ERIN HARNER: Now we're going to come over here and we're going to start making our sauerkraut. So sauerkraut is a fermented food that's been around for thousands of years as well. And it's really made of just two ingredients. Basic, super, super, basic sauerkraut is cabbage and salt.
And that's it. That's it. You can make fancier sauerkraut, and I'll tell you about how to make fancier sauerkraut, but it's really just cabbage and salt. OK, so let's get started.
The first thing you're going to do with your sauerkraut or with your cabbage is just peel off the outside leaves. We're going to just put them over here. So you just want to make sure that your leaves are all clean and that you've peeled off the outside leaves so that there's no kind of bacteria or any other funny stuff on there from the store or from the market where you purchased it.
OK. So, looks pretty clean. And I did give it a rinse before we started. The next thing I'm going to do is just take our nice, sharp chef's knife-- and it's really nice to have a big chef's knife for this job-- is we're going to cut in half, place the halves down, and cut it in quarters.
So take our cabbage, cut it in four quarters. I'm going to take the knife and just cut out a part of the core. So whenever you're cutting anything large or anything round, you want to make sure that you are cutting down from a circle to a flat surface. And just keeping the flat surface on your cutting board.
You'll also notice that on my cutting board, I put a wet towel underneath so that it doesn't slip. So I have a big knife and a big piece of cabbage, so you want to make sure that nothing is slipping and you're nice and safe. So we're just going to cut out the core.
All right. Now at this point, you have a couple options. If you have a food processor that you like to use, you can put it through the food processor with a shredding blade. So a shredding plate is going to make nice, thin cuts versus just shredding the whole thing. Or a slicing blade also works quite well.
Also sometimes called an s-blade on your food processor. Since we just have one cabbage and I don't really feel like cleaning a food processor today, which is often the case, I'm just going to use my knife and cut it in nice, thin strips. So I'm going to take the knife, and watch my fingers, and just go down the cabbage, cutting the cabbage into nice, thin strips. Now keep in mind, the thicker the strips you make, the longer it's going to take for your cabbage to get soft and to create a brine.
However, these are a little bit thicker than I usually do. Just to show you the difference. When you do a little thicker strips, it's going to make slightly crunchier sauerkraut. So it's not going to get as soft and soggy when it ferments.
So we're going to do the same thing. Going to make these a little bit thinner so I can show you. Just watching your fingers.
You can do long strips, short strips, whatever you'd like. If you'd like to cut these into eighths instead of quarters before you start cutting, that's fine too. And these are pretty long, so I'm just going to cut them in half and put them in our bowl here.
So this cabbage is about two and a half pounds before I cut out the core and before I cut took off the outer leaves. So about two pounds of cabbage will make one quart size jar of cabbage. So it is helpful to have a kitchen scale and to really measure to see how much cabbage you're using.
But if you have a little extra, that's OK. You can either eat it like a coleslaw or like a raw sauerkraut right away. Or you can just put your extra sauerkraut in a different jar, if you have too much, which is just fine too. And we have one more little piece.
You can see if you have a large, sharp knife, it's pretty quick to actually just cut it. I'd say it's probably just about as fast as getting the food processor together and putting the blades on the food processor, using the food processor, and then cleaning it up. So it's totally up to you. So we're going to put the rest of our cabbage in here. And I'm going to just set this aside.
So that's all the cutting we're going to do for this recipe. The next thing I'm going to do is add our salt. So there's four teaspoons of salt in here. We're just going to put the salt in here. And now this is where the magic happens.
And this is where you have to do a little bit of work, OK? I'm going to put on some gloves just because sometimes the salt will sting your hands, so it's nice to wear gloves to kind of protect your hands a little bit. Because I'm going to dive in there with my hands and really massage the sauerkraut or massage the cabbage pretty, pretty strongly. OK?
Going to use a little bit of muscle here, get right in the bowl, and squeeze. So what's going to happen is, yes, you'll make a little bit of a mess, and that's OK, but what you're going to do is really get your hands in there and squeeze. Sometimes this'll take about two minutes, sometimes it'll take about 10. It depends on how fresh your cabbage is, it depends on several different factors. If your cabbage is cold or if it's warm. But you'll see in just a couple minutes, that it's going to start to get nice and soft.
SPEAKER 1: Does it matter the kind of salt that you use?
ERIN HARNER: Got a little bit of my core in here. You want to make sure that your salt is not iodized, so I used sea salt so that you don't have iodized salt. Some people use kosher salt. You want your ingredients for fermented foods as minimal and as clean as possible.
The bacteria that are on these to help them ferment-- so the bacteria on the cabbage live on the cabbage. We don't need to add a starter, we don't need to add probiotics, we don't need to add anything to it. It's just going to ferment itself because the certain strains of bacteria that ferment sauerkraut live on cruciferous vegetables in particular. Many different vegetables, but cruciferous vegetables tend to be the best fermenters for fermenting sauerkraut or lacto-fermented vegetables.
SPEAKER 2: Can you make a sauerkraut equivalent out of something like broccoli?
ERIN HARNER: You can, yes. The difference between a cabbage and broccoli is the texture is very different. So broccoli has a stalk and little florets which make the texture a little bit funny, but you can make sauerkraut out of many different things. True sauerkraut is just cabbage and salt, but there are many different variations.
SPEAKER 3: Would you have to massage the broccoli?
ERIN HARNER: You would have to do it the same way. You'd have to shave it pretty finely and then do the same thing.
SPEAKER 4: Have you been massaging for texture or is it fundamental to the fermentation process?
ERIN HARNER: That's a great question. So what we're doing by massaging the sauerkraut, I don't know if you can see here, but it's starting to get soft and you're starting to see some water, some brine. So the salt is pulling water out of the cells of the cabbage into essentially extracellularly to make a brine.
So the more I squeeze this, the softer it gets, and you can start to see some dripping. You see that? Yeah, so there is some water starting to drip out of there. So you can actually just put the salt in and let it sit for about half an hour, keep mixing it up, and skip this part.
It will take longer, but you'll get to about the same point.
SPEAKER 5: How is this different from kimchi?
ERIN HARNER: Great question. So kimchi originated in Korea. Kimchi has many more ingredients. It starts with cabbage. Has anybody had kimchi?
Yeah, many of you? OK. I love kimchi. It's great. You'll see in the book that there's a great kimchi recipe in there.
Kimchi starts with Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage. Has ginger, garlic, red pepper, and a number of other ingredients in it. So it's really just the different flavors. But same, just a variation of sauerkraut.
SPEAKER 5: Same procedure?
ERIN HARNER: Same procedure, yup. Or similar procedure. Little bit different.
SPEAKER 5: Important to wear gloves when you've got spicy ingredients.
ERIN HARNER: Yes, yes, absolutely. So, all right. So I'm going to show you now. So I'm going to squeeze this and you'll see a lot of liquid drain out of there, OK?
So yes, I made a mess, and that's OK. This is nice and clean, and we're just going to throw it back in. You'll also see that the volume of the cabbage reduced by quite a bit. Everybody see that?
SPEAKER 6: Did you wash the cabbage before you cut?
ERIN HARNER: I did, yes. Washed the cabbage before I cut and I also took off all of the outer leaves.
SPEAKER 6: [INAUDIBLE].
ERIN HARNER: You can format, really, any member of the brassica family. Kale works great. The trick that I typically recommend is always start with about half cabbage, and then you can add other things. But cabbage is an excellent fermenter. It creates a really nice brine.
You can add beets, carrots, kale, garlic, dill, whatever you want to this basic mixture, and it will turn out great. Just different flavors. OK, now what we're going to do is take our nice sauerkraut mix-- just cabbage and salt, remember-- and put it into our jar.
OK. Beth, could you find me a big spoon, please? All right. So you'll see today I'm using lots of different mason jars. There's pints, half pints.
Thank you, Beth. I love these because they are glass. Fermentation is really important to do in either glass or ceramic. You want an inert substance that's not going to leech into the ferment.
And you want it to be nice and clean. So it doesn't need to be sterile. Remember, we're culturing microbes, so it doesn't have to be sterile for fermentation.
But you want it nice and clean. So this just came out of the dishwasher. All right.
SPEAKER 7: What about lids that have been rusted?
ERIN HARNER: So lids that have been rusted, you always want to throw away and get new ones. Or recycle them and get new ones. You don't want to use rusted lids. You can also use plastic caps, which I'll show you in just a second. All right.
So if you do home canning, you might have some of these fun tools. Like, this is a canning funnel. So what we're going to do is just take the funnel and put some of our sauerkraut in here. Now, this is a very important step. This is a kraut pounder.
A one purpose tool. I have it because my husband made it. You can buy these or you can use any blunt object that you have in your kitchen. So this is a specialty tool. Absolutely unnecessary to own a kraut pounder.
But if you're going to make a lot of kraut, it can make things really easy. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to put it in here and pack it down. And what you'll see is more liquid will start to come out of the sauerkraut the more we pack it down. So the idea is that we don't need to add any extra brine to the cabbage. It's going to create its own brine.
So we just keep adding the sauerkraut to our jar. Every few spoonfuls, we're going to take our pounder and pound it. Something else that works quite well that some people like to use is a small mason jar.
So if you have a half pint mason jar, it's a one cup mason jar, you can also just push it in once it gets a little bit closer to the top. So I'll show you how to use that in just a second. And as you can see, I'm making a mess, and it's OK. We're just going to clean up the mess at the end. This is not a clean and tidy process.
But if you remember just how large that cabbage was, it was a little bit over two pounds. Most of that cabbage is going to fit in this one jar, which is pretty amazing. You can also see, as I'm pounding it here, the liquid is starting to rise up above the cabbage, which is really important for fermenting. Lacto-fermenting, which is what we're doing, is lactic acid bacteria.
Things like acidophilus. And-- somebody help me out. What are some other lactic acid bacteria or some other bacteria that you might find in yogurt? Don't be shy.
SPEAKER 8: Lactobacillus?
ERIN HARNER: Lactobacillus, yup. So there's bifidobacteria, there's lactobacillae, there's lots of different types of probiotic bacteria. And mostly they produce lactic acid, which is going to make the mixture a little bit more-- it's going to give it a sour flavor and it's also going to make it a little bit more acidic.
And that's going to create the proper environment for the bacteria to essentially promote fermentation of the cabbage and also to prevent other things from getting into the culture and taking over. Things like molds or yeasts. This sauerkraut recipe is two ingredients and it's pretty fail safe. As long as you press it in, you use an adequate amount of salt, and you make sure that the liquid rises above the top, that's all you have to do.
There really is no way to screw it up. If you start to see any mold growth or anything like that, just throw it away. Start over. Something bad happened.
SPEAKER 9: Yeah, mine rotted this summer. That's why I'm here.
ERIN HARNER: OK. Yup, yup. So I like to use jars versus crocks just because it's a smaller quantity and also you have more control over the cleanliness of the glass. Now at this point, you have a couple options.
You can either put just a regular canning jar lid on it. You'll also notice that I left about an inch at the top of the sauerkraut. So to the bottom of this ring. What that's going to do is it's going to give us some room for-- the bubbles are going to come up that are produced by the lactic acid bacteria. And they're going to expand the sauerkraut.
So every few days, you're going to want to just open the lid and repack it down. And this is a great use of the jar. So you can just use the jar and repack it down. And just make sure that the liquid rises up above the cabbage. And then put the lid back on.
Now this recipe can ferment from anywhere from about five days to about a month. It's going to ferment faster in the summer with warmer temperatures and a little bit slower in the winter. So if you keep it in a sort of a cool, dry place with a fairly steady temperature, it's going to be one of the best places to ferment. You want to keep it out of direct sunlight.
SPEAKER 10: Not in the fridge?
ERIN HARNER: Not in the fridge. So putting it in the fridge immediately is going to halt all fermentation and you're essentially going to just end up with salty cabbage. You don't want to put it in the fridge until you're ready to stop the fermentation process. So when you're all done fermenting, when it gets to a flavor or taste that you really enjoy, what I recommend is taking the lid off.
Every few days, take a clean spoon or fork, and just try the sauerkraut. Right now it's salty cabbage. In about five days, it's going to turn a little bit more towards this color. It's going to get a little bit paler, a little bit darker. And it's going to get softer and more tangy.
When it gets to a texture, consistency, and flavor that you enjoy, just stick it in the fridge and enjoy it with your meals however you'd like to eat it. So that's all there is to making sauerkraut. Really quite simple.
SPEAKER 11: When will it last in the fridge?
ERIN HARNER: How long? Until you're done eating it. It'll last for months and months and months.
SPEAKER 9: Where do you get those?
ERIN HARNER: These? So I was going to tell you about one other little trick. So one other little trick is a stopcog or a water lock is what these are called. Any brewing store, anywhere that sells equipment or supplies for brewing wine or beer, many of you may have used these in the past for brewing wine or beer, also a fermented product.
What this will do is it will prevent us from having to open that jar every few days and burp it to let out the carbon dioxide. So what this'll do is after a few days, we'll have gas start to bubble up, and it'll just bubble right out of here. But no air can get into the jar. So lactic acid fermentation is an anaerobic process. That's why we want the water to come up above the sauerkraut so that no air can get into the sauerkraut mixture.
SPEAKER 12: If you don't have that and you don't burp it, will the pressure build up too high and break the glass?
ERIN HARNER: It's unlikely. I've never seen it break the glass, but you definitely don't want to forget about it. It could happen. It could happen. You'll definitely notice a pop when you take the lid off.
All right. So there's our sauerkraut, OK? Pretty simple. Who feels like they could go home and make the sauerkraut today? Awesome.
My job is accomplished. OK, what you'll also notice is there is an extra. Like I said, this cabbage was a little bit more than two pounds. If you have some extra, put it in a size jar that you feel is appropriate. Pint jar, quart jar, whatever you want, and just do the same process.
SPEAKER 13: You said we could add beets or carrots or other sorts of things.
ERIN HARNER: Yeah.
SPEAKER 13: So those would be without the massaging?
ERIN HARNER: You would want to put them in the mixture when you're adding the cabbage into the mixture. So you want to massage all those things. Yup, you want to smush it all together. Absolutely. Yup.
All right. So just to show you some other things. So this is Crooked Carrot, it's a local company. They have a community-supported kitchen. They sell at the farmer's market and many other places.
It's just one local company that does do fermentation and they sell their fermented products at several different stores, also at the farmer's market. So this is what red kraut looks like, or if you ferment red cabbage. Exact same process. You're just making red cabbage kraut instead of green cabbage kraut. OK?
So this kraut has been fermented for 21 days and then stuck in the refrigerator. So you'll get an opportunity to try this and the red cabbage kraut. And also Beth so kindly cut up some Bubbies Pickles for us. Pickles are one of those things that we think about with fermented foods, but they're one of the hardest things to make. Something called hollow pickle syndrome often occurs where the inside of the pickle gets eaten out.
These are a little bit more difficult and a little bit more temperamental. So if you're going to want to make pickles, fermented pickles, follow a recipe. And I recommend using a starter culture. And some locations to buy those starter cultures are listed on your handout.
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With only 2 ingredients, learn how to make sauerkraut at home. This fermented food provides healthy probiotics. Demo presented by Cornell Wellness staff Erin Harner, RDN.