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Archive for May 12th, 2007

Home Made Sauerkraut

Posted by Bob Skilnik on May 12, 2007

cabbage.jpg I put this recipe under “Food That Demands To Be Paired With Beer.”

Sauerkraut has a long history, including as a staple for Revolutionary War soldiers — both sides.  But other ethnic groups ate it too: during the winter of 1775/76, British forces in Boston allotted 1/2 pound of Sauerkraut per man and week; in neighboring Rhode Island a soldier was to get as much as 2 pounds per week. Their Sauerkraut was shipped all the way from England and Ireland, but it was of course available in America too, where the Continental Congress in July 1777, ordered the Board of War to procure Sauerkraut for the soldiers of the Continental forces.

Sauerkraut was also stored on ships during the 1700s as a preventative against scurvy and probably washed down with “Ship’s Beere.”

As my mother-in-law points out in the video, sauerkeraut is good for you. Fresh, raw cabbage is very rich in Vitamin C; one cup or 200 grams contains a whole day’s supply. Sauerkraut, which is also an excellent source of Vitamin K, has about half as much Vitamin C as raw kraut. Sauerkraut is also rich in cruciferous phytochemicals, long known for their disease-fighting powers. Recent research has shown moreover that the process of fermentation of the raw kraut produces a substance called isothiocynates, which prevent cancer growth, particularly in the breast, colon, lung, and liver.

Our Recipe:

20 lbs. raw cabbage, chopped thin. You can also downsize this by working in 5 lb. increments.
3 level tablespoons kosher salt per 5 lbs. of raw cabbage
For each 5 lbs. raw cabbage (per layer), you can add
   1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds
   1/4 small green apple, peeled and seeded and finely chopped
   2-4 dried juniper berries
   1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and finely chopped

Method:

In a clean and sterilized food grade plastic container (with lid), layer in 5 lbs. of raw cabbage.

Sprinkle 3 level tablespoons of salt over each 5 lb. layer, and if desired, add caraway seeds, apple, juniper berries, and/or carrot. Repeat for each 5 lbs. Sofija likes to skip everything (caraway, apple, etc.) except the necessary salt and pour about a 1/2 cup of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice over the last layer of cabbage. I think this helps quicken the fermentation.

Make sure you FIRMLY PACK each layer. I actually pound it down with my fist and pretend it’s a book critic.

After adding your final 5 lb. layer of raw cabbage, cover with a sturdy plate that covers all the cabbage. If there’s any on the side of the fermenter, push the pieces back down under the plate. Take a weight (or brick) enclosed in a sealed plastic bag and place on plate. Cover. If you’re going to use a fermenter as I have, put in an air trap and fill it with a little vodka.

Keep at room temperature and in about 48 hours, you should see liquid in the container. The salt draws out the water from the cabbage and sets up wild fermentation. The salt actually helps to inhibit any mold as the cabbage begins to ferment. After a few more days, check to see if there’s any foam on top of the liquid. If so, use a clean spoon to remove.

Place fermenter in a cooler area, about 65 F or so.

Depending on how sour you want the kraut, you can let it go 2 weeks to a month. Taste to make sure. If the kraut is a bit salty, before you prepare it for the table, you can drain and store the liquid and thoroughly rinse the kraut. Then very gradually, keep adding back some of the liquid to taste.

Serve hot or cold. While we customarily seem to always cook sauerkraut, it’s excellent served as a cold side dish and is actually more healthy in this form. If you go “cold,” start enjoying in 7-10 days. Lotta crunch and really fresh tasting. Its amazing what lactobacilli can do, that is, aside from ruining beer or making Belgian brewers wealthy.

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