It’s time for small-batch sauerkraut | Kitchen to Kitchen

Sidonie Maroon
Posted 3/9/22

Recently, as a weekend project, I made a batch of Curtido. It’s a cabbage kraut that’s crunchy, sour, and a delicious accompaniment to any Mexican meal.

Sauerkraut requires nothing …

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It’s time for small-batch sauerkraut | Kitchen to Kitchen

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Recently, as a weekend project, I made a batch of Curtido. It’s a cabbage kraut that’s crunchy, sour, and a delicious accompaniment to any Mexican meal.

Sauerkraut requires nothing more than vegetables, salt, and a container. The process goes like this — we salt vegetables for three to 14 days between 55 to 68 F. In this environment, the lactic acid-loving microorganisms already on the veggies proliferate. They go wild, eating the natural sugars in the produce and creating a pH between 4.2 to 4.5, which is the perfect sourness for our taste buds. 

The resulting kraut is delicious and good for our microbiome. It’s a win-win and humans have eaten lacto-fermented foods since at least 6000 B.C. 

Late winter is a wonderful time to make small batches of all kinds of pickles, kimchi, and krauts. It’s not quite gardening season, and messing about with kitchen science is fun. 

I like to experiment. 

OK, truth, I love to experiment. My pantry and fridge are laboratories of concoctions in varying stages. Once, a few years ago, I made four separate root krauts: beets, parsnips, rutabagas and carrots. I’m not fond of rutabagas and souring them did not help, but the parsnips, beets, and carrots were delicious. 

Kraut Wisdom

Set yourself up for success.

New techniques are intimidating, so ease in and get comfortable by gathering what’s needed ahead, reading through the recipe and visualizing the process.

It’s OK to play and take creative risks.

But do your research. Creativity thrives on book knowledge and hands-on experiences. All of your factoids will mull about and come in handy when you’re in the kitchen solving problems. Get into food science, be a nerd, and love it. Fermentation is fascinating. 

Begin Small and Stay Small 

Do you need five gallons of kraut, or would a couple of quarts suffice? This is the hardest lesson to learn! I have kitchen bigitus and always overdo. I’m attempting to not exhaust myself, and instead, enjoy the process. 

Enjoy and Slow Down! 

Red cabbages are gorgeous inside, and winter carrots are sweet. Don’t rush what’s important in life. A kitchen project is a tiny staycation, and an island of sanctuary amid rapidly moving time. 

Read Up

“Fermented Vegetables” by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey is a fabulous reference book for recipes and techniques. They explain the art and science of kraut, brined pickles, and kimchi. Best of all, they have delicious recipes for all kinds of vegetables from asparagus to zucchini.

“UNDER THE BRINE, FEELING FINE.” 

Remember this simple phrase to keep your ferments safe to eat. The good bacteria in the kraut don’t need oxygen, but many of the bad guys do. When the ferment is under brine, it lacks oxygen, so keep veggies well under the brine. 

Safety Checklist 

Lacto-fermentation is an age-old safe process, but it’s wise to follow basic kitchen practices: follow your nose, eyes, and common sense. Clean all work surfaces, tools, and your hands with warm, soapy water. Rinse vegetables in cool water without soap. Keep everything under the brine. During fermentation, put the jars where the temperature is a constant 55 to 75 F. 

Store cured ferments in the refrigerator. Don’t eat if it looks or smells rotten. 

Red Cabbage Curtido

Makes two quarts and a little extra.  

Ingredients 

1 red cabbage, about 4 pounds, cored and grated  

4 medium carrots, grated

1 white onion, thinly sliced 

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled 

2 teaspoons red chili flakes 

2 teaspoons whole cumin, toasted and ground 

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions 

Quarter and core the red cabbage, saving the tougher outer leaves. Using a food processor or by hand, grate the red cabbage and carrots. 

Thinly slice the onions. A mandolin works well, and cut into slivers. Mince the garlic. 

Toast the whole cumin in a skillet over a medium heat until fragrant. Grind the cumin in a spice grinder or coffee mill. 

In a large non-reactive work bowl, mix the ingredients with your hands, working the salt into the cabbage. 

Using a clean ½ gallon or two quart jars, pack handfuls of the kraut into a jar, using your fist, or a mashing tool to release the kraut’s juices.

Leave 2 inches of headroom at the top If you have kraut left over, then pack it into a smaller jar. 

Tuck a cabbage leaf into the top of the jars. Fill a clean jelly jar with water, and put it on the cabbage leaf as a weight. The brine should rise to the top of the jar with all the kraut under the brine. Set the jars in a casserole dish, or bowl, because the brine will overflow as it cultures and ferments. 

Leave at room temperature 55 to 70 F for about three days or until it looks bubbly and tastes sour. 

When ready, remove the weights and cabbage leaves. It should taste slightly sour and not too salty. You can eat some now, but it needs to be refrigerated, and will continue to develop flavor as it ages. Try to keep the kraut submerged under the brine. If it gets mushy and smells bad, then throw it out. 

Otherwise, if it smells and tastes like kraut, then it’s good to eat. It will last up to a year in the fridge, but eating a little every day is a better idea. 

(Sidonie Maroon it the culinary educatior at The Food Co-op; abluedotkitchen.com. Follow Sidonie on The Food Co-op’s Facebook group Cooking with the Co-op. For additional recipes on kraut, visit foodcoop.coop/recipes.)

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