All the talk of pastrami on another thread got me to thinking - I need some sauerkraut to go on my Ruben sandwiches when I make the pastrami. If you like sauerkraut and have never made it you should give it a try. It's much better tasting and way better for you than you what you get in a can or at the grocery store. It's also one of the easiest recipes I know to make.
Ingredients for one gallon:
2 heads of cabbage plus or minus - about 5-6 pounds total
3 tablespoons kosher salt
-a one gallon crock or glass jar - no plastic or metal
-a plate that just fits inside the crock
-something to weight the plate down - I use an empty 1/2 gallon bottle from some Marguerita mix filled with water.
How to do it:
Shred the cabbage - I just use a large kitchen knife and cut the heads into thin shreds, sort of like cole slaw. You can throw away the core or cut it up too. I throw it away. Put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle on the salt. Let it stand for 10-15 minutes. The salt will start to wilt the cabbage and draw out some moisture.
Pack the cabbage into the crock. And I mean really pack! I take my weight bottle or a bottle of wine and pound the cabbage down in layers. Put in a couple of inches then pound it down, then add more, until all of your cabbage is in the crock. If there is any brine left in your bowl, pour that in as well. Brine should start to form soon as the salt draws moisture from the cabbage. Put your plate on top of the cabbage and your weight on top of that. I usually set the whole thing in a pie pan in case the brine overflows. The object here is to keep all of the cabbage under the brine, none of it exposed to air. Set the whole thing on the back of the counter and leave it alone. Every few hours during the first day press down on your weight to keep forcing out air and to compact the cabbage. You should soon have enough brine that your cabbage can remain safely submerged. You could drape a towel over it at this point to keep out dust if you like.
In a day or so you should start to see signs of fermentation. What is happening is a fermentation by lactobacilli that naturally occur on the cabbage - the same type of bacteria that makes yogurt. The salt environment favors the bacteria that makes this fermentation work. In about a week you can start eating the sauerkraut - it will keep fermenting for a couple of weeks or so depending on the temperature, but is OK to eat before it's totally done. It will keep getting better with time. After the fermentation slows, usually after about two weeks, I put mine in the fridge where it will keep mellowing for months, if it lasts that long! You could also put it in a cool basement - it does not need to be refrigerated, but the cooler environment will keep it mellowing longer. If mold forms on the surface of the brine, just skim it off, it is no problem. Just be sure to keep the sauerkraut under the brine. Each time you take some to eat, wash off your plate and weight, replace the plate and weight to keep the remaining sauerkraut under the brine. If you need some more brine at any point due to evaporation just add some salt water, abut one teaspoon to a cup of water.