Sauerkraut, Rising Tides and Where It All Began

August 2010

I started working with Marla and the Food Action Committee in August. I had been living in Toronto, working at the Toronto Refugee Community Non-Profit Homes and Services, for about a year and was looking forward to moving home and being close to the ocean again.

Starting a local food focused job in August in Nova Scotia is like jumping into a huge puddle – impossible to refuse, wildly fun, and a bit messy. The season was in full swing to say the least!

Marla had been invited to attend a number of farmer’s markets and community festivals across the province, asked to demonstrate ways of preserving local food to those passing by. It was a terrific opportunity (I mean, who doesn’t want to tour Nova Scotia’s farmer’s markets!?) but there were logistic questions and concerns… is there electricity? can we make jam on a hot plate? can folks actively participate? botulism?

In the end, we decided to talk to people about canning (displaying the tools and offering up recipes, tips and resources) and to demonstrate sauerkraut.

Marla and I had never made sauerkraut – but why let that stop us? I picked up a purple cabbage and took over my sister’s kitchen. The process was simple – a bit messy due to the purple of my purple cabbage. All in all, a success.

The first stop on our “tour” was the Bridgewater Sustainability Festival. It was a beautiful day and our table was placed close to both the terrific live music and the colourful farmer’s market. We had ordered cabbage – and lots of it – from a local farmer. People were interested so we got started on our first bucket of community kraut. We quicklt learned that we were surrounded by experts – Germans! It was a great day of knowledge and skill sharing. One couple in particular, Nancy and Ernie, offered up a wealth of information on sauerkraut making . Their most important tip: Start your sauerkraut a few days before the full moon as this will help draw out the water in your cabbage. You never need to add brine (salt water) to your sauerkraut if you make in line with the moon.

Overall, Marla and I have made sauerkraut with FAC, in Bridgewater, at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market and in Musquodoboit Habour. We’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

Now, the challenge is what to do with all this kraut! Do you want some???

Yours in Food, Keltie

SAUERKRAUT

Wash and cut (or shred) fresh cabbage. Remove any outer leaves that are damaged.

Salt and mix the cabbage in a non-metal bowl. Use 5 tsp of salt for every head of cabbage.

Pack cabbage into a crock or food-grade plastic bucket. Press the cabbage down using your hands or a non-mental tool (such as a mason jar or wooden rolling pin). If you like your kraut crispy, be gentle. -Water will emerge from the cabbage.

Lay a plate, fitted to the size of your container, directly on top of the sauerkraut (or what will become sauerkraut in time). On top of the plate, rest a weight (such as a clean rock, heavy jug or bag of water).

Let stand up to 6 weeks (depending on how strong you would like your sauerkraut to taste). You may notice scum building on the top of your brine. Remove this scum as necessary.

Delicious Additions to Sauerkraut: apple, dill seed, beet, caraway seed, onion, celery seeds.

Cut  cabbage, mixed with salt.

Plate placed on top of cut cabbage.

Waiting… (Ecology Action Centre basement)…

SCUM!!! Undeniably, it looks totally gross but don’t panic – just skim off the scum with a (non-metal) spoon and you’re fine.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS
Linda Ziedrich’s ‘The Joy of Pickling’ (Harvard Common Press, 2009)
For sauerkraut, but also other lacto-ferments

Problem: White scum on top
Possible Causes: Yeast – the plate or brine bag did not exclude all air during fermentation. Skim off scum daily.

Problem: Sliminess
Possible Causes: The temperature was too high during fermentation or the salt content was too low. Dump this batch.

Problem: Dark colour at top
Possible Causes: Oxidation – the salting was uneven, fermentation temperatures were too high, or the kraut (or other lacto-ferments) was stored for too long or at too high a temperature. Discard the darkened kraut.

Problem: Soft texture
Possible Causes: Too little salt was used, the salting was uneven, fermentation temperatures were too high, or the kraut wasn’t firmly packed in the crock.

Problem: Mold on top
Possible Causes: The fermentation temperature was too high, and the kraut wasn’t well covered. Remove moldy pieces promptly.

Problem: Pink colour on top
Possible Causes: Yeast – too much salt was used, the salting was uneven, or the kraut wasn’t well covered or weighted during fermentation.  Skim off pink kraut.

And a very special way to use some of that sauerkraut:

CHOCOLATE SAUERKRAUT CUPCAKES (really)

1 cup sauerkraut
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2/3 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Rinse and drain sauerkraut then run through the food processor to make fine. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well incorporated. Beat in sauerkraut. In a second bowl, combine dry ingredients, sifting each. Add dry to wet batter in thirds, adding water in between each addition. Beat only lightly. Add the chocolate chips using a wooden spoon.

Line muffin tins with cupcake papers and fill with batter. Bake for 20 minutes (check with a toothpick). Let cool 5 minutes than remove from pan. Ice cupcake when completely cool.

CHOCOLATE ICING

4 cups icing sugar
½ cup cocoa
1/3 cup butter
1 ½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup milk
Beat butter and 2 cups icing sugar. Add cocoa and beat. Add 2 cups icing sugar, milk and vanilla. Beat.

3 thoughts on “Sauerkraut, Rising Tides and Where It All Began

  1. Glad to see some fermentation going on – the sauerkraut looks awesome! Have you ever tried making kimchi in the same way? Glad to see the blog up and running.

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