On 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
Well, I’m glad that you’re happy with the results, but please, do not send out samples to your readers.
Awww, all right! 😉
I also grew up eating that kind of food. How about pickled eggs? I still have pork and sauerkraut every New Years which totally goes against Southern Tradition. Good luck with your kraut!
And speaking of Southern, I’m supposed to call my aunt & get her special collard greens recipe. Thanks for the reminder!!!
We made sauerkraut this year and our kids loved it–and they’re very picky. We do the pork and sauerkraut thing too. Delicious.
Thanks for commenting! Yes, I think homemade does makes a difference. Going to try French-style next time with fish instead of pork. Cooked with juniper berries. Delish!!!
I go through phases during the year when I want to eat sauerkraut on everything! Making my own is probably in the cards for me at some point. Sounds like making beer though…lots of time and effort, but delicious in the end.
Go for it!!! PS, probably after you’ve gone through whole process once, it’ll seem less daunting. (I think!) Oh, and unlike me, you may want to consider the size of your crock vs. the square footage of your fridge. Too late for us this ’round but there’s still hope for everyone else… 😉 Thx for commenting!!!
Great story. My husband is German, and his mother has two antique crocks, one is so large, she uses it for an umbrella stand (ugh, what a waste! but at least she’s using it for something…). Whenever I travel to Europe, I long to get one at an antique store. They’re pretty cheap at second hand stores, but those usually aren’t the highly prized ones. The real antique ones can be found gracing the kitchens of castles, for display, they are that old. Imagine getting hold of one of those! Then I’d probably be afraid to use it. lol Anyway, I didn’t want to spend that much on a crock, but I did buy one of the old school mandolins to slice cabbage, just a few weeks ago, and haven’t used it yet. I got a whole setup for fermenting in mason jars (made an article on that in my blog). I don’t need any kraut for now, but I have a couple gallons of apple cider fermenting into vinegar (no, not hard cider, though I could try that too lol), and some hot peppers fermenting into a tabasco sauce. I love to ferment. It’s raw, full of probiotics and nutrition. Who could ask for something better, so simple and inexpensive.
Thx for the detailed comment! Yup, just realizing how inexpensive & fun this is. I used to buy those healthy foods at the store but I also used to eat out more & now I cook at home. It took some time to learn how to do this but it’s been a very enjoyable & (mostly) tasty ride!!! PS, I’m going to try condiments now, too. *Much* smaller jars. 😉
Occasionally, we make corned beef hash with sauerkraut. Replace the sauerkraut with eggs or an omelet, then that’s a hearty breakfast. 🙂
I’ll say!!! 🙂