Last fall I wrote a post about the wonderful and engaging Edwards family and their farm in Illinois. A year later I’m happy to say I still think they are wonderful and engaging and I still find their produce delicious! Ethan, who is the youngest son of Marie and Clark, sent me the family recipe for sauerkraut. You can meet Ethan, Marie and Clark on Sept. 18th as they are some of the featured farmers for that night’s “Know Your Farmer” dinner during our KNOW YOUR FOOD CELEBRATION. I promise you’ll love it!
Here it is:
Here’s the recipe just as it came to me from my grandma, Ida Knobeloch, in 1984. It has some ambiguities that I’ll comment on at the end, but thought I’d copy the recipe just as I got it.
from Home Advisor Catherine Huss, Belleville
is a good source of vitamin C. 32 calories per cup.
Sterilize jars before beginning to prevent bacteria from getting into cabbage. Clean the cabbage by removing all outside blemishes, but do not wash the heads. Bacteria in the inner leaves are needed for proper fermentation.
Cut heads in half or quarters and cut as you like. 2 one quart jars will hold 3 1/2 lbs. of cabbage. To this amount add 2 1/2 tablespoons salt, 1 teaspoon sugar if desired.
Salt draws out the cabbage juice so it can ferment. It helps control fermentation by favoring the right kind of bacteria and discourages the kind that might cause the kraut to spoil.
Put the lid on the jar firmly enough to keep the air out. Set the jar in a pan so the juice can leak out during fermentation. Keep sauerkraut at room temperature (72 degrees). If too much juice leaks out, add boiling hot weak salt solution (2 tablespoons salt to 1 qt water). Tighten lids again.
Kraut will be ready to eat from 2 weeks to 10 weeks. Depends on how sour you like it.
Notes from Ethan:
–I do wash the outside of the cabbage, but I don’t wash it after it is shredded.
–I use an antique kraut cutter to cut the cabbage (photo attached), but any vegetable grater that doesn’t cut the cabbage in too small of pieces should be ok. You don’t want it pulverized like some slaw is.
–It should be canning salt. I also don’t know why the sugar is optional. I’ve always used it. Grandma said the sugar helps feed the fermentation.
–The instructions are silent about actually packing the jars. I let the cabbage sit a few minutes after I mix up the salt and sugar with it, just to get a little moisture to be drawn out of the cabbage. I put in about 2 inches of cabbage in each jar at a time, and then use some sort of tamper to compress the cabbage. You can apply a lot of pressure. You want to press it enough so that the liquid that forms comes up more or less to cover the cabbage. Repeat until you fill the jar to about 1/2 inch from the top. you should press until there’s moisture up to the top of the jar.
–Tighten the jars only enough to close them, not to make a tight seal like you would for regular canning. As the fermentation starts, liquid is going to bubble up out of the jars, so you’ll want to have them in a plastic or non-corrosive pan to catch the juice. (It won’t be some huge quantity, but enough that you want to contain it. I have old style zinc canning lids with red rubber rings which work really well. Unfortunately, you can’t really buy those anymore, except on most likely. I think you can just use regular two-piece canning lids, although if I were doing this without my zinc lids, I might be tempted to do it in a large pickle jar with a lid with a rubber sealing ring inside. You’re never going to boil or pressure seal these, so it doesn’t have to be such a perfect sealing job.
–Do check to make sure that the cabbage at the top of the jars doesn’t go dry. If it does, add that salt solution. I usually have to do this just once or maybe twice during the fermentation. It usually needs to be done about 10 days or so into the process. It isn’t critical to worry about. It won’t hurt anything if you the water is low for a couple days.
–I think the two week completion date is way too optimistic. I usually wait 7-8 weeks. The cabbage will start out very bright green and will gradually become white or creamy colored. The green color will be almost entirely gone when it is ready. Then tighten the lids as tight as you can. This will stop any new oxygen to get into the jars, and so eventually, the fermentation will stop. You can leave these at room temperature for a month or more. I usually put the jars in the refrigerator at this point and it will keep almost indefinitely. I’ve kept some for more than two years like that.
Anyway, good luck!