As if right on cue I see a few leaves starting to yellow up when looking out my windows these days. The nights of the last few days have been illuminated by huge beautiful harvest moons. Our windows are again open and we enjoy the nip in the air when sleeping under open windows serenaded by the owls and coyotes. Snuggled under a light quilt for the first time this year.
And like every fall the sauerkraut is ready. Many weeks ago I shredded the last of my cabbage harvest after making freezer slaw and freezing some for smothering.
Every year I grow the open pollinated heirloom Early Jersey Wakefield. A small conical headed cabbage that does really well on my farm. It seems to resist splitting much better than the larger headed varieties and has become our standard cabbage.
We start them from seeds every year right here on the farm and as you can see above they reward us with wonderful harvests of fresh crisp cabbage heads.
And every year I dig out the trusty old crock and start shredding cabbage.
I have several antique slaw cutters that belonged to various members of O Wise One's family but I just simply use my cheap Walmart mandolin slicer. Once chopped I use 3 tablespoons pickling salt to every 5 pounds of shredded cabbage. Pack the shredded cabbage firmly in the crock. I use a wooden rolling pin that has no handle to firmly pack my kraut and then sprinkle the salt over the top. Then I add another 5 pounds and sprinkle the salt over the top. Do this until you are within about 6 inches of the top or have the amount of kraut that you want. If the brine does not cover the cabbage I make an additional brine of 1 1/2 Tablespoons pickling salt to 1 quart water. Then I cover my cabbage with cheesecloth or maybe even large cabbage leaves that have been set aside and cover everything with brine. Then I set an old dinner plate on top to weight it all down. You can also use a plastic bag filled with water.
Then I let my crock set in a cool and out of the way place for between 3 to 6 weeks. Make sure and cover with muslin to keep out any fruit gnats and insects. Every day I skim off any scum that may form. This will start to bubble and smell awful. And I do mean awful. Once the kraut stops bubbling I start sampling a little that I have taken out and rinsed. When it is as salty as I want it then I remove my kraut and rinse with cold water through a colander. Then it is ready to can.
I heat my jars and lids.
And place my rinsed kraut in a large pot. I mix up a new brine of 1 1/2 Tablespoons pickling salt to 1 quart of water. Mix enough brine to cover kraut completely. Behind this pot you will see a pot of extra brine heating to make sure I have enough brine when I start filling my jars. You want everything hot.
Now I bring my kraut up to a simmer and I want it at 180 degrees. DO NOT BOIL!
Pack hot sauerkraut into hot jars and I like to leave about 1 inch headspace. Then cover with hot brine from the pot or from the extra pot of brine if you need it. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims and place hot lids and rings on each jar. Finger tighten only.
I process my pints 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Quarts 20 minutes. Remove from canner and allow to cool overnight.
Since I had a few jars left from last year I only made 9 jars of kraut. That should be more than enough to last us through the winter or until the next cabbage harvest.
This kraut will be served with O Wise One's homemade venison and pork smoked brats in the freezer.
And that is the last of my cabbage for the year either put up in freezer slaw, frozen in bags for soups and smothering or sauerkraut. Another crop down for the year. The crock is washed and tucked back away till next sauerkraut season.
Now I know there are many different way to make kraut out there and I am curious how many of you still make kraut and how do you make it. Do you ferment it in crocks like mine or do you ferment your kraut in the jars?
Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter