Now available from Mulligan Books and Seeds: These Gorgeous, Locally Made, Water Seal Ceramic Crocks (with weights) can be used to pickle almost anything: eggs, pickles, kimchi, and more. This is real food, with all the bacteria and enzymes our bodies need. These crocks are one gallon, and two heads of cabbage can be made in one batch. Color choices. $75.
From GREGG LINDSLEY
Sandor Ellix Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (Chelsea Green, 2003) has earned the nickname “Sandorkraut” for his love of sauerkraut. This is Sandorkaut’s easy sauerkraut recipe.
Timeframe: 3-4 weeks minimum, better if left to ferment
Ceramic crock with weights
Ingredients (for 1 gallon):
• 5 pounds cabbage • 3 tablespoons sea salt
1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.
2. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. 3 tablespoons of salt is a rough guideline for 5 pounds of cabbage.
3. Add other vegetables if you like. Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables you can add include onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, small whole heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, and burdock roots. You can also add fruits (apples, whole or sliced, are classic), and herbs and spices (caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries are classic, but anything you like will work). Experiment.
4. Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists or any (other) sturdy kitchen implement. The tamping packs the kraut tight in the crock and helps force water out of the cabbage.
5. Cover kraut with weights. These weights force water out of the cabbage and keep the cabbage submerged under the brine.
Cover the whole thing with the lid.
6. Press down on the weights to add pressure to the cabbage and help force water out of it. Continue doing this periodically (as often as you think of it, every few hours), until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to about 24 hours, as the salt draws water out of the cabbage slowly. Some cabbage, particularly if it is old, simply contains less water. If the brine does not rise above the top level of the kraut by the next day, add enough salt water to bring the brine level above the weights. Add about a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and stir until it’s completely dissolved.
7. When the brine is at the proper level above the cabbage, add water to the rim of the crock, sealing it and preventing bacteria from getting into the mixture. Leave the crock to ferment. Add water as needed .
8. Check the kraut every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Don’t worry, the kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the weights. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes. In the cool temperatures of a cellar in winter, kraut can keep improving for months and months. In the summer or in a heated room, its life cycle is more rapid. Eventually it becomes soft and the flavor turns less pleasant.
9. Enjoy. Each time you scoop some kraut out of the crock, you have to repack it carefully. Make sure the kraut is packed tight in the crock, the surface is level, and the cover and weight are clean. Sometimes brine evaporates, so if the kraut is not submerged below brine just add salted water as necessary.
10. Develop a rhythm. Try to start a new batch before the previous batch runs out. Remove the remaining kraut from the crock, repack it with fresh salted cabbage, then pour the old kraut and its juices over the new kraut. This gives the new batch a boost with an active culture starter.