Monday, February 23, 2015


As most of my friends and family know, I love Kickstarter. So about a year ago, the opportunity came up to back a small-batch home pickling/fermentation system. Last week, it finally came in.

Bolstered by the success of my pickles, I wanted to make something immediately. But between my lack of wide mouthed mason jars (soon to be rectified) and the difficulty in finding appropriate ingredients in February, I went with making sauerkraut.

Classic sauerkraut uses caraway seeds and juniper berries for flavoring, neither of which I have. I have, however, found that celery seed (of which I still have a ridiculous abundance left over from making celery soda) is an acceptable substitute for caraway.

I also thought it would be neat to make a mixture of red and white cabbage. So the ingredients were as follows:

1/2 head white cabbage
1/2 head red cabbage
sea salt
onion powder
black peppercorns
celery seed

Chop the cabbage into thin slices and combine with ingredients in your preferred proportions. I didn't really measure anything out, but it was roughly 3-4 tablespoons salt, a couple of tablespoons of onion powder, a tablespoon of black peppercorns, and about a teaspoon of celery seed. Mix until evenly coated, then cram into a clean and sterilized mason jar. Add your water well air blockage system (I am now using the Kraut Source) and set aside. It's important to cram it in and pack it tight. This is a lot, and I used a half gallon mason jar, the only one I have with a wide mouth. Even then, I thought it was crammed in properly, but I didn't have a nice pounder, and I didn't pound as I layered. The result was that once I set up the press and it began to mascerate, the level dropped a solid inch or two, which made it awkward.

Now, in theory, if you live in a place where you can get fresh cabbage, the cabbage should spew enough moisture over the course of 24 hours to more than cover the solids. This may not happen for the rest of us. If after 12 hours it still hasn't happened, I'd make up a brine solution of 1 tbsp salt in 1 cup warm water. Add until you have a half inch or so of brine above the solids.

After 2 weeks, take some out and taste test. If you like it, great! If you want it more developed, give it another week or two.

After 2 weeks, ready to eat!
You will occasionally get what some people call bloom or scum. It's mold that grows on the surface of the brine. That is a-okay, as it happens. Just use a spoon and try to scoop out the worst of it. You don't need to worry about getting every tiny little bit. So long as the solids stay below the brine level, they should be just fine, protected by the brine.

You can play with the ingredients. Use paprika, tumeric, garlic, whatever you like. I like the Kraut Source system because it allows me to experiment with small batches using mason jars. Your mileage may vary. As always with pickling, be aware of keeping an anaerobic environment- see my post on LES-style pickles for an explanation.

Final verdict on my sauerkraut: weird for the first bite, but a nice aftertaste. Realized that it was weird because I expected more of the classic sauerkraut flavor, but the different spices made it, of course, taste different. Once I got over the initial shock, I really enjoyed it. Added it as a side for a roasted and stuffed pork tenderloin my wife made, it was a bright note both visually and on the palate to contrast the savory meat.