Thursday, April 30th, 2009

How To Make Sauerkraut – Raw, Organic, and Unpasteurized

by Kristen Suzanne in sauerkraut

This week I made my first batch of sauerkraut using my new fancy shmancy pot designed for fermenting veggies. I’m super excited but also a little whiny because I have to wait 4 weeks to see if it even worked out! It’s sitting on my counter now and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Before I made my sauerkraut, I read the book, Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home, from cover to cover. It was a great, quick, and easy read that I really enjoyed.

Fermented (raw, organic, and unpasteurized) veggies including things like sauerkraut and kim-chi are amazing for your health. These foods are extremely popular and have been staples in people’s diets all over the world. I can’t help but wonder why it’s not a staple in ours? Well, I’m changing that! On an almost daily basis, I’ve been chowing down on 1/4-1/2 cup fermented veggies. I love it!

Since I don’t have my own homemade sauerkraut (yet!), I’ve been buying it (expensively) at Whole Foods. My favorite company is Gold Mine Natural Foods (but not all Whole Foods carry this brand) so I also buy Rejuvenative’s sauerkraut and kim-chi. Hopefully in no time at all, I’ll have saved enough money from making my own sauerkraut to pay for the pot.

The benefits are numerous. It’s reputed for helping fight disease!
YAY! It’s awesome for your digestion. WHOO-HOO! It helps load you up with friendly bacteria, and it’s filled with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes! SCORE FOR FERMENTATION!

But, don’t take it from me. Fermented veggies have been used for natural healing for years (and I mean LOTS of years). More specifically, the Chinese have been fermenting cabbage for thousands of years! In fact, according to the book, Making Sauerkraut, the earliest recording of fermented cabbage occurred in 200 BC. Isn’t that cool?

I want to mention here that it’s important to eat only Raw, Organic, Unpasteurized sauerkraut. If it’s been pasteurized, then the nutritious and beneficial friendly bacteria are wiped out (sadly).

In the past, I’ve made kraut with only a glass mason jar, but the trouble is that it didn’t always come out right. That’s why I decided to get the Harsch Gairtopf Fermenting Crock Pot. I’m all into making things as easy on me as possible! Apparently, this thing is fool-proof (sign me up!). It received great reviews on Amazon (all the sizes). I bought the 7.5L size a couple of weeks ago and made my first batch of organic sauerkraut the other day. Now, I wish I had bought another one so that I can start a batch of something else… maybe some Kim-Chi. But, I’ll wait and see how I do with the first batch. I’m eager to make something with fun flavors, spices, and herbs. Oh! I’m so excited.

To begin, I went to the farmer’s market on Saturday and bought 10 pounds of organic, locally grown cabbage from my favorite farmer, Doug (if you’re in the Phoenix area… have you signed up for the CSA yet? I think it starts this week!). I read that it is very important to use organic cabbage for fermenting (I always buy organic everything anyway). The sauerkraut ferments better with organic cabbage.

I came home and cleaned my crock, let it air dry, and then went to work on preparing the sauerkraut for fermenting.

I peeled off the outer leaves of the cabbage and set them aside (I used a few of them at the end for covering the top of the shredded cabbage). Then, I started shredding away. Each cabbage was about 2 pounds which was perfect, because it’s recommended that you use about 1 tablespoon sea salt (I always use Himalayan crystal salt) for each 2 pounds of cabbage. Going forward, I’ll decide whether to use the same amount of salt (or less) but for my first batch, I went along with the directions.

I used my food processor, fitted with the shredding plate/blade, and shredded 1 (2 pound) head of cabbage. I put it in a big bowl and added a tablespoon of my salt. I used a potato masher and starting pushing on the cabbage in order to break it down some and release water (my arms had a little workout from this). Once it got a little juicy, I transferred it to the crock. I then did the same thing for the remaining 4 heads of cabbage. This whole process took me about an hour. Once it was all put in my Harsch fermenting crock, I placed the outer leaves I previously saved, on top of the shredded cabbage.

Then, I placed the “weights” that came with the Harsch crock on top of the cabbage. I put on the lid and poured a little water in the moat (this gives it a water seal). Now… it’s sitting on my counter. The only concern I have is that I hope the temperature of my home is okay. It’s hot and dry in Arizona, so I’m keeping my eye on it, which is kind of useless since I’m instructed not to open it until I’m ready to harvest it. I don’t want to crank the air conditioning up in order to make sauerkraut since that would use a lot of energy. So, I have a little fan on it to help keep it cool. Ideally, I’d have a thermometer next to it to read the temperature, but I can’t find it :(

I have to wait a minimum of 3 weeks to harvest my sauerkraut. I think I’ll wait at least 4 weeks since it gives it extra fermentation time. At the time of harvesting my precious, (hopefully) delicious sauerkraut, I’ll transfer it to glass mason jars, use my FoodSaver (with mason jar attachment) to suck out all of the air for even better storage, and keep it in my refrigerator.

Happy Fermenting!

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