Eric's Kaleidoscope Kraut
For many people, raw sauerkraut is an acquired taste. Personally, I never liked it until I made it myself, and have been hooked on it ever since. Kraut's enzyme, probiotic and anticarcinogenic-nutrient rich properties make it a powerhouse condiment that goes with just about any dish (at my table at any rate).
Formulating an actual recipe for my kraut has been kind of a challenge because I never measure anything, including the salt, so you may have to play with this to make it work for you the way it works for me. There are as many ways to make sauerkraut as ways to eat it, so this is just the way I have developed it over the years starting from a simple recipe of cabbage and salt.
The kraut comes out different every time and usually I don't like the way it tastes when it's done. Somehow I never remember this and I put it in the fridge disappointed. I wind up trying it a few days later and always think it's the best kraut I've ever had. So don't despair if you don't like it immediately after you harvest it. Give it a few days and enjoy!
- 2 large heads of cabbage (purple or green or one of each if you're feeling funky. Kraut with purple cabbage or red beets winds up pink!)
- 1/2 bunch parsley (curly or flat)
- 1 small leek
- 1 small gold beet
- 1 medium - large carrot
- 1/2 bunch rainbow chard
- 1/2 cup dry arame or dulse flakes
- 1-4 (or more) cloves of garlic a couple of handfuls total of fresh herbs - whatever sounds/looks good when you're in the produce aisle basil, cilantro, thyme, dill, etc.
- 1-2 tablespoons spice: I like cumin (seeds or powder) and fresh ground pepper, but you could also use caraway seeds, fennel, anise, ginger, etc. - the sky is the limit (you may want to limit it to 1-3 herbs and 1-3 spices that compliment the other flavors, however, so as not to overwhelm the palate)
- 2-3 tablespoons Celtic, Himalayan or another quality unrefined sea salt
Assortment of other fresh veggies:
Sometimes I like burdock, onions, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, turnips, beet greens, sunchokes, kale, and/or collard greens - again, whatever looks good to you in the produce aisle as long as it is kind of hearty - just stay away from lettuces and spinach. Some people like to add fruit like apples. Once you become an adept kraut maker, you may feel like experimenting more.
Soak seaweed in water while you prepare other vegetables. Chop, dice, or grate cabbage, chard, parsley, leek, garlic and any fresh herbs and add to a large bowl. Cut the beet and carrot lengthwise into smaller pieces and slice thin and add to the bowl. I sprinkle salt onto the veggies as I add then to the bowl. Add soaked seaweed. With your freshly washed hands - balled into fists, or some kind of blunt object (some people cover the larger end of a baseball bat with a plastic bag), knead the ingredients until thoroughly mixed and you feel like you've pulverized some of the larger pieces.
Add handfuls of proto-kraut to a 1-gallon (or greater capacity) ceramic crock (a large glass cookie jar works too), packing tightly as you go. If I have some leftover juice from a previous batch of kraut, I will often add it to the new batch to help speed up the fermentation process and keep the lineage of the previous krauts alive.
Cover the kraut with a plate that fits snugly in your container, place a clean weight on top - a 1/2 - a full gallon jug of water usually works nicely, and cover the whole thing with a towel to keep the bugs out. The extra weight helps force water out of the veggies and keep everybody under the surface of the brine. Sometimes it takes a little time for the salt to coax the water out of the veggies.
If the brine hasn't completely covered the veggies after a day,add about a tablespoon of salt to a cup or two of water, mix until the salt is dissolved, and add to the kraut. Keep adding salt water until the veggies are under at least a 1/2 inch of brine. I've only had to add water once though. Store the your kraut container somewhere out of the way and let it sit.
Check your kraut every couple of days and look for bubble formations. These tell you that the fermentation process is well under way. Sometimes mold or what looks like scum will form on the surface of the brine - do not be alarmed! Just scrape it off and carry on. How long the process takes depends on the temperature of the area where you are storing it and whether you've been good or not - I'm only half joking on that last part.
In a warm environment it could take as little as a week (or even a few days if you have added juice from a previous batch). In a cool basement it could take a month or more - in fact, this is how many people throughout the ages have preserved cabbage and other veggies for long periods of time.
When you see the above mentioned signs, remove weight and plate, rinse them off and set aside while you taste the kraut. I generally take a forkful from the middle to taste. It will start to get tangy like vinegar. One thing you can try is harvesting small amounts at a time in order to get a sense of the various flavor stages it moves through as the process develops.
Make sure to repack the kraut each time you remove some. If the process goes too far, the kraut begins to get soft or mushy and unpleasant tasting. You will mostly likely have harvested it long before it gets to that point though so don't worry about that.
When you are ready to harvest it, scoop the kraut into glass jars, adding juice and packing each one so the brine covers the kraut, and put them in the fridge. You're done! Now enjoy a scoop or three on anything you can think of. There have been many times when I added kraut to something convinced that its flavor would not compliment the dish and have been wrong every time. I like it with just about everything but dessert. Eating kraut and/or other cultured foods daily will improve digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Cooking the kraut will kill the healthy probiotic strains of bacteria and destroy the enzymes. Remember, your kraut is alive!
Have fun experimenting with your own recipes and share liberally with your friends and family. Be well!
Eric Norman, NTP
About the Cook:
Eric Norman is a Portland-based Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and CranioSacral Therapist. You can learn more by going to EricNorman-NTP.com or by calling 503-985-8482.