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Sauerkraut (Making) Preparation
There''s a reason for everything, even if we don''t understand it. It''s likely the old timers of 200 years ago didn''t understand many of the reasons they made sauerkraut except they knew this was a good way of preserving their cabbage through the winter. Today we know that fresh, raw cabbage is very rich in vitamin C, containing enough in 200 grams (that''s about a cup) to supply a whole day''s needs. Cooked cabbage and sauerkraut have about half this much. Sauerkraut is also an excellent source of Vitamin K. In the old times, Vitamin C was hard to come by during the winter. Beyond their conscious knowledge, sauerkraut was one of their very few sources.
Shred cabbage finely, put it in a large pan. Mix cabbage and salt with your hands. Pack gently with hands or potato masher. Repeat until crock (Al uses a 6 gal plastic bucket) is nearly full. Cover with cloth, plate and clean rock or something heavy. During the curing process, kraut needs daily attention. Remove scum as it forms and wash and scald cloth often to keep it free from scum and mold. At room temperature, fermentation will be complete in 10 to 12 days. Pack into jars adding enough juice to fill jars. Often there is not enough juice. If this happens, make a weak brine by dissolving 2 tablespoons of salt to a quart of water. Screw bottle lids on tight and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. After bottles are cool be sure they have sealed before putting them away.
The following was submitted by Kevin Cramer
I read Mabel Mertz''s recipe for homemade kraut and think I might have something to improve the process. Although it''s not a 100 year old method, it was taught to me by Bill Scmuck (himself in his 80''s). We use 2 trash bags, double bagged and filled with about 10 inches of water as a fermentation lock on our sauerkraut. We''ve fermented at least 2500 gallons using this method over the last 12 years. The only failures have been attributed to peeking. DO NOT peek until the fermentation has ceased 7-8 weeks at 65 F, and then bag or can it immediately.
Clean your crock (or in our case Rubbermaid trash cans) with bleach water and rinse well. Slice, stomp, salt, and pack your cabbage into the trash can leaving at least 12" of space at the top. Wipe any cabbage from the sides before inserting the bags (this stuff turns hard and is nearly impossible to scrape out later). Carry this beast to your basement, put 2 bags (one inside the other) into the top of the can and fill it with 10 inches of water from a garden hose. Loosely tie the inner bag into a knot (to slow down any evaporation). Make sure that there are NO gaps along the sides. Check your water level every 2 weeks or so and top off if necessary. Then remove the bags of water CAREFULLY... so as not to rupture them and flood your work. You could siphon or dip this water out if you really wanted to.
We make 1000-1500 pounds of sauerkraut every October and then bag it into 1 quart freezer bags in late December. We let the bags freeze outside, on a tarp (cover the bags or the kraut will bleach in the sunlight). We then move them into our chest freezers and give them out for Christmas presents. In Central Pennsylvania it is a tradition to eat sauerkraut every New Year''''''''s day. Most of the older family members really appreciate the taste of good, un-rinsed kraut.
If you don''t want to freeze or can it, you can take it from the crock and quickly cover it back up with the fermentation lock. I would use 5 gallon buckets for this method so that you don''t destroy more than a few gallons if you contaminate a batch. Friends of ours have had success with this method... they also consider burying their venison as a winter storage option.
We bury the cabbage "butts" or "hearts" in the kraut and ferment them along with the kraut. They taste like pickles and can be eaten raw. This year we are going to try a batch with peeled horseradish roots inserted into the cabbage as it ferments. A Slovak friend tells us that it adds flavor but little heat.
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