Sauerkraut Science Experiment – Ruby Kraut Success!

IMG_1454I’ve been on a bit of a homemade food jag lately, getting a little more adventurous with the offerings from the farm box. I’ve always been afraid to make sauerkraut – fermentation is a scary beast. But when life gives you big purple cabbage heads, something must be done.

I’m reporting after my second attempt as kraut-maker, but let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? On my first try, I followed a couple of online recipes and used what I had on hand: namely, cabbage and salt. I also bought juniper berries and caraway seeds for seasoning. The salt caused the cabbage to sweat; I squeezed out more juice then added additional water.

This fit nicely in a glass-lid casserole dish. I covered the cabbage/water with parchment paper, topped with a Ziploc bag filled with more water to weigh it down (keeping water level above cabbage level), then followed with the lid. The crock sat on my counter for over a week. I started noticing mold on one corner; I scraped it off but it returned in a few days. That’s when I got scared and put it in the fridge. Tasted fine; I ate the whole thing over several weeks.

IMG_1457Now that I had a little experience under my belt, I was ready to try again. This time I bought a large, wide-mouth canning jar by Weck. I also bought a smaller jar to fit inside for the weight. Somehow I had a better result with the sweating and didn’t have to add any extra water. I fit it all in the 1 liter jar (weighted with glass lid from smaller jar) and sealed the lid.

After a couple of days I could see a lot of bubbling action. So much so that I feared my jar would explode. Ack! I had failed to leave some room at the top of the jar for expansion during fermentation. I decided to remove the clips from the sealed lid and KABOOM – purple juice on the kitchen walls!

Dang, all that healthy probiotic juice wasted. I lost about a third of a cup and had to replace some of that with water so the kraut wouldn’t dry out. Pity. After 10 days (like last time), I put it in the fridge and ate it little by little. Despite my troubles, it was a delicious batch.

So now I’m ready to offer some words of advice: don’t be afraid of the kraut! The worst that can happen is you lose a head of cabbage (and maybe spray your walls with sour juice). After more investigation, I now know that my jar would not have exploded but simply bubbled over. I will be prepared next time!

Here’s a good recipe for your first-time sauerkraut science experiment:

One head of cabbage, finely chopped
1 TBSP Salt
1/2 TBSP Juniper berries
1/2 TBSP Caraway seeds

I highly recommend using a glass jar because you can see what’s going on. Leave about an inch at the top of the jar for expansion. Put the lid on but don’t clamp it down. Just let it rest there. It is likely to bubble over, so set the jar over a plate/bowl. Let the fermentation begin! Start tasting around ten days – when you get the perfect sourness it’s time to seal the lid and refrigerate. Just look at that gorgeous ruby hue.


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