Kraut, Step 1

For those following my fermentative adventures at home, I just did some sauerkraut this afternoon, inspired by the efforts of The Mad Fermentationist (see here). I have to tidy up the inside of the jar, but I got a good amount of brine out of the cabbages, and I am pleased with how it’s coming along!

Sauerkraut, First Step

The above picture is a pretty early shot, after the cabbage was in the pot for only a few hours. I had to leave in a hurry, so there’s a bit of mess, but most of the cabbage that’s not in the brine is actually on the outside of the jar. (Which will help prevent mold growth and other horrors.) That said, it’s not the optimal fermentation vessel–the neck is a bit narrow, and the “plate” I’m using to press down the cabbage is really the bottom of a cheap strainer I cut to fit. It’s not bad, but a little of the cabbage always floats up through the slots in the strainer.

This morning, Miss Jiwaku (of the slender arms) helped me to get all of the cabbage in the jar down into the brine, and discovered that one of the brine baggies was leaking. I added some more salt to the brine, and we’re using the non-leaky baggie as a weight for now, though I figure there’s something else I can use instead. (Maybe a smallish mason jar, sterilized and filled with water.) Next time I’m going to fish out all the little floating bits of cabbage.

It’s been less than 24 hours, so there is no scent of sulfur, no smell beyond cabbage and brine, but the cabbage put out a good bit of water and I’m pleased with that. Still, I expect an odor of some kind to hit in a few days, at which point I’ll need to figure out where to put this thing, so it will stay warm and ferment without stinking up the house too much. (I do have a cupboard in the kitchen that is quite warm, but the smell will undoubtedly emanate from it. Not sure whether it’ll be noticeable, so I’ll likely try that first.) For now, it’s under my desk.

For the record: I used 2.5 heads of cabbage and the original salting was 2.5% salt by weight. (For 4 kilograms of cabbage, it was 100 grams of salt. I think the salt level is a little higher now (not horribly so, but a little), so I’ll very likely be rinsing the sauerkraut off when serving it, at least for myself.

I also used iodine solution for sanitizing the baggies and weight inside, and a bleach solution (rinsed) followed by iodine solution on the jar and lid. The baggies were filled brine with of approximately the same salt content as the brine that developed naturally, so it didn’t dilute the brine in the jar when one of the baggies leaked.

I’ll try to update with pictures as the fermentation progresses. My writing group has been kicking around the idea of making perogies and sour cream, and I figure, why not go whole hog: homemade perogies, homemade sour cream, and home-fermented sauerkraut, sausages from Chef Meili (?) in Itaewon… oooh, and cabbage rolls!

And some pseudo-kvass or pseudo-sahti (rye beer, the latter more of a Finnish thing, with juniper berries and branches in the mash) to wash it down? And one of the people in my writing group says his specialty is ginger cookies, which may not match the Eastern-European theme, but what the hell, right? Sounds like a party to me.

That means I’ll need to get on brewing a rye beer soonish. Hmmm. Sounds like something fun to do with that flaked rye I got a bunch of this past summer. Wish I had rye malt, but hey, I’ll live. It’s only a pseudo-kvass or pseudo-sahti, after all.

Now to think of a recipe, and research about cereal mashing… (I’ve never done it before).

UPDATE (13 Nov. 2010): First routine check of the sauerkraut. One of the bags had been leaking and was removed on 12 Nov.; as a result, the remaining bag was insufficient to weigh down all the cabbage. Removed the bag and replaced it with a large water bottle filled with brine. As a result, some cabbage got up through the barrier and I harvested some of it from the container.  Fried it up and it was pretty good, for 3-day old fermentation! (While my post was made early in the morning of 11 Nov. the fermentation started on the afternoon of the 10th.)

That said, there has got to be a better way to weigh down the cabbage and a better sort of barrier to use than what I’ve got. But in order to use such a thing, I need a different container, something that has a mouth as large as the widest point in its diameter. I’ll be hunting for such a thing on Monday during a trip into the city.

5 thoughts on “Kraut, Step 1

  1. Brad loves sauerkraut. I should try making it some time, too.

    Given that you are in the land of kimchi, aren’t there tons of cheap pickling presses that you could use instead of the jar/strainer combo?

  2. Pickling presses? Never seen such a thing before. Most Koreans I know just put their kimchi in a tupperware to ferment it. Used to use clay jars, I think. But they add hot pepper powder, so maybe it was an added anti-bacterial agent?

    Oh, Miss Jiwaku says you use a rounded river stone to do it, traditionally. My problem is that I don’t have a giant clay jar (or a need for more than a few pounds of kraut at a time). But maybe if I can find a smaller jar and a stone that fits… good advice, thanks Tinatsu!

  3. Yeah, however widely available these are in Japan, I can’t find them here. I have seen some that look very sketchy on Japanese websites — they have a metal spring that would not work well with a long pickling period, since the acidity and the metal don’t play well. But the plastic clamping, cylindrical ones look perfect for small batches of sauerkraut. I’ll have to get one, next trip over to Japan, but for now, I’ll simply have to devise a better method than the one I’m using. (For the record, most of the kraut is being held down, and if I’d made the pieces a little bigger I think all of it would be held down. But it’s not perfect. I really, really just need a big crock with a neck as wide as the widest point of the jar itself. Then I could find a plate or (or make some kind of barrier) of the right size, fit it in easily, and leave it be. Ah well… I’ll figure it out.

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