Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DIY Sauerkraut

Basement Kraut
 I love sauerkraut! Problem is, I've never had real kraut. I'm descended from Polish/German homesteaders, and yet the homemade kraut died with a great-grandfather in the 70's. Most modern sauerkraut is made with a vinegar/salt brine and then heat processed. This process ensures no bugs survive, not discriminating between good and evil. Traditional kraut, however, is a naturally fermented food. The inclusion of lactic acid fermented foods in the diet has a long history throughout the world.  And so, I've made an attempt at DIY kraut.
I've been making my own yogurt and kefir for a while now. I would love to get my hands on some raw milk to use, but thanks to an overreaching government, I'm only allowed to consume fresh, raw milk if I own the cow. (I would totally own a cow if the city didn't have an ordinance against them. I am allowed a nice little flock of laying hens in my yard, however. Big government = another post for another day. You're welcome.) I've experimented with different cultures and different fat content. So far, my favorite yogurt has been made with half & half and a combination of kefir cultures and  Stonyfield Farms Oikos yogurt. The texture is unlike any yogurt you've bought out of the dairy case, Greek or otherwise, and any sweetening beyond some berries is unnecessary.
Last fall, I tried my hand at beet kvass with beets grown in my own back yard. Not very tasty, but I felt a little high afterwards. Kvass is supposed to be energizing, indeed it was. I'm going to try another batch as soon as I have some home-grown, organic beets. I stopped drinking it around Christmas time due to potluck acquired vomiting and diarrhea. It took a long time to get my intestinal flora back to near normal.
Back to the subject at hand: Sauerkraut. I followed a very basic recipe (cabbage & salt) using a half-gallon Ball jar and Sandor Ellix Katz's book,  Wild Fermentation. Basically,  shred cabbage and layer with salt (2.5 lbs cabbage to 1.5 Tbls salt), stuff into jar and make sure enough juice comes out of cabbage to cover (this may take a few hours for the salt to draw out enough liquid). I placed a jelly jar into the mouth of my kraut jar and placed a three pound weight on top to keep cabbage under juice.
 I taste-tested it about 1 week out. Not sour, still quite crunchy, I then used some on a taco (tell me that isn't an ingenious use of lactofermented vegetables). I tried again 2 weeks out. Hmmm, smells a bit like trash can, still crunchy, barely soured. At that point, I chose to feed it to the family. Jack's original brats, homemade German potato salad, and "basement kraut" was a hit. (I won't lie, the four-year-old didn't even taste my sauerkraut, and the 15-month-old spit his out. It'll grow on them I'm sure.)
A good flavor with some tang was reached after fermenting in my basement about three weeks. I moved it to storage containers in my fridge to arrest the fermentation process and proceeded to make "deconstructed reubens with Russian rice" (maybe I can come up with a better name at some point).
A chive blossom as garnish (edible, but kids don't like them!)

Deconstructed Reubens with Russian Rice (Celiac/gluten-intolerance friendly :0) )

  • sauerkraut
  • corned venison or beef
  • rice (I use Nishiki/sushi rice)
  • butter/lard/tallow/schmaltz, your choice
  • onion
  • garlic
  • stock
  • sour cream or plain yogurt
  • ketchup or tomato paste
  • fresh or dried dill
  • chives
  • Swiss cheese (I use Caraway Swiss from William's Cheese)
  • caraway seeds if not using Caraway Swiss
  1. Prepare corned meat. (If you are making your own, be sure to allow 5-7 days to cure and plenty of hours for it to cook before you start the rice.)
  2. Put a good spoonful of fat-of-choice into a saucepan/dutchoven with good fitting lid over medium heat.
  3. Saute a chopped up onion (size & color of your choice) in the fat until translucent.
  4. Add rice (I use 1 1/2 cups of Nishiki, use amount you want of rice you want. Be sure to adjust liquid to fall in line with directions on your rice). Stir occasionally until rice is translucent from absorbing some fat.
  5. Add a clove (more or less) of garlic, minced or grated. Stir.
  6. Add stock (about 2 cups for Nishiki, again, adjust for your rice), stir, bring to a boil, cover with lid, back heat off to a slow simmer about 20 minutes. (OMG! You aren't using Minute Rice, are you? Brown rice? Yuck!) 
  7. Let rice stand about 5 minutes off of heat.
  8. Add a glob of sour cream/yogurt, a squirt of ketchup (or small glob of tomato paste), and a handful each of finely chopped dill and chives (about a teaspoon each if using dry). Mix thoroughly.
  9. Plate up: 1/2 cup of rice or so, topped with a slice of Swiss (and a light sprinkle of caraway seeds if using), a portion of the corned meat, and a serving of sauerkraut (a serving is however much you can handle, it may only be a teaspoon full. And, for crying out loud! Don't heat up the kraut!).

Additional Information:

I'm going to refer you to some info that I think is interesting and some articles written by professionals that are qualified to give nutrition advice.

Akea Life (I believe this is a supplement company. Provided for information purposes only! My life philosphy is to only swallow JERF. Yo! What up,
This is a paper about Okinawan fermented tofu, may be a little in depth for your purposes, but I wanted to share anyways:
Masaaki Yasuda: Japanese researcher

Update 5/23/2012:
Check out this article on probiotics from Dr. Mercola!

Update 6/27/2012:
Neat product for home fermenting


  1. I updated the post to include ratios of cabbage/salt. You can't screw it up, I'm sure!

  2. "Traditional kraut, however, is a naturally fermented food. The inclusion of lactic acid fermented foods in the diet has a long history throughout the world."

    Wow, interesting information. Can you give the health benefits of fermented traditional kraut? I read in some articles that fermented foods are great.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks for stopping by, Christine!
      I want to share some links with you that I think you will appreciate, but I'm having trouble getting my links to work. So, what I have done is updated the post with some links at the bottom. A little light reading...

  3. You are hilarious and absolutely informative, just as I would expect from you...I demand more posts!! :)