Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Definitive TEdAKRAUT Sauerkraut

NAME: _Definitive TEdAKRAUT Sauerkraut

This is a simple recipe but has a large number of notes, That's because I wanted to cover the "definitive" part of the name pretty thoroughy %) That said, it's simple, it's amazing, and it's delicious so you should give it a go!

Ingredients (see Notes)
Couple of large cabbages (around 6kg each with outer leaves etc)
Around 1/2 to 3/4 cup salt per cabbage.

Equipment (see Notes)
Bucket large enough to hold shredded cabbage.
Plate that fits the bucket internally
Around three 750ml jars per two kilos of cabbage
A weight of around 5kg, clean and non-reactive.

Clean the cabbages by removing straggly outer leaves, cut into quarters or convenient size. Cut the core and a portion of the heavy white stems from each quarter by cutting from the heart of the cabbage to the stalk end on a diagonal. Cut the quarters into fine strips around 2mm to 4mm wide. You should finish up with about 4kg of shredded cabbage per head of cabbage, give or take half a kilo.

Start packing cabbage into the bucket in layers around 1cm a time, sprinkling with salt as you go. Try and pace yourself with the salt, err on the side of caution if anything. As you place the layers, periodically press them down to grind some salt crystals into the cabbage to start the leaching process.

When all the cabbage has been layered in with salt and packed down by hand as much as possible, place the plate on top in such a way that there's no air to get trapped under the plate (i.e. generally that means normal side up) and then place the weight on top. Assist the wight by gentle pressure, being careful not to crack the plate.

Cover with teatowels so as to exclude insects and large debris from falling into the bucket. Store in a place with relatively even temperature at about 18C - 22C and out of direct light. Liquid should be drawn out of the cabbage within a few hours, if it doesn't, remove the plate and pack down a bit more to press salt and cabbage together. If there's still no appreciable liquid after six hours, add a sprinkle of water and press down.  Over the next two weeks or so, check regularly (every few days) for the following things:

Remove the weight and set down on a clean teatowel. Check the weight for mold. Remove the plate and check for mold. Wash the plate and the weight in clean hot water. Replace them, again pressing down manually to assist in settling the sauerkraut down. Check the liquid with a clean teaspoon. Is it beginning to taste sour? This should happen at around a week, depending on temperature. The warmer the average temperature, the sooner fermentation will take place. Always use a clean teaspoon, draw about half a teaspoon of liquid or less, just enough to taste. Don't return any liquid back to the bucket once you've drawn it. Always use a clean spoon and never take a second sample with a spoon that's been in your mouth.

Once the liquid begins to taste sour, keep repeating the above procedure for another week or two, until very few bubbles are released when pressing down the plate and weight, and the volume of the cabbage has reduced to around a quarter. At this stage, transfer with tongs to sterile jars, distribute the remaining liquid between the jars, close the lids loosely and store. Check for the next few weeks and once all fermentation has stopped, close the lids down tight. (see Notes)

Pretty much from the time it hits the jars it's ready to eat, but leaving it longer results in progressively better flavour. Serve as a side dish or adjunct, also prepare it by cooking with various flavourings (there will be a separate recipe called "Sauerkraut Preps" when I get around to it) and serve as a side dish. Once a jar has been opened, keep it in the fridge.

This sauerkraut is very much a "busk it and see" type approach. I'd never tried it before, checked a couple of recipes out, dimly remembered what our relatives on the farm in Austria used to do, back when I was a toddler, and gave it a shot. The result is just healthy and delicious and needs sharing.

Ingredients: I used large commercial cabbages, but I've translated that into rough weights. Cabbages I used generally weigh in at 5.5kg - 6.5kg, and the tough outer leaves and core make up between 1kg and 2kg (depending mostly on how much of the thick centre parts of the leaves I decide to forego) so estimate around 4kg - 4.5kg of product per cabbage. For each two kilos of cabbage it's appropriate to use around 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of salt, so I've loosely based my measurements around that. On the subject of salt, people recommend kosher salt, rock salt, and all sorts of specialty salts - I used slightly coarse cooking salt, and I think any pure salt without iodine or "free-flowing" chemicals would be fine.

Equipment: I have a 10 litre plastic bucket, which pretty much holds 8kg of cabbage, but the preferred utensil is a crock of some sort. That would be because the crock holds temperature steady, and that's one of our aims in this, to keep the temperature stable as possible. The plate I use, would generally be a disk of wood in the real sauerkraut crock, made of some wood that is compatible. I use a plate because it's non-reactive and allows me to exclude all the air. (see further down, the section "Mold.") The weight, similarly, needs to be non-reactive and compact, I use a plastic 5 litre oil bottle that some olive oil came in, filled with water. I recommend large plastic jugs, either filled with water or filled with some other heavy material.

The plate needs to be small enough to go down to the last 1/4 of the bucket or crock (if this is tapered - my bucket definitely is) without leaving too much gap for cannage to float up when it's near the top. The weight has to be the size of the plate or smaller, for much the same reason. The larger the diameter of the plate, the more weight you'll need on it to press down with the same force per square inch.

Method: Pretty straight-forward. I tend to add about a level teaspoonful of salt per layer, and then every 2kg of cabbage, if I have a bit of extra salt left over from the assigned 1/4 - 1/3 cup, I sprinkle that evenly over the last layer, then start on the next 2kg worth of layers. That way, the salt ends up pretty evenly distributed throughout the product.

Also, it's the natural yeasts and bacteria on the cabbage that will cause fermentation. If the cabbage has been grown in an unsanitary bed, you may wish to remove outer leaves and rinse the cabbage before proceeding to quartering it. Bear in mind that if you remove too may layers, A) your yield will go down, and B) you may be removing the very yeasts you want. Best is if you know the cabbage has been grown in a sanitary garden bed, and you only remove the few tough and ragged outer leaves.

The act of checking every few days forces liquid between the spaces of the product, which mixes the salt evenly throughout the bucket. The first fee days I tend to check twice a day, for the reason that it takes a while to build up enough liquid for mixing to take place. If you use more salt, then the liquid will be drawn out of the cabbage faster, but the fermentation process will take longer. If you use a lot more salt, you might be in for a six week wait before fermentation takes place, for example. That leaves time for salt-tolerant molds to grow. If you don't use enough salt to kill off rot organisms, the cabbage will rot and become foul and inedible. If the cabbage is very fresh and well ripened, then it will have a lot more moisture than a cabbage that has been in cold storage and picked young and immature, which changes the concentration of the salt as well. If you have to add water, do so by sprinkling it over the whole surface of the cabbage in the bucket.

Once it's in the jars you *could* close the lids down tight, but that runs the risk of a jar exploding if fermentation takes off again. I generally wait a few days and test - if air escapes when I unscrew the lid, it hasn't stopped fermenting yet. Once lids are tightened, keep this in a cool stable temperature, and once opened, keep in the fridge. Never use your fingers after the initial pack-down, never use a utensil that's been in your mouth, because those bacteria are what cause the nasty scum to form and spoil the sauerkraut.

Mold MOLD Mold: There are several things that can affect sauerkraut. I'll list them here because some of them are not pleasant.

1. White "scum" or mold appears on the surface of the liquid, plate, or weight. Sometimes this may happen, and it also happens to home preserved olives. It's a normal part of the olive process, and acceptable in sauerkraut too. In sauerkraut, though, it generally indicates that the tea towels let through local natural yeasts, and you may wish to use a finer weave of teatowels (or two layers) next time.

White scum is probably the only form of contaminant I'd allow, all contaminants listed after this point should be considered unsafe and be reason to dump the batch, thoroughly clean all the equipment, and try again.

2. Black mold appears on the surface of the cabbage, liquid, plate, or weight. This is an aerobic mold and can be seen if you leave a cabbage laying around uncovered and then peel layers apart. It can be washed off, but it means your equipment or the cabbage has air pockets surrounded by liquid. I'd tend to throw the batch if this happens, because it won't taste good or probably be good for you.

Black mold is a good indicator that your cabbage is cut too thick (forms air pockets) or the plate is concave on the underside, and that cabbage was perhaps not weighted down enough and consequently projected out of the liquid.

3. Cabbage is soft and/or slimy after processing. Some slime-producing mold has grown in the bucket. Throw out the batch, thoroughly clean (perhaps even in dilute bleach solution) all the equipment and tea towels, and start again/

4. Pink, green, blue, or other colours than white or black mold appear on the surface of the cabbage, liquid, plate, or weight. Proceed as for number 3 above. These are all molds whose spores float around in the environment, and all tend to produce toxic wastes that will, while diluted in the liquid, still be strong enough to cause nausea, serious illness, and in extreme cases can even cause death. Not worth testing each one out when a fresh cabbage and a bit of salt only cost a few dollars, is it?

Lastly - it's a fermentation process. That means that the ultimate aim is to get organisms to begin digesting the cabbage for us, then stop them from consuming the cabbage altogether before we get a chance to consume it. %) Temperature matters, too warm and nasties will grow and steal our cabbage, too cold and it will take ages to ferment and thus provide a longer window for opportunistic organisms to infect the product.


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