GardenSMART :: Homegrown Red Cabbage Makes Delicious Sauerkraut
Homegrown Red Cabbage Makes Delicious Sauerkraut
By Tiffany Selvey, GardenTech
Photographs courtesy of GardenTech
Centuries before refrigeration, cultures needed a way to preserve their harvest. Sauerkraut is the result of an ancient method of food preservation dating back to the Romans, who fermented cabbage and turnips in salt. This process was lost during the fall of the Roman Empire, but was reintroduced to Europe by China in the 13th century.
Many types of fruits and vegetables can be fermented, but cabbage is a popular choice because it is easy to grow and stores well. Fall-grown cabbage varieties, such as Red Acre, make excellent sauerkraut.
Plant cabbage seeds in late June or early July for a fall crop. Place three seeds in holes 1/2 inch deep, 16 inches apart. If you are planting multiple rows of cabbage, leave 36 inches between rows. While cabbage is relatively easy to grow, pests, such as cabbage worms, can cause problems. Worry Free® Brand Insecticide and Miticide Ready to Use Dust is effective against cabbage worms, as well as 250 other pests. This product is naturally derived from chrysanthemum flowers and can be used up until the day of harvest.
In cool climates, cabbage should be harvested at maturity and stored in a root cellar or refrigerator. In warm climates, even as far north as North Carolina, cabbage can be left in the garden unprotected and harvested throughout winter. To harvest, firmly grasp the head and twist.
Preserved cabbage allows you to enjoy your homegrown produce throughout the winter months. Enjoy this fermented red kraut recipe on top of bratwurst, on a Ruben sandwich or as a stand-alone side dish.
1 medium to large head of red cabbage, cleaned and outer leaves removed
1 tablespoon of non-iodized salt, such as kosher or pickling salt
Chop the red cabbage into small squares about 1/2 inch wide. Discard the stem.
Combine the cabbage and salt in a large bowl.
Using both hands, gently massage the salt into the cabbage for 5 minutes to release cabbage juices.
Allow the cabbage and salt mixture to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Once the cabbage leaves begin to wilt and juice (now brine) accumulates in the bottom of the bowl, massage for 5 more minutes.
Pack the cabbage into a half-gallon glass jar. Continue packing and pressing the cabbage into the jar until it is completely covered in brine.
Place a clean stone or a smaller jar filled with water on top of the kraut in the jar to ensure the cabbage stays submerged. The brine prevents mold and harmful bacteria from growing on submerged cabbage, but any cabbage that floats above the brine will mold. If mold forms, remove the affected area and make sure the rest of the cabbage stays submerged until the sauerkraut is complete.
Cover the jar with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. The cheesecloth allows oxygen to escape while keeping out bugs and dust. The fermentation process produces gas, so never place a lid on a jar while fermenting.
Place the jar in an area out of direct sunlight, and allow it to ferment for at least three weeks. Timing will vary, as the fermentation process is faster in warm environments and slower in cooler areas.
Taste your kraut after three weeks. If it isn't sour enough, leave it for another week and taste again. When your kraut has reached the desired level of sourness, put a lid on the jar and keep it in the refrigerator, where it will store well for months.
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Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers
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