Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Making and Canning Sauerkraut



When I was a little girl, my Granny Smith always had a row of crocks in her cellar filled with pickles, pickled beans, pickled corn, and sauerkraut. These brine and vegetable filled vessels intrigued and fascinated me... in went a little salt, some clear, clean water, and the vegetable of choice... and out came a tasty treat! Granny always broke her corn cobs into 2-3 inch pieces for pickling... just the perfect size for tiny hands to enjoy.

Granny pickled because it was a great way preserve the crops of cabbage, corn, beans, cucumbers. Fermenting foods (that's what pickling in brine is!) was a way of life... and we've removed ourselves from it very much in this modern day of preservatives and over-processing, much to the detriment of our digestive systems... Fermented food:

1. Improves digestion... Fermenting our foods before we eat them is like partially digesting them before we consume them. According to Joanne Slavin, a professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Minnesota, "... sometimes people who cannot tolerate milk can eat yogurt. That's because the lactose (which is usually the part people can't tolerate) in milk is broken down as the milk is fermented and turns into yogurt."
2. Restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut... Do you suffer from lactose intolerance? Gluten intolerance? Constipation? Yeast infections? Allergies? Asthma? All these conditions have been linked to a lack of good bacteria in the gut.
3. Raw, fermented foods are rich in enzymes... According to the Food Renegade blog, "Your body needs enzymes to properly digest, absorb, and make full use of your food. As you age, your body's supply of enzymes decreases. This has caused many scientists to hypothesize that if you could guard against enzyme depletion, you could live a longer, healthier life."
4. Fermenting food actually increases the vitamin content.
5. Eating fermented food helps us to absorb the nutrients we're consuming.
6. Fermenting food helps to preserve it for longer periods of time... milk goes bad quicker than yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles and salsa will keep for months.
7. Fermenting food is inexpensive.
8. Fermenting food increases the flavor... There's a reason humans enjoy drinking wine and eating stinky cheese. There's a reason we like sauerkraut on our hot dogs and salsa on our tortilla chips. It tastes good!

OK... science lesson over...
I made sauerkraut and here's what I did...

The recipe I have called for 25 pounds of cabbage... I only had 8 pounds...


And it called for 1 cup of canning and pickling salt... I used 1/4 cup...


After peeling the outer leaves from my cabbage, removing the stem end, and weighing it, I used the slicer attachment on my KitchenAid to shred the cabbage (a food processor with slicing attachment can be used, you can use a mandoline, or you CAN use the old fashioned method of knife and cutting board, slicing thinly... you want your cabbage about 1/16 inch thick)...


Once I had chopped all my cabbage...


I put it all in a food grade plastic bucket (I used a 5 gallon bucket even though I only had about a gallon of cabbage)... a stone crock would have been nice, but I don't own one... it's on my list!


I mixed the 1/4 cup of canning and pickling salt thoroughly into the shredded cabbage. If I had followed the full 25 pounds of cabbage recipe, I would have worked in 5 pound batches at a time, layering cabbage, then salt and working it in as I went along, waiting about 15 minutes between layers.


After I had mixed the salt into the cabbage well, I let it sit for about 15 minutes and checked to make sure   there was enough juice flowing to cover the cabbage. If the water was enough to cover the cabbage I would have moved on to the next step, however, my cabbage wasn't producing enough of its own juices so I mixed up a batch of brine using 4-1/2 teaspoons of pickling salt to 4 cups of water, heating it on medium high to allow the salt to dissolve, then letting it cool to room temperature. I added the brine to the cabbage in the bucket.



The cabbage needs to remain submerged under an inch or two of water, so I placed a glass pie plate on top of the mixture and weighted it down with two quart jars filled with water.



I covered the bucket loosely with a dish towel and put the bucket lid over top, loosely. I placed the bucket of sauerkraut in a consistently cool place...
And then you wait...

... and let it ferment...

Fermentation takes place best at a cool temperature between 70 and 75 degrees F. At this temperature fermentation should take about 3 weeks. At a slightly lower temperature, between 60 and 65 degrees, fermentation may take 5 or 6 weeks to complete. If the storage is below 60 degrees fermentation may not take place. At temperatures higher than 75 degrees pickles may become soft (not sure what happens to cabbage, but didn't want to take any chances, so I kept my mixture in an area that stays between 70 and 75 degrees)

I checked the mixture every day and removed any scum that had formed. During fermentation, gas bubbles will form. When the bubbling ceases, fermentation is complete.

I didn't have a lot of scum to remove, thankfully,
but one time there was a big ol' glob, easily skimmed off
(I know, EWWWW, but it's a fact of life in fermenting that
we must face *grin*

Once fermentation is complete (took my sauerkraut about three weeks), and scum is removed, it's time to can it up (if you don't have a fabulous root cellar or stone crocks to store it in, that is... I must can mine!)


I decided to hot pack my sauerkraut, so I poured it from the bucket into a large stockpot to heat it up, bringing it to a simmer over medium-high heat, but not to a boil.


I prepared my pint canning jars by placing them in a flat pan of boiling water set over two stove eyes. I prepared my lids by simmering them in hot water until I was ready for them. Once my sauerkraut was heated through and my jars and lids were hot, I packed the hot sauerkraut and brine into the hot jars, leaving a half inch of headspace.


I removed any air bubbles and adjusted headspace, if necessary by adding more brine. I wiped the jar rims...


...and tightened the lids and rings on to fingertip tightness...


I placed the jars into my canner, ensuring they were completely covered with water. I brought the water to a boil and processed the pint jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes (quarts would be processed for 15 minutes) I removed the canner lid after processing and removed the jars using my jar lifter...




... then set my jars on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool and to listen for the PING of each successfully sealed jar.


Now for a hot dog with sauerkraut and spicy mustard!

51 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you posted this! I was contemplating making it and bought some cabbage, but the recipe sounded intimidating. Skimming scum, eww! I do have a couple crocks and it's time I put them to use.

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  2. Cherish, it's really REALLY not that hard, just a lot of waiting (sometimes I'm not good at waiting) Go for it! and thanks for reading ~~Granny

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  3. Made a small batch this year for the first time. Turned out so well, I am making a LARGE batch - it's on its second week of fermentation now. LOVE IT. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Way to go DB!!! Thanks for reading! ~~Granny

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  5. Just bought a ferment pot and when I get back in town I will use you and my grama'w book look for the results at my blog in a few weeks....thanx so much..canarella.....

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  6. Good for you, it's fun and really pretty easy! ~~Granny

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  7. Love this! But, I have a question. Doesn't the heat from canning destroy the beneficial enzymes created during fermentation?

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  8. I thought about that too, so I researched it a little and from what I can find in my reading, canning in a hot water bath stabilizes the sauerkraut so it doesn't ferment any further, the fermenting it has already done simply stabilizes. I know my sauerkraut sure tastes tons better than store bought! ~~Granny

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  9. That's the answer I was hoping for -- though it makes me wonder why most "fermented/raw" sauerkraut is kept in glass jars in the refrigerated section of the grocery store... Guess I'm going to have to go and do some research!

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  10. If the cabbage loses its liquid and you don't realize it for a day or so is the cabbage ruined? We thought it had enough liquid but it did not.

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  11. Mine got quite dry toward the end of the fermentation, didn't seem to hurt it... I did have to add a little brine while canning... should be fine. ~~Granny

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  12. I freeze mine to avoid losing beneficial enzymes and bacteria present in naturally fermented kraut, just an idea for others wishing to do the same.

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  13. Thank you for posting! I have many heads of cabbage ready to pick in the garden and I have my grandmother and great-grandmother's stone churns. Looks like now I can put them to use! I'm not sure how to seal them while the ferment?? It's not wide enough for me to put a glass plate on top the way you did. Any suggestions?

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    Replies
    1. Erin, the cabbage needs to stay submerged in 1-2 inches of water/brine... anything you can use to hold it under water will work, smaller plates? bowl? anything that will fit. ~~Granny

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    2. A poster on another site suggested using a ziplock baggy (maybe one inside another?) full of water to weight it down...just a thought.

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  14. Does it need to be checked every day & scum removed or can it be left alone for up to 3 days?

    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Checking it every few days is just fine. ~~Granny

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. Quick question, When you go to can the kraut, do you drain off the liquid its been sitting in,and rinse or do you heat that liquid and can it with the kraut. I've been wantint to do this for so long, but it is quite scarey!!! Thanks

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    Replies
    1. I canned it with the liquid in fermented in. ~~Granny

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  17. Are the 10 - 15 minutes using a pressure canner cooker? I don't have one so if it is how many minutes would it be in a regular canner? Thanks Henry

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    Replies
    1. No pressure canning required. This was processed in a boiling water bath. ~~Granny

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  18. I'm kinda freaking out about scum. Help! I've got my kraut weighed down with a plate and rocks in a ziplock. I can't seem to skim without removing the bag 'o rocks.... my kraut floats to the top then I get scum in my cabbage! I've been picking out the cabbage that gets 'scummed'.... am I losing sleep over nothing? How dangerous is scum? My kraut is almost done (I am planning on canning it- will any ickiness die during that process?). I think next time I'll weigh it differently but is this batch lost? It's beginning to smell and look like kraut. I just don't want to get sick eating it! Any advice would be great!

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    1. Instead of a plate with rocks
      Next time try a plastic bag (garbage bag) filled with the same brine solution (that way if it leaks, it doesn't dilute the brine in the kraut.
      The water will take the shape of the container and keep the kraut under brine.
      Before closing the bag, reach in and push out any air pockets the are between the bottom of the bag and the kraut below, this will insure a good seal.

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    2. The way I do it, and the way my family has done it for decades, is when you take off the damaged cabbage leaves before shredding, save the ones that aren't too bad. After you pack the shredding in, use the leaves as a cover. Place them concave side down and carefully tuck them around the perimeter, overlapping them like shingles. This keeps air from touching the shreddings, yet allows gas bubbles and scum to rise. Cover the leaves with a large plate and water filled jar or whatever weight. Check the liquid level daily, and one day you will see a dramatic drop in the level. It is ready.
      It freezes really well for a long time in plastic containers.
      Try this as a delicious preparation:
      In a colander rinse the finished kraut. grab a small handfull at a time and squeeze some, not all of the water out. Chop some Vidalia onions and mix them in with a few spoons of canola or other oil, just a little bit of Demerara sugar and mix it well. Let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to marinate. The sugar cuts the sourness a bit.
      I can't get enough of this concoction! Roll a bit in black forest ham for when people come over, it's amazing!
      You can fry it too!

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    3. I make sure I have three inches of brine over the top of the kraut, and plate. You can measure it with your hand, from your fingertips to the palm of your hand. If it isn't that much, mix 1 quart water with 1 T canning and pickling or sea salt, and add it until you have that much liquid. I used whole outer leaves of cabbage on the batch of kraut that's ready today to can. I put them in the freezer to use for making sarmas, or stuffed cabbage rolls. You can tuck the leaves down in ,and it keeps from having floaters in the brine that can get fuzzy and gross. I added caraway seeds and mustard seeds to this batch of kraut, and I have to say, it's the best batch I've ever made! Now I'm planning to make some this fall, and add crabapples to it. They will be so pretty canned, and lovely garnish for roast pork on the platter. You have to pierce the apples with a needle before processing them in the jars, or they will burst.

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    4. Ok I meant to say, I used the whole leaves under the plate during fermentation. Now I have those to cook with, they are perfectly pickled, just like the kraut.

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  19. How do you know when the fermentation process is complete?

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    1. Fermentation time is somewhat dependent on the temperature.
      Generally, it will take 3-6 weeks.
      If in doubt, leave it longer (say 8 weeks), it will not hurt the kraut.
      The cabbage will loose it's color over time and turn white, but not completely.
      I always remove any darker pieces prior to canning.
      Hope this helps!!!

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  20. A trick I learned......
    I use a new, clean plastic 5 gallon bucket for a 4 gallon batch (approximate).

    To keep the kraut under water, take a new, clean kitchen garbage bag and fill it 1 gallon of the same brine solution (that way if it leaks it does not dilute the brine below).

    Set this on top of the kraut and reaching into the brine solution in the bag make sure you press out all of the air pockets between the bag and the kraut below. The brine water in the bag will form to the shape of the bucket and provide an excellent seal and keep the kraut under the brine water.

    If you do it right, there should be minimal scum formed around the edge of the top of the bag and the bucket.

    When you are ready to can the kraut, simply lift the bag of brine solution out.
    With the bag removed there should be about 2 inches between the kraut and a small scum ring in your bucket. Use a clean towel and wipe out the scum ring and you are ready to can the kraut.

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  21. Question #1: Ok so I put 5 pounds of shredded cabbage into a 1 gallon glass jar. It packed nicely but at the end of the first day there was hardly any liquid so I added some brine (I was worried because the instructions say the cabbage should be under the brine). I didn't have a plate small enough to fit into the glass jar, so I tried the baggie method. The water (and some cabbage shreds) still found their way up between the baggie and the glass. I adjusted the baggie to keep it covered. The next day my jar was overflowing with liquid - I had a mess all over the counter. Since the lid to the gallon jar was metal (and corroded from making pickles) I transferred my cabbage into 2 half gallon canning jars. Still no luck with the baggies holding down the cabbage, and although I didn't add any brine, the liquid level is once again nearing the top of the jars. Am I doing something wrong?

    Question #2: Has anyone tried using an airlock in a cap? I've seen a few different ones for sale that fit wide mouth canning jars, and also directions for making one. I bought the materials (basically a plastic lid, 1-hole stopper and airlock, total cost about $2.50) and want to try it, but I'm worried since my cabbage seems to keep producing so much liquid.

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  22. My problem was not enough liquid, so I'm not sure why yours is producing excess liquid, I'm sure it's normal. An airlock might be just the thing! ~~Granny

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  23. Progress Report: The cabbage is mostly pale yellow with the top layers turning white. The liquid level is now down below about 1/4 of the cabbage. There are still gas bubbles making their way through the airlock but not nearly as often as when I first set it up. The airlock is definitely keeping air out as I've had not a speck of scum. Interesting how I had so much liquid the first week, and now I worry that there's not enough but I hate to open it up and introduce air into the system because it otherwise appears to be doing well. Thoughts anyone?

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  26. Making my first batch after talking with the German teacher at the High
    School I teach at. She said to put a layer of horseradish root on the bottom of the crock and then a layer in the middle and then a layer at the top. She said that the horseradish root prevents the formation of scum. So far she is right. I am into day 10 and no scum

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  29. I have just finished canning my kraut following these directions! Taste tested before canning and I think this is the best recipe EVER! Thank you for what you do!

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  30. This recipe is the same as I got from my mother, grandmothers and aunts. We've used it for generations. The scum won't make you sick or everyone would only kraut once. I've had batches that needed a lot of skimming and some not at all, different cabbages make a huge difference. I will skim, reach through the liquid, get a bite and taste it them re-cover and wait some more if needed. Now THE REASON FOR THE BOIL-OVER of your crock... fermentation makes a lot of gas, needs a lot of headroom to remove the gas without juice running over the top. Always remember to leave about 5 inches head-space in a 5 gallon crock, so if you're using gallon jars 3 inches should do. Kraut is so good for you, just keep out all air while krauting by keeping the juice level well above the cabbage. Canning Granny, you are wonderful!

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  31. We made our first batch! Fun Fun! We had to add more brine on day 3 as it wouldn`t totally cover and submerge the cabbage. We had NO scum throughout the fermentation process! Now we are at the canning part. I`m thinking if we totally covered the jars w/water, the air bubbles would come out and water would go into the jars? This was a fun food making project. Thank you for the pictures! They helped :)

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  32. my grandma used to have bell peppers stuffed with kraut, but I have never been sure if she started the cabbage first then stuffed them before she canned them. No one in the family can remember either, and haven't been able to find a recipe online saying anything like that. Is there anyway to stuff the peppers with the cabbage and let them fermite together, or would that just turn out badly.

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  33. My kraut is almost done. But it tastes REALLY salty! Should I rinse it befor canning? Or, maybe dilute the brine before canning? Help!

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  34. I made two batches of kraut in two different containers and set them near a window to get them to the proper temp for fermenting. We were out of town for a week and came back to something curious. One batch looked and smelled perfect. The other batch had bubbles of scum and a little mold around the lid. I don't want to get sick but my mother taught me never to throw anything away. Is there any way I can just take off the top layer of mold/scum and still can/eat the kraut?

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    1. Yes, you can skim off the layer of scum and the kraut underneath will be fine. ~~Granny

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  35. Superb way of explaining, and great blog to get wonderful information.
    how to make sauerkraut

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  36. Excellent site, Thank You for the recipe. I see a few people used small trash bags, please dont do that, as they are treated with a bug killing agent.

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  37. Canning Granny, I love this recipe and was wondering if you have ever made pickled beans or pickled corn using this method? If you have, can you give some insight about it and maybe the same tutorial as you did with kraut?

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    1. I've not done beans or corn with this method, but I don't see why it wouldn't work just fine. ~~Granny

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  38. I'm going to try this.......Definitely glad I found the blog. I had just bought my cabbage yesterday and thought I was going to cut up, put in jar and cover with whatever solution. LOL............guess I must ferment first. I would have loved to ask my granny how to make it but she has passed on. So thanks Canning Granny

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