Monday, November 8, 2010

The Great Sauerkraut Experiment (Part 3)

It has been 5 weeks now since I started my first batch of sauerkraut. I tried another taste today and decided it had fermented perfectly! It was tangy but not too sour and the cabbage, while soft, still had a faint crunch at the thicker parts. Now it's time to can it.

This part of the process is fairly simple. In one large pot, I brought about 6-8 quarts of water to a rolling boil and processed quart sized mason jars and lids for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a second large pot, I heated the sauerkraut to a simmer. To make this easier, I cooked to sauerkraut in two batches. I packed the jars and topped them off with brine before sealing them. I ended up with seven and a half quarts of sauerkraut.

Which brings us to Batch #2. You would think that seven plus quarts of sauerkraut would be enough to last for a while. I mean, I would certainly think so. My wife Kat, on the other hand, thinks differently. Kat is a cabbage convert, you see. When we met, she hated all things cabbage. I've slowly been bringing her around. One of her new enthusiasms is sauerkraut, which she has become an even bigger proponent of after the success of Batch #1. So we're going to do another bucket of kraut, this one even bigger than the last. In this batch I'm using:

2 large heads green cabbage, sliced thin
1 head purple cabbage, sliced thin
4 yellow onions, sliced thin
4 large cayenne peppers, seeded and sliced thin
5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced thin
5 carrots, shredded
2 T caraway seeds
1 T yellow mustard seeds
1 T brown mustard seeds
1 T celery seeds 
sea salt

The purple cabbage will lend a ruby color to the sauerkraut. I also added a great deal more peppers than Batch #1 as spiciness was the one thing Kat and I felt was missing from that batch. The first batch made about a half of a bucket with two gigantic heads of cabbage. The cabbage I'm using for Batch #2 are almost as large, and I decided that three heads would do a better job of filling the bucket.

Once again, I put all the ingredients in the bucket, layer by layer, with liberal sea salt sprinkled on top of each layer. It is important to remember to press down each layer as hard as you can, compacting the kraut as tightly as possible into the bucket. If the salt doesn't extract enough liquid from the vegetables to completely cover the top of the cabbage after a few hours, add salted brine. I have never had to do this, at least not yet. I put a plate on top of the cabbage and sealed plastic containers of water on top of the plate to hold it down so that it continually presses on the sauerkraut, keeping it all under the brine.

And so we begin another five week wait. I may wait longer and let it get really strong, if I can keep Kat out of it that long! I'll let you know how it turns out. As always, feel free to post your comments, questions and stories below.



  1. Wow, now that is one impressive batch of sauerkraut! I played around with making my own once, but no where near as exciting as your blend. I just went with a basic cabbage and red onion combo. Now I really want to revisit the concept and try something else.

  2. Question for you. Did you have mold to deal with? I tried a single head batch in late fall. I sterilized the heck out of the gear I was using like I would with cheese or wine, shredded the cabbage and ammendments and salted them. I ended up adding some brine as my cabbage was apparently pretty dry as it was late in the season. it didn't juice enough to cover the cabbage.

    All was going well until mold started growing on the surface of the brine (about 2 weeks in), starting on little cabbage bits that had escaped and floated to the surface. I removed it but by then it seemed to be too late, it kept coming back faster and faster (this is at about 40 degree temperature) finally the mold won.

    Any tips?

  3. Loren,

    A couple of suggestions off the top of my head. First, when you put the cabbage in the bucket and salt it, be sure to smash it down as hard as you can. Do this with every layer of cabbage, onion, carrot or whatever you're putting in your kraut. That does a lot to get the moisture out and also keeps the kraut completely immersed in the brine. This is my second thought. Even if you add brine, it is very important to keep the vegetables under the liquid. I use a plate for this - don't use metal! I have a large plate that just fits into the bucket. I put jars of water on it to hold it down and keep the kraut under the brine.

    I have heard from sources on the internet that all you have to do is skim off the mold as it appears. I have never dealt with mold so I cannot verify this from personal experience.

    I hope this helps, Loren. Good luck with your future batches and thanks for posting!