20 February 2013

Making "Raw" Sauerkraut

My family is of European blood, (my maiden name was Wilson...), so sauerkraut was a staple in the larder and on the table when I was growing up. My grandmother grew cabbage, huge headed Dutch Flat cabbages, to make sauerkraut in the fall. It was a messy, somewhat stinky process, but I loved being part of the process and seeing the jars of kraut lined up on the shelves, alongside the green beans, pickled beets and chow chow. My grandmother didn't like caraway so we didn't have that in the kraut, and it had a mighty strong, tart flavor, to the uninitiated, but it was one of my childhood comfort foods, alongside Spaatzle and pickled beets.

Today, I do hot water bath can some sauerkraut, for my emergency pantry, but I have found that there is a more nutritious, flavorful variety of kraut that can be made for every day consumption. Raw sauerkraut is good for the "gut", it provides a balanced amount of flora to the intestines. It is a great source of pro-biotic bacteria, but unlike yogurt is not a dairy product, and doesn't have to be refrigerated. Being a vegan, I don't eat dairy, so I need another source of pro-biotic bacteria, sauerkraut fits the bill nicely.

                                           Making Raw Sauerkraut 

Equipment needed:

Food processor
1/2 gallon mason jar
Sharp knife
Measuring spoons
Wooden mallot
4 oz. mason jelly jar

4+ pounds cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 apples, peeled and grated
4 tsp unrefined salt
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

Save 2 large cabbage leaves from head.
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl except for the 2 cabbage leaves.
2. Pound or massage for 15 minutes or until there is plenty of juice.
3. Pack a 64 oz mason jar 3/4 full.
4. Cover with cabbage leaves and weigh down.
5. Let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 days.
If vegetables get slimy or turn brown, throw them out. If any white yeast develops on top, scrape
it off; it is not harmful, but tastes unpleasant.

Combine the shredded cabbage, apple, carrot, salt and caraway seed in a large bowl.

With a large, long handled, wooden mallot, (I got mine at a Latin grocery store, it is a chocloate stirrer), or a heavy potato masher, pound the ingredients to break the cabbage down and release the juices. You should pound the cabbage mixture vigorously, scraping and moving the cabbage around to make sure that you get to all the cabbage equally. Close to the end of the process take both hands and squeeze the cabbage mixture to expel juices that may be left in the cabbage.
My husband volunteered to do the mashing for me

You will know when you are done mashing when you place the palm of your hand down firmly on the cabbage mixture and the liquid flows over the top of your hand.

Once the cabbage is ready, take cabbage mixture by the handful and put it in the 1/2 gallon jar. Pack it in tightly with your fist. Continue to do this until the jar is 3/4 full of packed cabbage mix.

When Jar is 3/4 full pour in some of the juice from the bowl to stand 1 inch above the packed cabbage.

 At this point it is time to take the reserved outer leaves of the cabbage and position them on top of the packed cabbage in the jar. Press them down firmly to force out any air that may be trapped between the leaves and the packed cabbage and to cause the juices to flow over the top of the cabbage leaves until they are covered.

Take small 4 oz. mason jar and place it in the mouth of the 1/2 gallon jar. If you don't have a 4 oz. jelly jar then another jar will do, but you must be very careful to choose a jar that will fit loosely into the 1/2 gallon jar, leaving room on the sides so that the smaller jar does not become stuck in the neck of the 1/2 gallon jar. It also must not stick up above the top of the jar or this lid might not fit on when you go to screw it on. If you can't find a jar that will fit, a sealed ziploc sandwich bag full of small glass marbles will do the trick as well. Press down to force liquid up the sides of the smaller jar, but not over the top.

Place lids on the jar and tighten. Put the jar a plastic container, (I used a plastic shoe box sized storage container, but a recycled salad container or even a mixing bowl will serve),  to keep the juice from getting on the counter should it bubble out during the fermentation process.
This photo shows two jars of Kraut. The recipe only makes one jar of Kraut, but I doubled the recipe for my own use so this photo shows two jars.

Leave the sauerkraut to ferment undisturbed for 5 -10 days. I usually go the full 10 days to allow ample time for the cabbage to completely ferment and the flavor to develop.

I refrigerate after the fermentation process, just to be sure the kraut doesn't go bad, but if the kraut is kept covered with juice and something  heavy is sitting on it to keep kraut submerged, then it could be left out, unrefrigerated. As was done in days gone by. Let your own sensibilities help you to choose whether or not you refrigerate the sauerkraut when it is done. Spoilage would be indicated by browning, foaming and a foul smell.

Most of the time I just eat the sauerkraut as a side dish to my meals, but it is great to top a tossed vegetable salad, or on a Reuben sandwich. This is a definite keeper for anyone on a vegan or raw diet, since it is both a probiotic and a raw food.  If you try this recipe, stop back by and comment and tell me what you think of it and what recipes you used it in. I would be delighted to hear from you!

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