You see? I’m not going to let you off the hook. Your job is to get hold of some garden cabbage. My job is to provide instructions to make your own kraut!

Things you will need besides garden cabbage to make sauerkraut

One of the reasons I enjoy making homemade sauerkraut so much is that it is a simple process. I love simple. Here’s a list of things you will want to gather before getting started:

  • Clean quart sized mason jars
  • Coarse salt
  • A pestle or other tool you can tamp down with
  • A large bowl
  •  5 lbs of cabbage per three jars

Such a basic list. You might wind up needing a splash of water, but I will explain that in a minute. For now, just know that these are things you will need, if you want to take garden cabbage and turn it into kraut.

Always start with clean hands to handle your garden cabbage

This is one of those things that goes without saying, but it is good to say, anyway, in case you forget: Always wash your hands before handling food. I suppose I should mention that you can wear gloves if you prefer, but as long as your hands are clean, you’re good to go.
Make sure your cabbage is clean, too. Garden cabbage sometimes has tiny residents living in it. They likely wouldn’t harm you if you accidentally would eat one, but yeah…no one wants to, so…make sure the cabbage is clean.

Get rid of the core, but save a few outer leaves. You will need them.

You can use a knife or a grating blade on a food processor to shred your garden cabbage. Think of sauerkraut and try to get it to look like that. If you like it thinner, make it thinner. If you prefer thick, make it thick. You can suit your own preference. Once you have shredded the cabbage, place it in the large bowl.

Now comes the salt

You need a certain amount of salt to create enough brine and to aid the fermentation process. A safe bet for the 5 lbs of garden cabbage per three quart jars is three tablespoons. Some folks like it saltier. Some try to get away with less, but I don’t recommend that. Saltier is fine, yes. Less…not so much. I would stick with at least three tablespoons. Most people use kosher salt. Some advise against it, saying it is too salty. This article will help you determine which type of salt you want to try.

Sprinkle your salt all over the garden cabbage. Now, as I recently told my friend when I was instructing her on how to make kraut, you are going to squeeze the heck out of it. Seriously. As hard you can squeeze. You will squeeze and mix and squeeze and mix. Keep doing this for as long as takes. At some point, you will begin to see liquid forming in the bowl. You are creating brine! In about 20  minutes of squeezing and mixing, you should have as much brine as you are going to get. It should be a hefty amount. If it is not enough to cover the cabbage in the jars, it’s okay, because you can add that splash of water I mentioned earlier.

Time to fill the jars

Fill each jar with cabbage and tamp it down, as you go. Pack it in as tightly as you can. Leave a little space at the top. Pour the brine over each jar of cabbage. This part is super important: Your cabbage MUST stay submerged under the brine, else it can float above the line and get icky with bad bacteria. This is where those large outer leaves come in. Fold a leaf over and use it as a fermenting weight to hold the rest of the cabbage under the brine. Then tighten on your lid. Do this with each jar.

This is the most important part if you don’t want your garden cabbage to explode and hit your kitchen ceiling

If you are wondering how I know that it is possible for your jars of cabbage to explode, let’s just say it is the voice of experience speaking to you at this moment. lol Lesson learned. Note to self: ALWAYS burp your jars, twice a day! To burp your jars, you simply loosen each lid, not enough to remove it. You want to twist, just enough to hear the air release, then tighten it right back up. Do this with every jar, and do it TWICE a day! DO NOT FORGET TO DO THIS PART!!!

You will do this twice a day for two weeks. Then, it’s time for tasting! Open a jar and taste your kraut. If you like it the way it is, you can move the jars to the fridge to stop fermenting. If you want to increase its tartness, then close the lids and leave it on the counter in increments of one week. KEEP BURPING THE JARS TWICE A DAY!!! Each week, taste your cabbage, and move it to the fridge when you’re ready! It will keep nicely in there for several weeks. (Really, longer, but all the health officials who might read this will come head hunting me for saying that.)

That brings me to the big disclaimer

Neither the writer of this post, nor The Hot Mess Press are responsible for any illness or injury that may occur if someone reads this post and tries to make their own sauerkraut with garden cabbage at home.

That said, I highly recommend doing your own research, so that you can make kraut in as safe a manner as possible. It is delicious. And, it is super healthy for you! If you want to learn more about the health benefits of kraut, check out this article.

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