This time of year I find myself craving sauerkraut - with sausages or potatoes - or even in a good rueben sandwich on homemade pumpernickel bread.
Having a little German blood in me doesn't hurt, but also having tasted the difference between fresh sauerkraut and store-bought, I admit to craving the stuff from time to time. Most people who don't care for it have only tasted the strongly acidic and bitter-flavored fermented cabbage served up on hot dogs, but the fresh, zingy flavor of the stuff you make yourself might change your perception as well.
There are also many claims that fermented foods can be good for you and your digestive system. It's so easy to make that you might as well try it and see if you become a convert. Here's a simple method for your first time:
andbull; 1 head of cabbage shredded
andbull; 1-2 tsp. un-iodized or pickling salt
andbull; 1 c. filtered water mixed with 1 tsp. salt
In a ceramic or glass bowl, mix cabbage and salt. Stir and press with
a spoon on the cabbage to help release juices. Let rest 10 minutes,
then mix and press again.
Pack into a quart-sized, wide-mouthed jar that you've cleaned well
and boiled briefly for sterilizing, pushing down with a wooden spoon.
Add filtered, or non-chlorinated, salty (1 teaspoon salt per cup of
water) water to rim of jar and cap loosely with a sterilized canning
lid. Place jar on a tray to catch overflowing juices. Keep jar between
65 and 72 degree for two to three weeks. Remove lid from jar every other
day so that gases don't build up and cause leaking.
If the kraut is sitting above its liquid, add another salty cup of
water (1 tsp per cup of water) and keep it submerged for best results.
Refrigerate after three weeks to slow down the fermenting and keep it
When you make this the first time you will notice a foul odor coming
from the sauerkraut about one to two weeks in. Don't be afraid, it will
mellow out and smell fresh and tangy once it's finished fermenting.
You might want to keep it in a back room away from guests if the odor
You can also make larger amounts of sauerkraut using a large crock.
The main thing is to keep it covered, but to remove the lid a couple
times per week to release gas buildup.
The rule of thumb is to not go below the
three-tablespoons-per-five-pounds limit, and never eat sauerkraut that
is slimy, excessively soft, discolored or off-flavor. It should smell
tangy, and still have a little crunch.
Anne Boulley is a local chef and culinary instructor with a passion
for artisan foods. Her cooking classes and services are offered via her
website, www.thegourmetguide.com .