Making sauerkraut felt like the grown-up version of that pre-school activity where our tiny wrists and tiny arms patiently, tirelessly shook little containers of cream until it suddenly gave up, a small pat of the softest, most seemingly magical butter forming, leaving behind a victorious trail of thin buttermilk. How did that one thing just turn into this other thing?
Somehow, if you let some humble shredded cabbage get intimate with some salt for a few weeks, it turns into that bright, pungent, and, well, sour delight that is sauerkraut. And oh, sauerkraut, you are so blessedly delicious.
When it comes to pickling and fermenting I’m absolutely not an expert, just an enthusiast and maybe, if it’s useful, an occasional cheerleader. In case you, too, thought a vegetable that needed more than a few nights to get soured and into your sandwich or onto your bimbimbap was a bit too much hassle, giving this a try might change your mind. Because while sauerkraut does require a good deal of patience, it asks for little more from you and gives you a good deal of improved meals in return.
In addition to the nutritious bonus points of the freshly fermented stuff and the simple sense of satisfaction, it’s fun making your own sauerkraut because you can tweak it to your taste, letting it get as strong as you like – which might, of course, not be very strong at all, and adding in little extras like carrots, onions, or caraway. I’ll give a recipe for my favourite combination below. For very excellent, detailed instructions and guidelines for troubleshooting, see here.
Apple and Dill Sauerkraut
1 medium sized head of cabbage, about 2 pounds
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons each of dried mint and dried dill
2 tablespoons salt
Equipment: a large croc is ideal, and might be easy to locate and a flea market near you. If not, large mason jars will work too.
You also need something to weigh down the cabbage to keep it submerged in the brine (if it is exposed to air it runs the risk of going funky, in the bad way). I used a small, clean plate topped with a can of tomatoes.
Shred the cabbage. If you have a food processor, this will be the best use you’ve ever made of it! If not, do some gentle wrist yoga and then get to work. Wash and thinly slice the apples, tossing the core but leaving the skin on.
Add the cabbage in about 3 parts to the croc, tossing with a bit of salt, apples, and herbs each time to make sure it’s all nicely distributed. Punch down the mixture until the cabagge breaks down and becomes limp, putting some muscle into it to get as much liquid out as possible. If the liquid is not enough to cover the cabbage, add just enough water. (If you’re using jars, you can do this part in a large bowl before transferring to the jars.)
Place the clean plate and then the weight on the cabbage mixture, making sure it is properly submerged in the brine. Drape a clean dishcloth over the whole croc to keep dust out.
Every few days, check on the kraut, making sure it is stil submerged in brine and adding some liquid if not. After about a week you can start tasting to see if it’s getting to where you like it. When it is, transfer to glass jars and keep in the fridge.