Sunday, July 7, 2013
We had a bumper crop of cabbage this year in pots. The ones in the ground didn’t form a head, but the potted ones were beauties!. Now, what to do with 8 heads of cabbage? Well, you can freeze, can or ferment it. I have only gone the freeze or ferment route.
Freezing is incredibly easy. Just remove the head, cutting at the base. Wash thoroughly and slice into manageable pieces. Drop pieces into a pot of boiling water, let cook for 2-3 minutes (called blanche), then drop into icy or very cold water. You drop them into cold water to stop the cabbage from continue to cook. Place in a freezer bag, label with contents and date, and put in the freezer.
Fermenting is a little more involved, but is a simple process. You don’t have to have a crock to make kraut. You can use a wide mouth quart jar and place a small jar on top of it. Or you can use a glass bowl that you put a plate in with a can or other weight on top of it.
To make kraut, save a couple of outer leaves and set aside, slice the head of cabbage in half and remove the core/stem. Then, slice up the head into small ribbons. To accelerate the process, squeeze the cabbage to get the juices flowing. Salt is optional. If using salt, add 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage.
Place the salted, shredded cabbage into a glass container, squish it down, cover with the saved leaves and add a weight. Press down occasionally during the first 24 hours. If the brine does not rise above the plate (or jar) level by the next day, add salt water (1 tbl salt per cup of water) to insure all the cabbage is submerged.
The more salt you use, the longer it will take in fermenting and the more acidic it will be.
Leave to ferment for a few days. Taste to see if it is how you like it. The longer you leave it, the tangier it becomes. If kept in a cool area during winter, kraut can keep for weeks or months. If making kraut in summer, put in quart jars in the frig after ripening they way you like it.
You can add any other vegetables you like (beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, mustard, kale, Chinese cabbage) or flavorings (onions, garlic, dill seeds, celery seeds, juniper berries, wine, seaweed).
Kraut has tons of the good bacteria that your digestive system loves, lactobacilli.
If you decide you want to can your cabbage, follow a recipe! Cabbage on its own is not acidic enough to keep microbes from growing in it. If using pickling techniques, this moves cabbage into a high enough acid range that a water bath is sufficient for preserving safely. If you want to can plain cabbage, a pressure canner is required.