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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Homemade Sauerkraut, using canning jars (its not as hard as it sounds)


One area of our lives I am trying to get better at is homemade probiotics in food or drink form to get better gut health.  I have been doing lots of reading and studying on the topic to take further steps in improving our overall health.  Hippocrates said, "All disease begins in the gut."  Now, while I don't think they all do, a good chunk does, and I have come to believe that improving gut health goes a long way to an overall healthy well being.  That being said, I have been learning how to make things in my kitchen to help our guts along.  The first thing I mastered was homemade yogurt in the crockpot.  Now, after successfully doing this over the past year or so, I feel I have mastered the "art" of sauerkraut.

When my hubby asked me to make him some after we were given a number of cabbages, I just looked at him like he had lost it.  Wasn't it hard?  I don't even know where to start.  I don't have any of those fancy crocks they use, etc. etc. etc.  After I was done whining (ha), I started doing some homework.  I bumped across a recipe from the Kitchn, and the rest, as they say is history.  It was so easy I could not believe it!  So, I dove in.  So, I am sharing a very photo heavy how to using her recipe.  You can find her post here.  Hers is for a small batch.  However, I go big or I go home.  Its just how I do things in a large family.


Supplies you will need:

Wide mouth quart size canning jars with screwcaps (no lids) - the smaller jars listed next will not work in the regular sized canning jars
4 oz. jelly canning jars (no lids or screwcaps needed) 
Marbles or even rocks
Kosher salt
Water
Cheesecloth - at least 2 packs for a large batch
And, of course, cabbages, I do 2 large heads


Peel off the outer soggy layers of the cabbage, but DO NOT THROW AWAY.  They will come in handy later in the process.


Chop off the core.  You don't need it.  Compost, trash, or feed to chickens.  (they love it)


Cut each cabbage into 4 wedges.  You will have 8 wedges total if you are doing 2 as I did.  Chop off any remaining core and discard.


Then, cut your cabbages crosswise into shreds.


Place all in a large bowl and add 1 1/2 tablespoons per cabbage to the bowl.  (so for this recipe, since it was 2 cabbages, I added 3 tablespoons.)


Stir around to incorporate salt.  I just do this with my hands.  I tried a spoon and it wasn't as effective at getting it all over like my hands were.  Then let sit for a bit to let the salt start doing it working of breaking down the cabbage.  



While it is sitting, I start preparing my small jars.   I just put enough marbles in each small jar to fill the bottom. It works as a weight to hold the cabbage down as it ferments.  You could purchase these instead if you want, but I had these already in the house.  Besides, with the marbles, it really is quite colorful!  :)


I also prepare my cheesecloth by cutting it into approximately nine inch square a couple of layers thick.  Don't make them too thick or you will not get enough air flow.  Air is crucial in the process.  But, we also want to keep out fruit flies as well.  


Now, your ready to move on.  By the time you've done all the above prep work, and you come back to your cabbage and salt, it probably won't look a ton different at first glance.  Start smashing it down a bit with your hands working the salt in, and it will begin to turn limp.  Keep softening the cabbage for a bit, and you are ready to can.


A canning funnel and bubble remover tool or wooden spoon come in handy right now.  I have a whole canning kit which has proven itself so handy over the years.


Fill each jar to the top with cabbage.  Pack down with your tool or wooden spoon.


Lay a piece of those limp outside leaves we set aside at the beginning to help keep everything packed down nicely.


Then, lay one of your fancy glass weights in the jar on top.


Add your cheesecloth and screw in place with a screwcap.


Isn't it pretty?  :)


I made a large batch as you can see.  Keep in a cool area for the fermentation process.  This usually takes about 10 days. 


After the first 24 hours, open each jar and check to be sure they are well submerged beneath its liquid.   If you see you don't have enough liquid to keep it submerged, dissolve 1 teaspoon in a cup of water and pour over till it is.  Recover and let rest again.


Keep checking it after that about every 48 hours, pressing if necessary.  I haven't had to reopen and add anymore liquid after that first day.


After the 10 days are up, it is ready to go.  Uncover, remove glass weight and limp leaf.  Pack into fresh clean quart canning jars. My batch makes so much I use large 2 quart jars to take up less space in the refrigerator.


If you run across any mold (which has happened from time to time), just remove moldy leaves and trash those leaves only.  The rest is still fine for eating.


And, there you have it.  Homemade sauerkraut that isn't hard or time consuming.  Refrigerate.  It gets better tasting with age.  It should stay good for a couple of month this way.  And, it doesn't stink like store bought (one of my biggest complaints on sauerkraut)  And, you don't need a fancy crock although, I admit my love for crocks has me admiring them.  :)

Here's to better gut health.  Bon Appetit!







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