In the past:
Free Cabbage = Rotten Cabbage
I’ve now substituted a much more pleasant formula;
Free Cabbage = Saurkraut
Before, I didn’t really know how to use cabbage. Or, maybe I just wasn’t interested in the uses of cabbage that I knew about. Both of them.
As far as I knew, you boiled cabbage with corned beef on New Year’s Day, or you sauteed it with vinegar and garlic.
I’ll admit that I go wild for the New Year’s tradition, but if I eat enough corned beef to go with all the cabbage I’ve been getting, I’d end up salt-cured. The vinegar recipe isn’t bad either, just replace the previous punchline with “pickled.”
Naturally, everything seemed right with my personal discovery of sauerkraut; It’s easy, it uses up a lot of cabbage, it sticks around for a long time without complaining, and it’s good for you. I’m sold.
So, I got to work.
I’d followed the recipe in Nourishing Traditions in the past with good results and decided to go with them again.
By her word, you need:
- A medium Cabbage
- 1 Tbsp. Salt
- 1 Tbsp. Caraway Seeds
- 2 Tbsp. Whey (add another Tbsp. Salt if you don’t have it)
By my experience, you also need:
- A small billy club
Let me explain…
You need to mash the cabbage pretty thoroughly before it really becomes sauerkraut. This is to break down the cell walls and release all the juices which are naturally high in lactobacilli, from which lactofermentation gets its name. The whey helps add an initial boost of the bacteria, but isn’t necessary to get the batch to turn out.
I had a pretty big head (of cabbage), so I doubled the recipe, adding some mustard seeds to hopefully make it a bit spicier. My understanding is that you can pretty much add whatever spices you want, so I could see come crazy batches in my future.
About an hour later I had two quarts packed to the brim. I discarded a bunch of juice, so I’m thinking of adding less whey next time. If your wondering about how to get some whey, just make yourself some Yogurt without adding the powdered milk and strain it through a cheesecloth. All the drippings are the whey, which is packed with protein and good bacteria. The more of this you drain from the yogurt, the closer you get to a soft cheese.
Back on topic, though, the batch isn’t finished until it’s sat at room temperature in a jar for three days. It continues to mature and get more tangy in the fridge after that, so feel free to munch on it a little at a time to find your preference.
As for when it goes bad, you’ll know. There’s a distinct difference between the sharp smell of lactofermentation and the soul-sucking stench of putrification.