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If you have read my post about Anaerobic Fermentation our GAPS Missing Piece you know how important the Pickl-It jar is proving to be in our GAPS healing journey. Some have asked me how I make sauerkraut so I’m going to share that recipe with you today. For this recipe to work you do need a special anaerobicfermenting jar or Fermenting Crock. I choose to use the Pickl-It jar because it is not prone to mold like crocks can be and because if I do get mold in it I can easily replace the non-glass pieces and keep most of my investment. I do not know of any other jar that works to keep oxygen out and yet allow for easy off gassing like the Pickl-It does. I have seen photos of browning foods in mason jars with various air locks on the top that prove that they are not actually air tight so I personally will not be trying to use one of those.
Fall is the perfect time to be making your years supply of sauerkraut. Your basement should be cooling off and cabbage is rolling in at the farmers markets. It would be ideal to make up your years supply at once and then eat from it for the rest of the year with it getting better and better as time goes on. Sauerkraut in an anaerobic vessel will keep for a year or more in a temperature controlled environment. (Not too hot, not too cold, like a root cellar). But that is a lot of work all at once too so instead I tend to stagger it. My current goal is to make 5-6 L every month and see how we do with that. We do love eating our kraut and it is a powerhouse for improving digestion and health in general but we also get tired of it at times and like to eat other things.
Just today I opened up the Sauerkraut I made 10 weeks ago. My first thought when I tasted it was “Wow is this SOUR!” Not sure what I did differently this time but my last batch was not so sour. Based on my yogurt experiments I have reason to believe that more sour means more LAB’s so I take it as a good sign that my Kraut was very happy this time. I’m so excited about having all of this kraut ready for us and more on the way. There is a good reason why the GAPS book emphasizes it as a very healing food. Sauerkraut is a very complex ferment that will benefit your digestion in several ways. First it is made of cabbage and cabbage contains components that stimulate bile flow. It is sour which means it is acidic. That works together with your own stomach acid to more effectively digest protein foods. It is full of lactic acid bacteria (LAB’s) that help to bolster your guts own beneficial bacteria and fight the pathogenic ones. Properly fermented sauerkraut is full of enzymes that help to directly digest your food for you. It is also full of vitamin C. It used to be taken on sea journeys to help prevent scurvy. Those of us on the Low Oxalate Diet need to be careful about vitamin C supplements so foods rich in vitamin c are especially important in our diets. Every little bit adds up.
Sauerkraut in the Pickl-It Jar
You will need
Pickl-It Jar of any size, I prefer a 3L.
Large Bowl(s) for holding shredded cabbage
Dunk’r 1-5 depending on the size of your jar (optional)
Cabbage Local Organic if you can find it. Local matters most.
Finely Ground Salt This is a really good choice. It is unrefined, not wet (could harbor mold) and ground finely to easily dissolve Himalayan Pink Salt
First cut the cabbage into wedges using your chefs knife and remove the core. You can make 4-8 wedges depending on the size of your head.
Next weigh your cabbage. I like to do this at this point so that I will know how much salt to measure out and I can add the salt to the cabbage as I shred it. I find that about 2 lbs of cabbage fits into 1L of space so depending on the size jar you are wanting to fill you can judge how much cabbage you need. Take into account the head space needed in the jar. I reduce my cabbage weight by 1/2-1 lb depending on how big a jar it is. (more for bigger jars). You want to fill the jar with cabbage to just 1 inch below the shoulder. For example, I put about 5 lbs of cabbage in a 3L Pickl-It jar.
Next weigh your salt. Don’t forget to convert your scale to weighing grams and zero out your bowl for measuring the salt. You want 19 grams of salt per 3 lbs of cabbage. For that 5 lbs of cabbage I would measure out 32 grams of salt
Next begin to shred your cabbage into your large bowl using a mandoline. It is important that you slice the cabbage very evenly and thinly so that it will ferment evenly. Be very careful with the mandoline! It is very easy to cut yourself. Blood and cabbage do not mix. :)
Stop occasionally to sprinkle some of your measured salt onto the cabbage that you have shredded. You want all of the cabbage to come in contact with some salt so I like to salt it as I go along and then mix it a bit once I am done shredding.
Set the shredded, salted cabbage aside for at least 20 min, longer is fine. It will begin to soften some and weep liquid while it is resting like this. The longer you can let that process go the easier your next step will be.
Now pack the cabbage into the Pickl-It Jar.
Put it into the jar in layers. Pack those layers down firmly using your pounder as you go along. You will be amazed at how much it will compact. Fill it just to 1 inch lower than the shoulder of the jar. (No less than 75% full.) In the early stages of fermenting sauerkraut can expand and bubble an amazing amount and you don’t want that liquid to come out of the air lock. You want your brine to be right up to the shoulder but the solids about an inch lower. Don’t despair if your cabbage did not create that much brine. I have a solution for that coming up.
Pour any liquid and salt that is remaining in your bowl into the jar.
Add in the dunk’r (s). Generally you can fit one in the smaller jars and then 2 in a 2L, 3 in a 3L and so on. Go ahead and push down on that dunk’r and see how much liquid comes out of the kraut. The dunk’r is not strictly necessary. It helps to hold your cabbage under the brine. If your cabbage is above the brine it will get soft and not ferment evenly but it will not get moldy or rot in a pickl-it jar since the jar excludes oxygen.
Assemble the air lock and add it to the jar. Don’t forget to fill the air lock with water!
After 24 hours check the brine level. Lots of liquid should have come out of the cabbage in that time. If there is less than 1 inch of brine over cabbage make up a brine to add. 19g of salt per 4 cups of filtered water is your formula for making brine. I often push my cabbage back under the brine a time or two in the early days of fermenting (yes I open the jar, it is ok because at that stage the fermenting process is creating so much gas that it easily pushes any oxygen back out of the jar quickly).
Let it sit out in a room that is in the low 70′s for 10 days-2 weeks. You will need to move it sooner if your room is much hotter. Be sure to wrap your jar in a towel or something to protect it from the light or some of the processes will be harmed (the ones that make enzymes and vitamin C to name 2). Once it stops bubbling actively you can move it to a cooler spot. Check it daily once you get to one week on the shelf so that you can move it at the right time. That may be your basement in the winter, a root cellar or your refrigerator. Kraut prefers to be at ground temperature 50-55 degrees, while it is doing most of it’s fermenting. Refrigerators are much cooler than that so they may slow the process a bit but that is better than leaving it at room temperature where it can over ferment. If your home is warmer than 55 the sauerkraut will not progress through it’s stages of fermenting any faster but it will use up all of it’s food in an early stage and not have any left to finish the job. This will result in your bacteria dying and never creating that final product you are waiting for. (It may be full of aldehyde and histamines that are created early in the fermenting but destroyed at later stages and will be missing the enzymes and vitamin c that are produced late.)
The owner of the Pickl-It Jar business, suggests that you taste your sauerkraut after 8 total weeks and if still tastes of salt or cabbage let it keep going. Even after it is ready to eat, it is best to keep the air lock on for 5 months since the kraut continues to ferment and change over that time. You don’t want those gases it creates (carbon dioxide, sufur and others) to be trapped in the jar harming your enzymes (see “Why I Won’t Ferment Without a Separate Air Lock Part 1” for more about this issue) and creating off flavors.
Once the sauerkraut is finished it continues to be imperative to protect it from oxygen. You might ask “how can I do this and still eat it?” There are two things you can do. First only open it when you want to eat it. Try to not “mess with it” too much. Then store it is an air tight jar, like a Fido jar, that is at least half full of food (3/4 is better). This limits how much oxygen can be in the jar and come into contact with the food at any one time. The LAB’s do have a limited ability to consume oxygen and eliminate it from their space so keeping the head space in the jar limited will protect your ferments. You might ask “if it can consume oxygen why not just use a mason jar? Not all bacteria like oxygen and they have a very limited ability to consume it. If you use a lid that lets in oxygen (like a mason jar lid) or too much air space in your Fido jar, you will overwhelm the LAB’s ability to consume the oxygen and risk killing off the more sensitive bacteria or worse causing spoilage. Finding that balance where you can get the most LAB’s while also consuming the fermented food is what you are trying to do.
Please do not be overwhelmed by all of the steps in this process! I wanted to be thorough so that you can be successful right from the start. If you are more of a visual learner go check out this video on how to make Sauerkraut in a Pickl-It Jar.
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