sauerkraut, take one

raw sauerkraut

A few years ago I started reading about the benefits of lacto-fermented food, but it all sounded so complicated and, honestly, a little strange to me. Leave jars out on the counter for days or weeks? Really? But as I’ve expanded my culinary skills and learned the arts of canning and pickling, I figured that fermenting had to be next.

I read Diane’s tutorial for raw, fermented sauerkraut on her blog Balanced Bites and realized that this was pretty easy. It just required a little babysitting. And as I thought about it, it dawned on me that my childhood was filled with this type of food. My Babci regularly made traditional Polish fermented pickles, and we ate homemade sauerkraut all the time. I had to get over my fear of bacteria. Seriously, people have been doing this for hundreds of years. It’s no big deal.

So I set about to shredding my cabbage and carrots, adding garlic and then the salt, and massaging the cruciferous veggies until they started to weep like little babies. I was amazed how much water came out! I kept saying to Drew, “Isn’t this so cool?” I don’t think he was as excited as I was, though.

I packed it in quart-sized Ball jars, covered the top of each with an outer cabbage leaf, then set a half-pint jelly jar filled with water on top of that to weigh everything down and keep the water level above the cabbage.

Then I put the jars in my dining room, covered them with a clean dish towel and waited. And waited. And waited. If you’re anything like me, you will become giddy with excitement when you see those little bubbles appear that let you know fermentation is happening! After a week and a half, I no longer saw bubbles. I think that it was too cold in the room to encourage the process, so I called it quits for this batch.

It is quite tasty, but definitely not there, if you know what I mean. But it goes great with my morning eggs! (Please forgive the horrible quality of this photo – morning light is not great in my kitchen and I wasn’t going to sacrifice hot eggs for a good shot, LOL!)

kraut & fried eggs

Next time around I think I’ll keep the jars on top of my fridge. I’ll also add the caraway seeds so I don’t get that sideways glance from my dad again. Anyway, don’t be afraid of fermenting food. If it’s going bad, you’ll know it. And the benefits of eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods are overwhelming! So give it a shot – you’ll be glad you did.

2 Replies to “sauerkraut, take one”

  1. I am not a sauerkraut fan (and I grew up with the good homemade stuff – my grandparents were 100% German), but I should totally make some for my dad who would be all over this. I love your remarks about the whole process though. I’ve been through it myself and I think it’s funny how we’ve handed all of the control of our food over to nameless faceless corporate identities and that’s OK, but we can’t trust ourselves with the processes. I occasionally make yogurt and when I told a (very open-minded, whole foods oriented) friend, she was semi horrified that I was, essentially, growing my own bacteria. I did say a few words about good bacteria vs. bad bacteria, but essentially left it at that. She has since seen the light and now makes her own as well, but it really illustrated to me how out of hand things have gotten. Most of my mommy friends rely on processed foods or meal-prep services to feed their families and these are smart, thoughtful women! – but the thought of cooking real food is almost unthinkable to them let alone fermenting anything. I don’t bother evangelizing, but I do shake my head just a little! So of course I always love seeing other “daring” culinary attempts. 😉

  2. Yogurt is next on my list! I think once one gets over that “ew bacteria” mental hurdle, you realize that this is stuff we CAN make at home. And it’s cheaper and healthier.

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