Monday, April 20, 2020

Covid Cabbage

…also known as sauerkraut.

One of the simplest and most universal ferments.

All of a sudden, buying vegetables is not a sure thing. So gather ye cabbages while ye may…and ferment them!

To topic of sauerkraut has been beaten to death, but I can add some advice on jar selection.

Here goes:
  1. Cabbage.

    Green round cabbage is great. Red cabbage is great too…it may be a little sweeter and ferment a little faster…some claim that it is even more nutritious…the juice will also stain things. Napa ("Chinese") cabbage and Savoy cabbage work well too; be aware that they are more odiferous.

    Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage if you don't like the looks of them.

    Make a note of the weight of your cabbage.

    Slice or chop your cabbage, however you like. Chop the core more finely than the rest.

    Put the chopped cabbage in a big mixing bowl.
  2. Jar selection.

    The weight of the cabbage informs jar selection. I pretty much always use Mason jars. The standard sizes are: 8 ozs, 12 ozs, 16 ozs (pint), 24 ozs, 32 ozs, 64 ozs. In metric, that's approximately 250ml, 375ml, 500ml, 750ml, 1L, 2L. It's nice but not necessary to have all of these on hand. You can also reuse old peanut butter jars or spaghetti sauce jars or pickle jars or whatever.

    The crucial insight is that cabbage has approximately the same density as water. This means that ounces of cabbage translate to fluid ounces, and grams of cabbage translate to milliliters.

    Here's how it works:

    Take the weight of the cabbage, add 25% or so to leave some headroom, and that tells you the size of the jar(s) you need. So if you have 12 ozs of cabbage, you'll want a 16 oz (pint) jar. If you have 800g of cabbage, you'll want a liter jar.

    If you have 40 ozs of cabbage, you could use 3 x 16 oz jars, or perhaps 2 x 24 oz jars (my favorites).

    If you have 6 or 7 lbs of cabbage, you could use 8 lbs worth of jar, so 2 x 64 oz or 4 x 32 oz jars.

    Get it?

    Ask me in the comments if you'd like more examples.
  3. Salt.

    Add salt to the chopped cabbage: 2 tsp per pound (if you're using pounds and ounces), or 2% by weight (if you're using metric). The purpose of the salt is to help preserve the cabbage. It's not (only) for flavor. Use nice salt, not the cheapest stuff.

    Squeeze and massage the cabbage and salt aggressively until things are really juicy.
  4. Packing.

    Stuff the cabbage and liquid into the jars. Do not be shy about it. Try to distribute the liquid evenly among the jars, if you are using more than one jar. When you push down on the cabbage, the liquid should rise above the top of the cabbage.

    Close the lids semi-loosely.

    Label them with the date, using masking tape and a sharpie.
  5. Fermenting.

    Leave the jars on the counter, in plain sight. Every day or so, open the lid a little and let gas escape if needed. If the cabbage rises above the liquid, push it down below the liquid, at least momentarily.

    Start eating the sauerkraut after a week or longer. If at some point you decide you don't want it to get more sour, you can put it in the fridge—but it can also happily sit on the counter for months or even a year.

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