Friday, March 30, 2012


Here in Chicago its almost a crime to put ketchup on a hot dog.  I'm from Wisconsin though, and there we put ketchup on almost anything...scrambled eggs, potato chips, mac 'n' cheese and of course hot dogs. Another Wisconsin practice is to put sauerkraut on hot dogs and brats.  I like so much 'kraut piled on, that you can't see the meat anymore and the bun gets soggy.  Its a shame to have a naked brat sans sauerkraut. So of course being a lover of natural foods and old world ways, I decided to ferment my own sauerkraut and here's how I did it.........

 I received a beautiful crock from my brother for Christmas.  Its a 10 liter polish fermenting crock.  There is a water channel around the lid to allow gasses out but not let oxygen in.

I used 2 organic cabbages.  When cored it came to about 3 pounds. I used about 4 tablespoons Himalayan sea salt.  I also added 2 tablesspoons of whey, which is optional, but I'll explain the benefits of using it later.  To get whey, I just bought some plain yogurt, took a scoop out of the center with a tablesoon, then let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. The liquid that gathered in the hole that I made is the whey.

First, I discarded the outer leaves and washed the cabbage, then thinly sliced it with a knife and put it in a sturdy bowl. I then added salt. This is the time you would add other desired ingredients like shredded carrots, sliced onions and caraway seeds if you want.  The bowl needs to be sturdy because you will be pounding the vegetables to release the juices.  Because I had so much cabbage, I pounded about one third of it at a time, using one third of the salt, and then put it in the crock.  I used my french rolling pin to pound but tools like a potato masher or meat mallet would work as well.

Once all my cabbage was pounded and in the crock with the salt, I poured in water to cover an inch above the cabbage and added the whey.  At this point I let the cabbage settle a minute and put a weight on it to hold the vegetables below the liquid.  I didn't have a crock stone at the time so I used some heavy plates. Next time I will also save a couple whole leaves to put over it before the stone just to make sure all the little pieces stay submerged.

Then I put the lid on and poured water into the channel and waited.  Fermentation takes place at room temperature and takes at least three days.  It's said the longer you wait the better it is, so test it every few days to get the taste that you like best.  My friend likes it best at six weeks!  When it tastes good to you, you can put it in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation.

If you don't have a crock, a gallon sized jar will also work and to hold the cabbage down, you can use a ziplock bag with water in it.  Anyone can make sauerkraut.

The optional whey.
You can make sauerkraut without whey by adding one extra tablespoon of salt, however, the benefits of using lacto-fermentation are plentiful.  According to the book Nourishing traditions,  it helps to break down the food matter, making it more digestible, increases vitamin levels while making them more bio-available, produces helpful enzymes, antibiotic and anti carcinogenic substances, and promotes healthy flora in the intestine, all of which make a healthier you.