The Romance of Fermented Cabbage

My sweetie is a fermentation enthusiast. He’s been making fermented sauerkraut in a one-gallon glass jar for almost a year now, and we eat it faster than he can make the next batch. If your jury is out on sauerkraut, let me tell you that my dog is crazy about it. And if her sophisticated palate isn’t enough to convince you, it’s also loaded with vitamin C and iron, it’s salty and crunchy and fulfills the craving for potato chips for a mere 28 calories a cup, and it’s chock full of beneficial little gut bugs that make digestive systems happy. If your jury is still out, there’s a wealth of information, recipes, and techniques on the Cultures for Health website.

Although we’ve been successfully making kraut in our gallon jar, covered with a paper towel, we’d really like to make more at a time. We also recently learned that you’re supposed to seal it off from air, but allow CO2 to escape. This is supposed to prevent the white “bloom” that has been happening more and more on our kraut.

So, with the romantic Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Josh and I polled each other for our respective Valentine’s Day wishlists. At the top of my list is a 9-ft. vertical pole for our living room. But more on that later. (You’re curious, aren’t you?) At the top of Joshua’s list: a better fermentation container.

It doesn’t take many searches to narrow down the contending brands (or to realize that this hobby can quickly become silly expensive. Did you know that a cabbage shredder will cost you a minimum of $140???) Here they are:

TSM 10 Liter crock. It’s got a channel in the top where the lid sits. You fill the channel with water and set the lid on top, and the result is a seal that let’s CO2 escape but keeps oxygen out. It’s made in Poland. I’m guessing 80% of the cost is the shipping to get it to distributers here.

And the humble stoneware crock, made in Ohio, but without any fancy air system. Basically only an upgrade in size, not in function.

And here’s the cadillac of fermentation crocks: the Harsch Crock. Did you know that there are “premium” fermentation vessels? Of course there are. Same water channel idea as the TSM crock to keep one type of air in and let the other out. I don’t know why it’s more expensive, except that it’s made in Germany, and the German economy is boomin’ (comparatively).

Since Valentine’s Day is the day to honor our unique love (and therefore a good opportunity to spoil my sweetheart with crockery), I splurged for the 10 L TSM pot. And although I did a conversion from liters to gallons to get an idea of the size of the thing, I was STILL unprepared for how much cabbage it will take to fill 10 liters. Wow, that will make a giant pot of kimchi. Or pickles. OOOoo, half-sour pickles! I can’t wait.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Josh. Let’s stink up the kitchen.

No Fail Sauerkraut

  • a 1-gal jar, with lid
  • ~4-5 lbs cabbage, shredded. You can use a knife, a food processor with shredder attachment, a mandoline, or a $430 Deluxe Stainless Steel Cabbage Shredder, if that’s the way you roll
  • ~2-3 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • room temperature brine, made from 2 TB sea salt dissolved in 4 c. water

1. In a large bowl, work in layers. Throw in a few handfuls of cabbage. Sprinkle some salt, and massage the cabbage. It will start to wilt and give up water. Add more handfuls of cabbage, and massage in more salt. Continue until you’ve used all of the cabbage, and as much salt as you need, but probably not more than 3 TB. Abuse that cabbage. Pound it hard. The more you work it, the more water it will release.

2. Pack your wilted and now watery cabbage into a 1 gallon glass jar. Use your fist to punch it down there and release even more water.

3. I usually find that I don’t have enough water from the cabbage itself, and I add the extra brine so that the packed cabbage is covered by 1-2″ of brine. The whole jar should be no more than 4/5 full of cabbage and brine, since it will expand when fermenting.

4. Figure out a clever weight; something that will  keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. We use a round plastic tupperware lid, with a couple of filled shot glasses sitting on top. Other people use balloons filled with water, ziploc bags filled with water, etc.

5. Put the lid on.

6. Watch for little bubbles to rise to the top, a sign that fermentation is happening!

7. If any white scum appears on the surface of the water, don’t freak out, that’s normal. Just scrape it off.

8. Taste your kraut after about 14 days; it usually takes 2-4 weeks to finish the ferment, but you can stop it whenever you’re happy with the flavor.

9. It’ll keep in the fridge for months in its own brine.


2 thoughts on “The Romance of Fermented Cabbage

  1. From Josh – Two weeks in to the first batch: zero stink and zero scum! There is the occasional blurp, but its kind of like having another pet. The lid moat really works wonders!

  2. Pingback: Learning to bead from the masters | baD.I.N.K.adink

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