Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut from Scratch

Sauerkraut, drained, rinsed and ready to eat!

 My family made pickles, but never sauerkraut. We ate it though: a regular weeknight supper at my grandparents' house was "weenies and sauerkraut". Paul's mother, Thelma, made her own kraut when he was a baby. She said when he was toddling around, he would reach into her crocks and get handfuls of kraut to eat! Cabbage in any form is still one of his favorite vegetables. We have sauerkraut fairly often, cooked in lots of different ways or on hot dogs (Hebrew National, thank you!).
 The health benefits of fermented cabbage or cucumbers are huge. But we don't get the same benefits when the pickles are made with vinegar or the kraut has been processed to death and treated with all kinds of "preservatives". The Lactic Acid that turns cabbage into kraut, makes it sour, and prevents it from spoiling once it is fermented, comes from the action of lactobacilli. These little friendly bacteria keep our digestion working properly, help remove toxins from the blood (sauerkraut was an old staple in hospitals that treated alcoholism), and now it looks like sauerkraut can even help prevent cancers. AND fermenting the cabbage bumps up the Vitamin C content tremendously (is there nothing Vitamin C can't do? ;-))!


Usually by the time I think of doing things that require time to ferment, it is already the height of summer and too hot for things to "bubble" properly. But one day in April, I took advantage of the very cool Spring we had this year and tried my hand at it.

For this batch, I used a gallon glass jar. Next time, I am going to use one of Big Grandmother's crocks - I am sterilizing it in the dishwasher right now. You could easily use one of the old style "crock pots" without plugging it in. You would still need to use the plate or bag method to weight down the cabbage to keep it under the brine. Be sure to read up on how to use various containers and weights BEFORE you get started. The National Center For Home Food Preservation is a reliable reference for safe canning and preserving methods.

[July 5, 2013 UPDATE: Second batch completed, as easy to make as the first, and we enjoyed some of it yesterday. But I learned I cannot use antique crocks. They have crazing that absorbs the liquid and that would also prevent them from being sterilized. Stick to glass or modern options such as the crock pots mentioned above, or brand new crocks. Thanks to everyone who has stopped in to read this! I hope it has been useful to you :-) ]

I got my recipe from here,  and they also detail the method: it is originally an Extension Service recipe from the University of Georgia. It is the same recipe that is given in many cookbooks and other websites, but I chose this one because it is very simple and the instructions are complete and matter-of-fact. I've added my notes within it, and given the lower portions for making a small batch.

I loved that there is also a recipe for making sauerkraut out of Collard Greens! It is too warm here in Texas for cabbage to do well, but we can grow some collards. Collards are one of those biennial vegetables that you can keep alive all through the year, making it possible to have fresh home-grown veg even in the dark of winter.  The Collard Sauerkraut Recipe is just below the one for cabbage. I haven't tried it yet.

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

1 head of cabbage or about 5 pounds
3 tablespoons of canning or pickling salt (you could use kosher salt but not sea salt or iodized salt, the iodine will interfere)

Discard outer leaves. Rinse the whole head under cold running water and drain. Do not use disinfectants or vinegar rinses on it, just a simple wash with plain tap water.

Cut the cabbage in quarters and remove cores. Shred or slice to a thickness of a quarter (about 1/8"). You can use a knife if you don't have a mandolin but don't chop it into little bits. Long shreds are what we want. I used one head of cabbage, and shredded it fine with a mandolin (be REALLY careful with those and always use the safety guards, make sure someone else is in charge of the kids while you are using it, etc. Most important: THINK and pay attention - don't get distracted by anything.).

Add 3 tablespoons of salt. If the weather is very warm, you may need to use a little more salt. Toss well and mix thoroughly with your hands, then pack it all into your fermenting jar or crock. Leave space at the top, maybe 4 or 5 inches, for the brine to cover the cabbage completely.

 Here is the hard work part: beat it down firmly to bruise it and start drawing the juice out.  I used a wooden meat pounder, or you could use a jelly mortar. I hammered on it a while until I was tired. Then I made a brine of one quart filtered water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, brought it to a boil, and let it cool to room temperature.  After it had cooled, I poured it over the cabbage.

I added a round piece of plastic that was the diameter of the jar and sealed weights inside a freezer bag and put them down in the brine to hold the cabbage down under the brine.  This time I used brine in a gallon freezer bag (actually two of them in case one leaked) and put it inside the jar to seal
the whole thing. You use brine in the bag in case it leaks because plain water would dilute the sauerkraut causing it to spoil. If you use a crock, you can put a plate inside it instead.

"Add plate and weights; cover container with a clean bath towel. Store at 70 to 75 °F while fermenting. At temperatures between 70 and 75 °F, kraut will be fully fermented in about 3 to 4 weeks; at 60 to 65 °F, fermentation may take 5 to 6 weeks. At temperatures lower than 60 °F, kraut may not ferment. Above 75 °F, kraut may become soft. If you weigh the cabbage down with a brine-filled bag, do not disturb the crock until normal fermentation is completed (when bubbling ceases). If you use jars as weight, check the kraut two to three times each week and remove scum if it forms."

I set my jar back in the floor in the guest room. That part of the house, on the south side, is always shaded so it stays pretty cool back there, especially down at the floor level because that room, one of the originals from about 1895, is on pier and beam foundation so cool air can circulate below.

It took right at 4 weeks for mine to be done, and I could tell it was done because I started smelling it! Mine did form some scum (scary looking stuff) but I just scooped and wiped it out before moving down to the good kraut.  


 I transferred the kraut and its juice directly into sterile pint jars, and stored them in the refrigerator. My head of cabbage made 3 full pints of sauerkraut.  To can for pantry storage, you would need to process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, just like any acidic food - there are specific instructions at the original link.
As promised above, here is the recipe for fermenting collard greens!

Collard Kraut Recipe

A big bunch of fresh collard greens, about a gallon when cleaned.
2 or 3 Tablespoons of canning or pickling salt for each one gallon of collards.

Procedure: Wash the greens well, and shred. Use the same process as given for Cabbage Sauerkraut above. Store at 70 ºF for fermenting. At this temperature it will take approximately 3 to 4 weeks to ferment. If any scum forms above the plate or weight, remove it about 2 to 3 times a week. Taste in about two weeks. Allow collards to ferment until desired flavor is reached. 

Store in refrigerator or process in boiling water bath, as directed at original link or at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.


If you try making the collard kraut before I do, or the regular cabbage kraut, please post and let me know how it turns out!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Great New Billboard in Our Town!

 We were grocery shopping the other day in Brownwood (where we go to shop since our town is very tiny) and saw this new billboard. It reads "War Veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan: THANK YOU!" and is signed "Citizens of Brown County, TX". I don't know who put it up but we certainly concur!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Old Easter: The Ever-New Story of Jesus' Resurrection from the Dead

Today is Easter for the Orthodox Church, which still uses the old Julian calendar to calculate the date for the church year.  The denomination I grew up in celebrated every Sunday as a little Easter, and in truth, every day is the "Now" of the Resurrection.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Christ, is risen from the grave. He lives!

Here is a portion of the true story that was recorded by some of the people who enountered Jesus after He returned to life. This is the 20th Chapter of John, from the wonderful "The Message" translation, that is faithful to the original and yet in our own American English language. May the Holy Spirit give you a new comprehension of the Truth as you read in Jesus' name!

20 1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”
3-10 Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.
11-13 But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”
13-14 “They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.
15 Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”
16 Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”
17 Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.

To Believe

19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”
But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”
29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

*The painting is by Pre-Raphaelite painter Arthur Hughes, titled "He is Risen: the First Easter", painted in 1893-1896.


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