Monday, June 13, 2011


Taken with webcam. Hence the quality issues.
When I was a little girl the town right next to mine had a summer festival called Sauerkraut Days. The sleepy little Midwestern town would take on a carnival air with parades and amusement park rides and, of course, food. The local greasy spoon restaurant would throw open it's doors to welcome people in, and food stands popped up on every corner of Main Street.

My father and I would go to these festivals and take on the biggest, fastest rides. And then we'd inevitably stop at one of those food stands and get a couple of the biggest, juiciest brats we could find. Then we'd slather them with the saltiest, sourest sauerkraut we could find.

So, I always think of sauerkraut as a summer food. With it's sharp tangy flavor, it seems perfect served cold on a hot summer day. Imagine my surprise last week when I read up on how to make my own sauerkraut in this book, and learned that traditionally it's made in a colder climate. In order for the right kind of bacteria to flourish (and give it that delicious pickled flavor), the sauerkraut needs to be kept at a temperature somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Then it should take about a month to mature, so you don't really want it colder than that. You can also keep the sauerkraut at a constant temperature of 70 degrees and let it mature for about a week or two. The main thing is to keep it well below 80 degrees (that's when all the nasty bacteria thrive).
Now I live in Colorado, and I don't have air conditioning. It's summer, and my kitchen gets up to 80 or 85 degrees during the day. My refrigerator is too cold, and my counter is too hot. It would probably be best for me to wait until winter to make sauerkraut (when the kitchen is a lot cooler). But of course I didn't listen to advice, and last week I put together a couple of jars of sauerkraut. I'm keeping them in the fridge, so we'll see how long it takes to mature.
Anyway, here's the recipe from The Lost Art of Real Cooking:
  • 1 head of cabbage, grated or finely chopped (grating is probably better, because it brings out more juices, but I ended up chopping because I really don't like my grater)
  • 2 tablespoons salt you really do need this much, to help preserve the cabbage.
Put the grated cabbage and the salt in a mixing bowl. Knead it by hand for 10 minutes or so in order to draw out the water (this will be your brine). When you've got plenty of water out of the cabbage, put it in a glass jar or some sort of crock (mainly something you don't mind having full of sauerkraut for a long time). Keep it somewhere cool (a basement if you have one, or right on the counter if your kitchen is cool) for about a month. Taste it every day until it tastes like sauerkraut. Then eat and enjoy!

I'll be sure to post updates on my little sauerkraut experiment.

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