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Making sauerkraut
September 14, 2011
7:39 am
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Suzanne McMinn
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I'm making sauerkraut for the first time.  I followed the BBB directions, but only used one head of cabbage–it was a really big one, over 4 pounds, and after I shredded it, it looks like it would probably do at least half a dozen pint jars when canned.  (It seemed to blow up when I shredded it!)  I don't have a special crock for fermenting or anything, so I just put it in a stainless steel pot that has a stainless steel pasta insert to keep it pressed down and then put the lid on, put slightly off.  It's supposed to have some air, right?  Because the directions say to put cheesecloth over it.  I poured a brine over it to bring up enough liquid to cover it, and the book says to let it sit for 3 to 6 weeks and remove any scum that forms on the top.  (Scum? ick….)  No scum so far.  Anyway, anyone with any experience making sauerkraut?  Any advice or what to expect? And how do I know when it's done?  Three to six weeks is a big range…..

Clover made me do it.

September 14, 2011
8:23 am
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Miss Judy
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A loooooong time ago my husbands great aunt showed me how to make sauerkraut. The thing I remember most was her tamping down the shreaded cabbage in the crock so that juice came out of the cabbage. Aunt Cora was a little bit of a woman …but she sure could put the pressure on that cabbage!

She just watched the cabbage in the crock and when she thought it was “right” we canned it in jars. She said it took about a month. I made it with her two years in a row…never made it on my own. That was over 35 yrs. ago!

September 14, 2011
8:38 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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When I do mine I ferment it right in the jar(s).  I put it in wide mouth jars then use a 1C. Jelly jar with narrow mouth filled with brine to weight it down. 

That being said, depending on how much you're making – if you're making a lot – using your stainless steel, a gallon jar, or even the insert from an old crock pot works well so you don't have to work with a bunch of jars!  Main thing is that the container you're making it in is not a material that will corrode and leach into your ferment – which is most metals but especially aluminum.

The sauerkraut needs to be kept COMPLETELY under the brine so you need some kind of “pusher” (in your case the pasta insert) then a weight on top of that to be sure the sauerkraut stays totally under the brine.  Since it's going to expand and create some “gas” during the fermenting process, just be sure you have some head-room in there for that process (and thus, the scum).

A good idea for your weight is a plastic bag(s) filled with brine.  The weight of the brine bag(s) sitting on top of your pasta insert helps keep your fermenting product under it's brine and it doesn't matter if the bag breaks or leaks a little when you're tending things as it is fine for the brine to get in your ferment! 

As far as knowing when it'd done – it's a matter of how you like your sauerkraut to taste.  After about a week, just take a small taste every couple days.  Some people like theirs very “sour” and others like it a little milder – all a matter of taste!  And…it will ferment faster if your room temperature is higher – slower if your room temp is colder – so that's another reason the recipes state such a wide range of time!

When it tastes like you like it, you can then place it into the fridge or a cool area like a root cellar and it will keep for several months.  (Or you can heat-can it.)  The advantage of leaving it as a fresh ferment is a lot of very healthy nutrients that are created in the fermentation process are destroyed by the heat.

One thing you need to know – sauerkraut is STINKY when it is in the ferment process.  Cabbage is a strong-smelling vegetable in the first place.  If you've never smelled the fermenting process, I didn't want you to be surprised!  It puts off some pretty strong-smelling gasses so…be forewarned!

September 14, 2011
8:55 am
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BuckeyeGirl
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Been years for me too, I remember that it was important to keep the cabbage well below the level of the brine, so it was well protected from the scum.  (lovely word that!)  Any cabbage that escaped and floated to the top got discarded with the scum.

It just got a bit cloudy at first, bubbles coming to the surface of course, and then became actual grayish thicker gunk on top that was easy to skim off, but only one batch smelled like anything other than brine and cabbage, melding over to sauerkraut smell…  that one got really creepy thick pink moldy looking stuff with an unclean smell, possibly from some spore or whatever that it got while growing in the garden, or because we either neglected it or from some mold spore that got into it since we kept these crocks in the basement.  We threw that batch out.  I bet my grandmother would have washed it and re-brined it.  ew!

It really is fermenting after all, which in most any other food would be considered spoiled!  I've seen so many recipes for other pickled/fermented veggies… pretty interesting!

Located in N.E. Ohio

September 14, 2011
8:59 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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So far I haven't experienced a lot of the “scum” in mine so I haven't needed to skim!  Who knows what the future holds, however….

Like Buckeye Girl was saying, if you have any of the cabbage or other ingredients floating to the top, you need to remove it.  When it comes in contact with the air, it provides a place for yeasts (aka molds) to grow.  Fermenting is an “anaerobic process” where your product needs to be completely under the brine while fermenting to prevent the molds from getting in there.

September 14, 2011
11:14 am
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Bev in CA
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I used to make sauerkraut in a  5 gallon crock and share with all our neighbors.  I only mixed salt with the cabbage.  Did not add any liquid.  For a while there wasn't much liquid.  I tamped it down each day as the liquid began to develop.  It does get smelly.  It takes a while for the scum to build.  Just remove the scum.  Sometimes I would just take a little of the cabbage off and get rid of it.  You want to cover the kraut with a film of gladwrap add a jar of water on top to keep it submerged.  Or a havy plate.  When you remove the scum, wash the gladwrap or put on new.  If the kraut gets slimy throw it away.  The ratio of salt is: 1 and 1/2 tsp. of salt to one pound of cabbage.   It takes about 2-3 weeks.  If it is to cool it could take 6 weeks.    It is ready when it quits bubbling (fermenting) and tastes like kraut.  If you don't have enough liquid when canning you can take and heat 1 and 1/2 Tblsp. salt to 1 quart of water, to top off your jars.  Hope this helps.   I am canning sweet pickles made in the crock today.  Takes 18 days.  Fermenting  things in the crock does take time but is so worth it. 

September 14, 2011
11:41 am
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Suzanne McMinn
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This whole discussion is making me want to throw it out right now, LOL.

Clover made me do it.

September 14, 2011
11:48 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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You’ll love it!!!! Don’t throw it out!!!!!  (PS:  The “stinky” is a “good stinky” not a “rotten stinky”!!!)

 

happy-flower

September 14, 2011
12:07 pm
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Leah's Mom
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Here are two links that may be helpful.  The first is from the Purdue University Extension regarding fermenting sauerkraut.  In the end they state that you can keep it in a cool/cold place, freeze it, or can it:

http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFS/CFS-610-W.pdf

The second is from the “Wild Fermentation” website.

http://www.wildfermentation.com/resources.php?page=sauerkraut

September 14, 2011
6:13 pm
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Canner Joann
Central KY
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I've made kraut 4 times.  Twice I did it right in the jar, and most of the jars were fine.  I've tried it twice in a crock (2 different crocks, even) and it rotted both times.  Here's a link to the jar instructions I used:  http://schmidling.com/kraut.htm.

 

Joann

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September 14, 2011
6:29 pm
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mamawolf
Colorado Springs
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My parents used to make kraut everyother summer using a kraut cutter which my grandfather made. They put it in a 20 quart crock layering shredded cabbage with salt and placed a wooden circle a bit small in circumference than the crock to weight it down, then covered to top of the crock with muslin.  This was put in the basement to ferment and checked daily for unwanted bits of scum and cabbage.  I don't remember how long it was left to ferment but when it was “krauty” they packed it in pint containers and put it in the freezer.  Best stuff in the world with a bit of bacon “juice” and cooked with pork.  Yummmmm.fork

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September 15, 2011
1:30 pm
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twiggityNDgoats
Spencer, WV
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I make kraut in a quart jar.  I had a recipe that substituted whey (I drained mine from yogurt) for some of the salt.  The lactic acid in the whey was supposed to kind of jump start the process.  I added juniper berries and caraway also.  I just keep mine in the root cellar.  Always turned out well and never had a batch go bad.

September 15, 2011
1:52 pm
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Merino Mama
Nicholas County, WV
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Let me tell you about my sauerkraut adventure.  Last year we raised cabbage (turned out to be a lot) and I love sauerkraut and my mom had always just made hers in the jar.  She told me she couldn't really remember her recipe but she thought she just added salt to the jar then added hot water.  Well, I canned about 25 quarts of the cabbage this way.  Didn't work.  no  What I got was salty cabbage.  So salty you could only stand to eat it if you washed it off first.  What a waste of good cabbage and time.  I had looked all over the internet for the jar recipe and could only find the crock way.  I saw the recipe on the P. Allen Smith's show just this summer.  You pack the cabbage in the jars, then add 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp. vinegar, then fill the jar with boiling hot water and seal.  You don't even need to hot water bath the jars if your lids are hot, although you can.  Sure wish I'd seen that show before I wasted all that time and cabbage.  Oh well, maybe I'll decide to grow some cabbage next year and try again.

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September 15, 2011
3:15 pm
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Flowerpower
West Tennessee
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My mother in law made kraut in a churn. My mother made kraut in the jars. I always remember mother's being darker and softer on the top when you opened the jars. The kraut from the churn was salty and crisp and I loved to eat it raw as it was being packed for canning. I have an 8 gallon churn but I have not made kraut in it ever. Maybe I should.

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September 15, 2011
3:39 pm
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Sonia
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Well, I am definitely not a sauerkraut expert, but today at the dr’s office, a lady asked me if I liked sauerkraut.  I have never tried it, but asked how she made it….she used 5 pounds of cabbage, 3 Tbs of salt, 6-8 bay leaves and about a tablespoon of juniper berries. I repeated 3 Tbs of salt , and she said exactly that…just seems like a skimpy amount, oh well, someone out there will know if this is not enough or just right. She put everything in a large crock..she used a big glass jar of some type and weighted it down with a plate to push the cabbage down.  She would every once in a while adjust the weight on the plate as the liquid from the fermenting cabbage rose up in the jar.  I cannot remember how long she said this took, but it was very interesting.  Anyway, I have never made sauerkraut so this is all new to me.  Just interesting that just today someone asked and told me how she made hers.

Oh forgot, she also said that every once in a while she would add wine to make wine sauerkraut.  I have never heard of that….very interesting.

September 15, 2011
4:52 pm
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Window On The Prairie
Northeast Kansas
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I saw directions for making kraut one time, and was turned off when I got to the part about putting cheesecloth over the crock to keep the bugs out.  Don't get me wrong, I love making homemade bread and soap, and growing veggies. But kraut is basically rotted cabbage right? vomit

September 15, 2011
5:30 pm
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Miss Judy
West Central MO
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Window On The Prairie said:

I saw directions for making kraut one time, and was turned off when I got to the part about putting cheesecloth over the crock to keep the bugs out.  Don’t get me wrong, I love making homemade bread and soap, and growing veggies. But kraut is basically rotted cabbage right? vomit

Yep and wine is just rotted grapes!laughI think the correct term is fermented!french

September 15, 2011
5:48 pm
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twiggityNDgoats
Spencer, WV
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Here's a link to the recipe for the jar sauerkraut I make.  Very easy.

http://blog.drdavidwilliams.com/blog/digestive-health-guidance/digestive-diet-tip-make-your-own-sauerkraut

September 16, 2011
4:08 pm
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Window On The Prairie
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True, Miss Judy. Hadn't thought of it that way….  wave

September 21, 2011
11:22 am
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Suzanne McMinn
Sassafras Farm in Roane County, WV
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My sauerkraut has been making for one week now.  I haven't had a problem with scum on the top, nothing to remove.  Am I doing something wrong?  (LOL)  It's starting to smell sauerkraut-y.  Have no idea how to tell when it's done.  I stirred it up today and tasted it.  It's still a little crisp–should I wait till it's more wilted/softer?  Also, it tastes too salty for me.  When I'm ready to can it, can I wash out the brine and add more water?  Also, I prefer a little sugar–there was no sugar in this recipe.  (I see above in this thread that one of the kraut-in-a-jar recipes calls for some sugar.)  So after I rinse the brine and add more water, is it okay to add some sugar when I bring it to simmer before canning?

 

I'm excited because it hasn't rotted!!!  (Yet. LOL.)

Clover made me do it.

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