I am one of those interesting people that really likes sauerkraut. I wasn't raised eating it (pretty sure my mom HATES the stuff), but I have developed quite a taste for it. Whether it's on sausage sandwiches or over pork loin, I'm a fan. I have a recipe for sauerkraut that Hubby and I make whenever we're going to make kielbasa sandwiches. It's a pretty good recipe, but it's not good for "putting up" and using at a later date. It's cooked at a high temperature and that makes the 'kraut limp and slightly discolored. I've always wanted to make sauerkraut the old fashioned way and can it, but I didn't have a pressure canner. Until now!!!
What's the old fashioned way? I'm so glad you asked!!! The old fashioned way to "cook" sauerkraut is not to cook it at all. You basically salt some cabbage with some spices and then let it ferment in it's own juices for 3-4 weeks. It's not cooked, it's not refrigerated, but it is the authentic way to prepare sauerkraut. In the good old days, folks had big, ceramic crocks that they made their kraut in. I was very excited at Christmas to receive just such a crock from my mother-in-law (she'd kept it in a closet for years), but it turns out it's cracked. :-( I ended up going to Target today and bought a lovely 2 gallon glass jug to make my yummies in.
So, here is "Sauerkraut Making 101" for anyone who is interested...
Slice 5 lbs of cabbage into dime-width slivers
Mix thoroughly with 3 Tablespoons pickling salt (you have to use pickling salt cuz normal salt has iodine in it and that stops fermentation)
I also mixed in about 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds and 1.5 Tablespoons mustard seeds, but that's just because I like "spicy" kraut.
Pack the mixture tightly (and we're talking, use some elbow grease and the palms of your CLEANED hands to squish the cabbage down) into your crock and let sit about an hour. The salt starts to draw moisture out of the cabbage making a natural brine in which to ferment. If the brine doesn't come up over the cabbage, mix 1.5 Tablespoons of pickling salt in 1 quart water and cover the cabbage. Fill a gallon size ziplock bag with 2 quarts of brined water using the same recipe as above and use that as a weight to keep the fermenting cabbage below the water line in the crock.
Keep the crock of fermenting cabbage in a cool (70-75 F) place for 3-4 weeks, then can and process in the pressure canner at 10lbs for 10 mins.
Since our fermentation vessel is just a clear glass jar, and light can discolor the sauerkraut as it ferments, we've currently got our cabbage fermenting in a big box in our study. ;-)
Wish us luck with the 'kraut and I'll let you know in a month or so how it's doing.