Making sauerkraut is an easy way to preserve fresh vegetables for extra months. While most sauerkraut is primarily composed of cabbage, a wide range of other produce can be added for flavor, color, or just resourcefulness. Between the 7 jars pictured, packed in with 3 varieties of cabbage, there are carrots, kale, kohlrabi, beets, apples, pears, habenero peppers, and onions. We were lucky enough to attend a recent sauerkraut making class with our friends, The Village Homesteaders of Mundelein, where we learned a lot about food preservation, honest living, and even how to make kombucha. Almost two weeks later, our kraut is looking fantastic. We even made a couple more jars with our excess veggies.
The basic process is cutting up your veggies as finely as you’d like and mixing it with roughly 1 tablespoon of salt per 12 ounces of vegetable matter. You can use any uniodized salt you’d like, we prefer coarse sea salt. Mixing this by hand, you’ll notice that the salt draws out a lot of the moisture from the veggies. Once it’s pretty well combined and most of the salt is dissolved, you can start putting it into canning jars or a large ceramic crock. Feel free to add dill, caraway, or any other herbs you enjoy. Now, here’s the important part: you have to really press the veggies into the jar or crock. We used wooden spoon handles, mallets, and pestles to compact the sauerkraut as tightly as possible.
As the kraut ferments, it builds up pressure. With the jars we made at the sauerkraut making class, we open the lids every couple days to release this air but, with the ones we made at home, we drilled holes into jar lids and attached airlocks to them, allowing the gasses to escape freely without letting outside air enter. It is also important to regularly press the veggies down so that they are completely submerged in liquid; anything above the liquid line will mold & rot. We haven’t seen any scum form, but we were told that this is normal and should just be scooped out.
One of the major benefits to eating sauerkraut is the probiotic properties. Although these cultures begin to form in the first week, they do not reach their prime strength until 28 days later. Of course, here at the hollow, we value creative integrity very highly. The large jar in the front of the photo is our attempt at layering the vegetables in an aesthetically pleasing manner. However, due to “technical difficulties” while mashing the kraut down, the stripes aren’t exactly “perfect.” One thing you will notice is a smaller jar (the size we sell our jam in) pressed on top between the kraut and jar lid. This is to displace the liquid and keep the kraut fully submerged more efficiently.
If you’re interested in sauerkraut making, kombucha, pickling, or any other form of food fermentation, reach out to us on our Connect page and be sure to join the Illegal Pickle Email List for updates from Holcomb Hollow & exclusive offers.