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Recipe #1: All Along the Watchsauer-kraut

Updated: 6 days ago

Ingredients:

  • Cabbage

  • Any variety is fine! I used green for the pics, and that’s what you usually see in stores.

  • Salt

  • Make sure it’s non-iodized salt! Iodine can negatively affect the friendly bacteria that make sauerkraut so deliciously and crunchily sour. Other than that, any kind of salt works fine--kosher, pickling, table salt, sea salt, etc. I recommend against using fancy expensive salts in your sauerkraut because I don’t think it makes a difference, but if you wanna use sel gris or maldon sea salt or some pink himalayan stuff, hey, you do you.

  • Flavorings

  • This is where you can really make this recipe your own. You can flavor sauerkraut with anything. Carrots are common, as are caraway seeds for a traditional German vibe. I’ve used jalapeño peppers to good effect as well. Seriously though, use anything you find interesting. If anyone ever does a cinnamon and nutmeg flavored sauerkraut, let me know how it turns out!

Tools:

  • A large mixing bowl or tub

  • A jar or crock

  • You might need more than one, depending on how much sauerkraut you decide to make and how big your jars/crocks are.

  • A quart or gallon bag with no holes or a fermentation weight

  • I used a ziploc baggie. It worked like a charm.

  • A kitchen scale

  • Many home cooks don't have kitchen scales. They seem kind of intimidating to use at first. Still, I strongly recommend them--they come in handy for all sorts of recipes, they're great for fermented foods and baking, and they're pretty cheap! I got one on a whim, thinking I'd never really use it, and now I use more than any other tool in my kitchen. I don't recommend doing fermented foods without a kitchen scale, because having an appropriate amount of salt is important to food safety.

Procedure:



  • Rinse your cabbage and other veggies!

  • Don’t scrub, but run them under water for a few seconds. This is just good practice. No one likes dirty cabbage.

  • Chop up the cabbage and any other vegetables you’re using!

  • Keep in mind that homemade sauerkraut usually maintains a crunchier texture than store bought, so chop it into a size you feel like you’ll want to eat. Slices are traditional, but any shape will work! I used a mandoline for these pictures, but I have used a knife and a food processor’s chopping attachment in the past, and both worked very well.




  • Add any spices and other flavorings! I used chopped jalapeños and a combination of cumin, allspice, and gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes).

  • Weigh the chopped veggies and any spices you're using for flavor.

  • You can weigh it in the mixing bowl if your scale has a tare function--place the bowl on the scale, hit the tare button (which sets the scale to 0), and throw everything in the bowl.



  • Measure out 3% of your ingredients’ weight in salt.

  • Weighing salt is the same as weighing veggies--place a bowl on your scale, tare it, and add salt equal to the weight of your veggies/spices multiplied by .03 (3%). I used the calculator in my phone, because arithmetic is hard.

  • You can use more than 3% salt by weight if you want, but I recommend against using less. Once you get below 2.5%, it’s not technically a safe ferment--it'd probably be fine, but having 2.5% salinity or more is what helps prevent nasty bugs like clostridium botulinum (the bacteria responsible for botulism) from growing. It’s somewhat unlikely that anything terribly pathogenic like that is living on your veggies, but still, no sense taking the risk. I find that 3% does a great job of keeping things totally safe while not tasting overwhelmingly, grossly salty! (P.S. Ignore the numbers here--this salt was actually for a different sauerkraut batch. 3% of the above batch would be around 105g.)



  • Mix the salt in with your ingredients in the mixing bowl.

  • This is the most fun part of the process--really get into it! Mix the salt in and start to squish the cabbage and veggies together. Grab handfuls and smush them between your fists. Cry out to Cthulu. Go wild. You’re trying to press the salt into the vegetables, break down their cell walls, and squeeze out liquids all in one, so don’t be shy--squeeze that cabbage like your kraut depends on it! (Your kraut does, in fact, depend on it.)




  • Let it sit for 20 minutes to an hour. You should start to see some liquid appear in the bowl. That’s water from inside the cabbage and other veggies, and is going to be your fermentation brine. It’s the good stuff.



  • It's hard to tell in the photo, but cabbage juice has appeared!

  • Put it in the jar or crock and cover it with your fermentation weight.

  • If you’re using a baggie, fill it with some water and place it in your jar or crock. The goal here is to keep everything submerged and not exposed to air. This prevents any molds from growing on your delicious kraut.

  • I was an idiot and didn't take any photos of this step. Just imagine wet, thinly-sliced cabbage in a large glass jar with a Ziploc baggie full of water weighing it down.

  • Put it on the counter and let it sit for a while! Check every day or so to make sure that your kraut is still fully submerged. If it gets exposed to air, it can begin to mold.

  • Start tasting every couple days after 5 days; it will continue to get sour for a few weeks, so it’s up to you to decide when it’s done. Once you decide it’s sour enough, put it in a bowl or jar and keep it in the fridge. This puts the friendly bacteria that make sauerkraut sour into hibernation. Most people pull their kraut somewhere between 7 and 14 days.

  • Food Safety Notes: Homemade fermented foods get a bad rep sometimes, but they're completely safe as long as you follow a few basic rules! There's tons of extra information online about fermented food safety as well, so if you're unsure, look to Google for help.

  • Use enough salt! Salinity kills off many different kinds of harmful pathogens and promotes the growth of healthy probiotics. Salt is they key to a good fermentation.

  • Keep it submerged! Oxygen deprivation kills off the harmful pathogens that salt doesn't, like mold. Ferments are usually too acidic to allow the growth of harmful stuff after a week or so, but still, keeping things submerged is always a good idea.

  • If you see a white film or haze form anywhere in your fermentation, don’t worry about it; that stuff is called kahm yeast, and it’s a naturally occurring yeast with no harmful effects. It can smell a little funky, so feel free to skim it off if it appears, but it won’t hurt you or your kraut.

  • When in doubt, throw it out. If the surface of your fermentation grows anything you don't recognize, can't find information about, or are unsure of, throw it out. If there's any reason at all for you to question the safety of your ferment, throw it out. It's sad, but there's no cabbage in the world worth risking your health for. Molds, weird colors, anything strange... they're pretty uncommon for properly done ferments, but they happen to the best of us every once in a while. Don't feel bad; throw it out and try again!

The Blog


Hello, and welcome to the first food blog on our patreon! When Jocelyn and I were brainstorming on different types of content we could produce for our patrons, I immediately thought of making a food blog. Not because I think I have a lot to add to the food blogging world--I’m just some random guy who likes to cook stuff. But I also like talking about the stuff that I cook. Hence, food blogging.


So, every couple weeks, I’m going to share a recipe for some food that has recently caught my fancy, as well as a blog where I just kinda ramble about it for a bit. This week’s subject? Sauerkraut.


Sauerkraut History: According to The Spruce Eats (https://www.thespruceeats.com/sauerkraut-the-quintessential-eastern-european-vegetable-1137498), sauerkraut’s culinary fame in Germany started with Genghis Khan, who brought fermented cabbage from the dining tables of Chinese workers to eastern Europe. Once it made its way west, the tangy, crunchy cabbage stuff took on a life of its own, as folks found it useful to preserve cabbages and other veggies for winter foodstores. Fast forward a few hundred years and now we all put the stuff on our sausage and pork and eat it with mustard and pierogies and it’s awesome.


Why I Like It: Cuz it's dope, duh. I’ve been a fan of sauerkraut for my whole life, though I only recently began making it from scratch. My family ate German cuisine a fair amount when I was a kid, so sauerkraut was featured pretty frequently on the plate. We mostly ate it on brats or other sausages, but we would have it with spätzle and other classic German dishes too. I’m a big fan of sour things, and I love crunchy things, and I really love cabbage, so sauerkraut was always a perfect food for me. (Not that there are many foods I don’t consider perfect, but sauerkraut was, like, extra perfect. You know?)

Anyway, my emotional story with sauerkraut aside, the reason I recently got into making it from scratch is pretty simple. I decided I wanted to learn to make fermented foods during the pandemic-induced quarantine. I’d already been brewing beer for a long time, so I figured I’d bring my experience with yeast and bacteria (that sounds gross) over to my cooking and give it a shot.


As it turns out, sauerkraut (along with many fermented foods) is way easier to make than beer. You literally just mix stuff together and let it sit. It’s the best kind of recipe, like no bake cookies, where there’s no skill or effort required and yet you still get awesome food at the end. There’s no temp control, no application of heat, no fancy equipment--all you need is cabbage, salt, and time, and you get this magically sour, funky tasting crunchy goodness that goes with everything. And while I’m not the world’s biggest health nut, I do like the fact that it’s low calorie, high fiber, and probiotic. That makes me feel less bad when I eat it with 3 German beers on the side.


How it Works: There’s actually a lot that goes on chemically during the fermentation process that makes sauerkraut so sour, but the short version is this: lactic acid bacteria live all around us, on plants, in the air, on our skin, and everywhere else you can imagine. When you submerge plants in a salt brine, you create an environment that kills most kinds of microorganisms, but allows the lactic acid bacteria to thrive. So that bacteria goes and eats away a bunch of the sugars in the cabbage and produces lactic acid, which makes the sauerkraut sour. (You can do this lactic acid ferment with basically any kind of vegetable or fruit--just keep the salt content at or above 3% the weight of the vegetables and any brining liquid you add!)


Once those bacteria have done their thing and you’ve got a bunch of soured cabbage, it’s time to figure out what to do with it. Honestly, I love just eating it straight--you can eat it cold or fry it in a pan to warm it up and it works well both ways. That’s also the most traditional way of eating it, if you’re into old things. If you want to get a little more exciting, though, feel free to use your imagination! It’s great on toast or in sandwiches. It’s a classic with brats and roasted or fried pork. You can put it in scrambled eggs for some crunch and tanginess, or throw it in a marinade to add a little sourness to your grilled chicken, or put it in soup or on a burger or in a salad or salsa really anywhere else. There are no rules to sauerkraut. I even saw some health blogger say they put an allspice-flavored sauerkraut into a fruit smoothie to up the probiotic value. I’m not going to recommend that, and I think it’s likely that health blogger is an agent of satan put on this earth to spread chaos and evil, but still, if that sounds up your alley, go for it.


So that’s basically my sauerkraut spiel. It’s easy, tasty, healthy, and versatile, and honestly it’s been on my mind a lot lately. If you give homemade sauerkraut a shot, let me know what flavorings you use and how you like it!


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