I did it! I overcame my inability to grow cabbage AND ended up with a successful, delicious batch of sauerkraut! And it only took me eight months!
Maybe I just needed to be patient, because my cabbage actually headed up this year. I started the seeds indoors in March and transplanted them out in May. I’m estimating that the biggest heads were about 4 inches in diameter by late October. I guess I just didn’t realize cabbage took that long to grow!
I’m thinking one of my mistakes one year, was that the cabbage didn’t head up and I tried to use the hard outer leaves anyway. I’m thinking now that you need nicely headed up cabbage, so you get the tastiest, most tender leaves.
Sauerkraut should be pretty simple to make. It’s just cabbage and salt! The brine mostly forms from the cabbage’s own juices.
You want the sauerkraut to be completely submerged in the brine, if there is not enough you have to add some (salt and water), which I did. I referred to Canning and Preserving Your Own Harvest for the complete directions.
The first couple of times, I attempted to make sauerkraut, I used a glass jar. Glass is nice because you can see the bubbling better, but since my sauerkraut has never been that successful, I figured I’d try a ceramic crock this time. I really wanted the nice German fermenting crock from the Territorial Seed catalog. It’s ceramic and comes with it’s own weights and lid, but it’s not cheap and is heavy to ship.
I opted instead for a $20 ceramic crock from Mclendon’s. I often talk food preserving with the ladies who work there. They seem to know their shit. So when the lady who rang me up, said it was what she used and that it worked great for her, I trusted I was buying the right thing.
It did not come with a weight or lid, but a food-grade plastic bag filled with water and a towel worked just fine!
I have read, from several sources, that fermenting takes anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on the temperature of your room and that fermenting is done when bubbling stops. I couldn’t really tell if mine was bubbling, so I just kept tasting it and it tasted pretty darn good to me after two weeks and did not appear to be bubbling, so I figured I play it safe and go ahead and can it.
I have also heard conflicting advice on whether or not you should can sauerkraut (that canning kills the beneficial bacteria created by fermentation), but since I didn’t think we would be able to eat it all before it went bad, I opted to can it.
That’s some hard earned sauerkraut, but I have to say it tastes pretty damn good, so it was worth it.
And as a bonus, I saved the cabbage cores and fed them to the chickens. They seem to love them and it gives them something to do!