CabbageHeadOn the second day of its carefully-crafted life, my first batch of homemade sauerkraut actually burped.

What a relief!

Even though my multi-culti heritage includes both French and German, I hadn’t previously activated any how-to-ferment-cheap-cruciferous-vegetable genes in my heretofore, sweet-preferring existence.*  In fact, I’d always poked fun at my mother’s habit of seasoning most dishes with plain white vinegar and turned up my nose at her thrifty meat-based stews.  We ate lots of modest, albeit hearty fare in that Philly row home and most of it was not what you’d consider “child-friendly” today.  After all, what contemporary American eight-year-old would request:

1) pork butt and cabbage

2) fried liver and onions

or—my absolute least favorite—

3) roast beef hash**???

Many years and many meals later, I’ve yet to order any of these or prepare them in my own kitchen.  Still, there’s one artifact of my ancestry that I’ve finally come to embrace.  That’s right, sauerkraut.  Old-school shredded cabbage— salted, pounded and then left for weeks to turn into a super-powered veggie experience.  It’s supposed to be good for you but it took some fancy recipes before I willingly added it to my repertoire.  (Hey, Mikey!  She likes it!)  (About time!)

Which brings us back to the burping.

Okay, so I realize that fermentation is the new kale of food trendiness but for a backyard farmer like me, it also represented the next logical step.  After all, I’d figured out how to grow cabbage (if not always eat what I grow) and I figured out how to cook cabbage (usually with coconut milk instead of vinegar– sorry, Ma!)  So, could I take it up a notch and not only not eat what I grow but also not cook what I could eat?

Why the ducks not?!

Several how-to manuals, web crawls and phone calls with mom later, I stood in front of my newly-purchased (German) crock with six heads of farmers market cabbage, a box of sea salt, bottled water and a very sharp knife.  More than two hours (!) on, exhausted and a bit giddy, I sealed the crock and set it in the middle of the counter with a thermometer nearby to monitor room temps.


Man, no gym time needed that day!  Sauerkraut-making gets really physical—the chopping, the mixing (by hand for ten whole minutes times two separate batches to properly fill the crock), all that pounding down with the wooden mallet-thingy.  Plus, I had to stay alert and make sure to keep things clean, slice the right size, properly time the starter (yeah, I hedged my bets and bought a mix from Lehman’s), measure the salt, find a big enough bowl and massage it all together.  Fermentation is neither for the faint of brain nor the weak of arm!

So now it’s a few weeks down Cabbage Road and I’m about to open the crock for the first time since that fateful day.***  It’ll rest in the fridge after this but I wait with bated breath to see (and smell!) what Nature’s Friendly Bacteria have wrought.  Sure hope it lives up to all the foodie hype.

After all, looks like we’ve got about twenty pounds of the stuff!




*Do not let me within 10 feet of your jellybeans.
**Kitchen odds ’n’ ends doused with white vinegar.
***Took Grit‘s advice & made sauerkraut on the Old Farmer’s Almanac-recommended day.  Couldn’t hurt!

UPDATE: I wrote this last week but couldn’t wait any longer & peeked yesterday–looking good!!!

Copyright 2013, Lori Fontanes