Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Trying something new in the kitchen

Several weeks ago, I happened upon a blog that discussed making homemade Sauerkraut. I was astonished to learn that this could be made at home. I was even more astonished when I learned how truly simple it was to make. My first thought was, I have got to try that! My second thought was, if it is really so simple, why doesn't everyone do it? Then I thought, well, perhaps that other folks were never taught to be useful in a kitchen because of their parents shortcomings, much like myself. I decided to see if it really was as easy as the 'recipe' stated. If it didn't work out, I could go back to making no-cook jam.

I rounded up the things I needed:
~a large glass container with a lid (I used a 2.25L pickle jar that I had cleaned and saved)
~some sea salt, about 5 teaspoons
~two small to medium sized heads of cabbage
~caraway seeds & dill seeds, about 2 teaspoons each (bought from the bulk store for mere pennies)
~a clean, jam jar with tight fitting lid for weight

I pulled off the larger outer leaves of the cabbage, and began to cut away manageable chunks of it. Each chunk, I had on my cutting board and sliced away as thinly as my poor kitchen skills would allow. The thinly sliced cabbage was set aside in a large bowl. When it was all sliced, I was ready to make the sauerkraut. I began packing the sliced cabbage in the jar, pushing it down as hard as I could. After it measured about and inch inside the jar, I sprinkled some sea salt and a few of each of the two kinds of seeds over it, then packed more sliced cabbage in. I continued alternating the layers, until I was out of cabbage. I could have used another half head of cabbage to almost fill the jar, but I had no more, so I figured it would be fine the way it was. I laid three whole leaves that had been removed from the head of cabbage before slicing, and layered them over top of the sliced cabbage. I filled my clean jam jar with tepid water(to add weight), closed it and put it on top of the cabbage leaves. Fortunately, there was enough room in the large jar for the smaller jar to fit, and still be able to place the lid on top. I did NOT tighten it, for when the sauerkraut began to ferment, I didn't want pressure building up inside the big jar, which could potentially cause an explosion and resulting in a big, cabbage-y mess. Then I put it on the kitchen counter and left it alone.

I read and re-read the instructions on how to make sauerkraut over and over, thinking to myself that they had left something out.
It turns out that the salt extracts the natural liquid from the cabbage, which when mixed, through its own natural process, with the sea salt, caraway and dill seeds, creates a 'brine' of sorts.
I lifted the lid every day and smelled it. Honestly, it was awful. I wasn't sure what I did wrong, but I was sure I messed it up somehow. The 'liquid' rose over the sliced and whole cabbage leaves, and the jar of water kept the cabbage from floating upward.
Three weeks later, I wondered if it was anywhere near ready. I removed the jar of water and the whole cabbage leaves, which I discarded, and stirred up the top layer of sauerkraut with a fork. Then I lifted a small forkful to my mouth. Eureka! It was heavenly! Very strongly sour, and perfect in my own humble opinion. I cannot wait until next week when we bring sausages to the Sunday family dinner, and I put the 'kraut' on the table for others to try. I'm hoping for some positive feedback from them.