For a long time I’d been itching to try my hand at making sauerkraut. The commercial stuff on the supermarket shelves tastes fine but to obtain maximum health-giving probiotics, vitamins and minerals it should be fresh and unpasturised. After scrutinizing many a Youtube tutorial and reading lots on the art of fermenting vegetables I still had niggling doubts about my success rate without the proper equipment. So when we discovered an unusual-shaped jar during the big move it all started to look more feasible.
The lovely grey earthenware crock had originally been used by my Mutter-in-law’s family to preserve autumn fruit in rum to produce a potent, winter-warming tipple. Ingeniously, the lid houses an airlock “moat” that when filled with water allows air to be slowly released from the jar but at the same time preventing any air from entering it. I’d been scouring shops and markets for a saurkraut crock for years. Of course you can buy them online but delivery is precarious not to mention expensive. For me this was a gem of a find and I had every intention of giving my newly acquired friend a new lease of life.
- Having sat unused for several decades in a dark corner our jar warranted a good scrub. Good hygiene practice is paramount anyhow to ensure that only the good bacterias are allowed to prosper.
- Three robust heads of cabbage were retrieved from the veg patch, finely shredded and packed tightly into the jar. No need to wash the cabbage as this is where our good bacteria will come from.
- I vigorously pounded a layer of cabbage with the end of a wooden rolling pin, added a copious sprinkling of sea salt, followed by a spattering of dried juniper berries and continued with these three steps until the jar was almost full.
- To apply more pressure to the compacted leaves I filled a food-grade plastic bag with water and pastry weights and placed it on top of the final layer. The moat surrounding the opening of the jar was filled with water. On went the ceramic lid. The whole lot was left sitting in corner of the kitchen for a week or so until there was enough liquid extracted from the cabbage to cover the leaves entirely.
- At this stage I removed the bag altogether and replaced the lid. We kept an eye on the water level in the lid making sure it was not allowed to evaporate completely. It gurgled and popped sporadically as air was released – perfectly natural.
- Six weeks later, after a taste test confirmed it was time, we decanted the cabbage into sterilised jars. I filled four large screw-top glass jars, placing cling film between the metal lid and the jar to prevent and any corrosion from the lactic acid produced during fermentation. They were stored in the fridge. Though not for long as we are already down to our last jar.
The taste is sublime. Slight crunch still in the leaves with a beautiful sour taste, unlike anything I’ve previously tasted. Without a doubt it is worth the effort. Now, I’m off to plant some cabbage seeds for next years batch!