Splendid Sauerkraut

Last weekend, at the Elora Farmer’s Market I bought a head of cabbage that weighed in a whopping 11 pounds.  For the past few weeks, I kept thinking about making sauerkraut at home, and getting that head certainly tipped the scales.   (Many thanks to Mervin Martin of Sure Choice Produce for the cabbage.)

I have many sauerkraut memories from my childhood.  Every year, in late summer, my mother would pack up her trusty grater and pails, and we would head up to my grandparents’ house near Lake Simcoe.  My grandmother would have harvested a dozen or so large cabbages from her bountiful garden, and much of the day would be spent chopping, coring and shredding the cabbage.  We kids would often hover about, waiting for a piece of the core, which we loved because it was so sweet (no, we didn’t eat too much candy back then!)

At home, we had a very large cold cellar/pantry.  When you opened the door to go in, the first thing you saw was a large 5 gallon pail.  On the top was an inverted dinner plate, weighted down by a large rock.  Underneath was the fermenting sauerkraut.  My mother, although born in Ukraine, was raised for 13 years in Alsace, France, and the tradition there was to put in a few yellow apples, whole, in with the sauerkraut.  I have to admit, as a child, I never acquired a taste for those apples, but my mom sure seemed to love them!

Fast forward 40 years, and here I am with an eleven-pound head of cabbage on my kitchen counter.  After a bit of research online, I found a simple recipe to follow here.  The first thing I did was chop the cabbage into quarters and remove the core pieces.

 

Next, I sharpened the blade of my mandolin grater, sent up a quick prayer for safe grating (I hate skinning my knuckles or fingertips!), and proceeded to grate all the cabbage.  The shredded weight (minus core and outer leaves) was just under 9 pounds.

I then went out to the garden to dig up a few carrots to add in.  My mom did this sometimes, and one of my favourite store-bought sauerkrauts has carrots in it – besides, it makes it more colourful!  In went the red and orange shredded carrots, about another 1/4 pound.

The recipe called for 3 tablespoons of salt for every 5 pounds of shredded cabbage.  Out came the calculator, and I put in the right amount of salt (I used ground up pink salt from the health food store, lots of great minerals and non-iodized).

Although Mom always put the cabbage into a plastic food-grade pail, I didn’t want to use plastic, so I decided to go to town  to get a suitable container.  I didn’t think I’d be able to find a real “crock”, so the next best thing was going to be a glazed flowerpot (without holes, obviously).  Easier said than done at the end of October….My last stop was a hardware store.  Ta da!  A 3 gallon US-made crock pot!  Woo hoo!

I brought it home, washed it, and put all the grated cabbage into it….it barely made it half-way up the side, ha ha.  Oh well, no worries.  The next step was to “smush” all the cabbage down, to bring all the liquid up to the surface.  A sturdy hardwood stick was suggested, but I found it was much easier and quicker with my hand and knuckles.  Next went a dinner dish (glass) on top, and weighed down with a heavy stone (one of Phillip’s souvenirs for me from out West).  Onto the kitchen counter and now the waiting game begins 🙂

I’ll let you know how the batch is progressing, and I’ve already decided to buy some more cabbage at the market this weekend, so the crock will be full!  Here’s a great link to learning more about the benefits of sauerkraut.  Auf Wiedersehen!

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