Turning Cabbage into Sauerkraut

The napa type of Asian cabbages that I plant tend to rot from the inside if we leave them in the garden too long, so we decided to make sauerkraut with most of the cabbages that remained in the garden.  You can see the cabbages growing in the first garden bed in this post from a week ago.  They were transplanted into the garden on May 11th.

The first step is of course to pick the cabbage, then to remove any bad leaves and wash away the dirt and bugs.  We’ve had little trouble with cabbage butterfly caterpillars or slugs eating our cabbage this year, but there were some millipedes in the ‘optiko’ variety of napa cabbages.  We picked four ‘one kilo’ and two ‘optiko’ cabbages.

six cabbages, picked and cleaned

six cabbages, picked and cleaned

Here we have a fine example of cabbage ‘one kilo.’  I purchased the seeds for this cabbage several years ago from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds and they still carry them.

a "typical" (i.e. the best) napa cabbage from my garden

a “typical” (i.e. the best) napa cabbage from my garden

The cabbages were disassembled and washed.

cabbage leaves separated and washed

cabbage leaves separated and washed

Then the cabbage was chopped with a knife.  If you make a lot of sauerkraut, a kraut cutter might be a good investment, and it may help you make better sauerkraut.

chopped cabbage

chopped cabbage

We ended up with eight pounds (3.6 kg) of chopped cabbage altogether.  The recipe (we don’t use the juniper berries or caraway seeds) calls for three tablespoons of pickling salt per five pounds of cabbage.  A tablespoon of pickling salt weighs about 20 grams, so this works out to about 25 grams of salt per kilogram of cabbage.

eight pounds of salted, chopped cabbage

eight pounds of salted, chopped cabbage

A plate was placed on top of the cabbage and a quart jar full of water on the plate to weigh it down.  The plate will keep the cabbage below the brine.  Plastic wrap will keep the fermenting kraut clean and reduce the chance of mold or yeast infections while allowing CO2 to escape.  We use the same method when we make kimchi, which is basically the same thing with chiles, garlic chives, etc. added.

ready to ferment

ready to ferment

We put it in the basement, where it will ferment for four weeks.  Note that it is possible for fermented food like this to become infected with mold, yeast, or bacteria that could make someone sick when they eat it, so be sure you understand what you are doing (some of the links I provide above are a good place to start) before you try it.



About brianbreczinski

work: chemist, NMR manager; hobbies: gardening, reading, photography, electronics, biking, woodworking
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