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Making Sauerkraut with FarmSteady's "Kraut Kit"

Printed From: Foods of the World Forum
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Forum Name: Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating and Other Food Preservation
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URL: http://foodsoftheworld.ActiveBoards.net/forum_posts.asp?TID=4797
Printed Date: 21 October 2018 at 21:53


Topic: Making Sauerkraut with FarmSteady's "Kraut Kit"
Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Subject: Making Sauerkraut with FarmSteady's "Kraut Kit"
Date Posted: 03 May 2017 at 19:11

Making Sauerkraut with FarmSteady's "Kraut Kit"


I have had an interest in gardening as long as I can remember, even though I’m not very good at it. Some of my earliest memories involve my grandfather in North Dakota working on his garden, and of our family enjoying the fresh tomatoes and other produce that was grown in it. My parents, especially my dad, also did a lot of gardening when I was a child, and my dad still does. My thumb isn’t quite as green, but I keep trying to grow a garden each year, and I’ve tried to teach the importance of gardening to my own children; I have had some success in this with at least two of them. The tradition of working with the land runs quite deeply in my family, back through Montana, North Dakota, Ukraine, Germany and Alsace. It produces some of the best, most wholesome food that a person could ask for on this earth, and it is virtually free! All one has to do is invest a little time and effort.


Hand-in-hand with gardening is food preservation, part of the ancient ritual of “putting food up” for lean times, be they winter, famine or some other adverse condition. When gardening, there is an added factor of surplus food to be dealt with; there is often more fresh, perishable food grown than one can eat in the limited time that it is available before it spoils. There are many ways to go about this, and virtually any food can be preserved - even milk, in the form of cheese and other products. With modern (and not-so-modern) innovations, food preservation methods include freezing, canning and other practices; however, before those technologies were developed, people engaged in other food-preservation methods such as dehydrating, curing….


...and fermentation - in this case, lacto-fermentation.


It is not my intention or desire to give a Chemistry lesson on the process of lacto-fermentation, but here is a brief summary as it relates to food preservation:


Quote From http://www.culturesforhealth.com:


Fermentation is as old as life itself. At some point, humans learned to guide the process to repeat especially tasty results. These processes have been handed down and passed around, creating beloved foods and national dishes. The most familiar fermented foods are made using lacto-fermentation.


Most people think about beer or wine when they hear the term fermentation. While certain yeasts are used to convert the sugars in grape juice or grains into alcohol, it is bacteria that are responsible for lacto-fermentation. The “lacto” portion of the term refers to a specific species of bacteria, namely Lactobacillus. Various strains of these bacteria are present on the surface of all plants, especially those growing close to the ground, and are also common to the gastrointestinal tracts...of humans and other animal species.


Lactobacillus bacteria have the ability to convert sugars into lactic acid. The Lactobacillus strain is so named because it was first studied in milk ferments. These bacteria readily use lactose or other sugars and convert them quickly and easily to lactic acid. However, lacto-fermentation does not necessarily need to involve dairy products.


Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria…. Beyond preservation advantages, lacto-fermentation also increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels, as well as digestibility, of the fermented food. In addition, lactobacillus organisms are heavily researched for substances that may contribute to good health.


http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/natural-fermentation/what-is-lacto-fermentation


The website referenced above appears to be a great resource for learning more about lacto-fermentation; I know that I certainly plan on spending more time browsing around there. For further, more in-depth reading, it would be worth your time to follow the links above; additionally, if anyone has other links to post on the subject, they are encouraged to so do.


Even though lacto-fermentation is a preservation method that is practiced around the world, for whatever reason - rightly or wrongly - I have always associated it in my mind with Germany and Eastern Europe; in particular, I have associated it with pickling cucumbers, peppers...and cabbage. As we all know, lacto-fermented cabbage is (drumroll, please) sauerkraut, a very good and healthy food that is a time-honoured staple in the regions I’ve mentioned, as well as many others.


A few years ago, I tried making some home-made sauerkraut, using a method outlined in an old newspaper clipping that we found in the recipe files of the Slovak grandmother of The Beautiful Mrs. Tas. Here is the forum post relating to that find, if anyone is interested:


http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/quick-and-easy-homemade-sauerkraut_topic1349.html


Both my #2 son, Mike, and I have used this method to make decent sauerkraut; I have no complaints about it, but in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered if it was the “best” way to go about it, especially where food safety is concerned.


Not long after, Rod Franklin did an outstanding pictorial on the concept, complete with a lot of really good information:


http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/sauerkraut-wars-a-new-tutorial_topic1350.html


I’d highly recommend reading his thread; not only is it packed with a plethora of knowledge, it is also very good, interesting reading!


Anyway, last year, I discovered a line of do-it-yourself food kits from FarmSteady:


http://farmsteady.com


FarmSteady was founded by Erica and Stephen of Brooklyn Brew Shop:


www.brooklynbrewshop.com


I was already very familiar with their brewing products, as well as their contagious enthusiasm for these kinds of “DIY” food projects. At the time, these kits included pretzels, bagels and various fresh cheeses, so I scooped up one of each and have been working my way through them.


Then, just recently, they released three new kits; among them was a kit for making home-made sauerkraut, as well as other lacto-fermented foods:


http://farmsteady.com/shop/kraut-kit



Here is the “blurb,” from the FarmSteady page:


Quote Discover the joys of fermenting your own food with a batch of kraut. It's easy to make and packed with nourishing probiotics. Along with the included equipment all that's needed is a fresh head of cabbage. The equipment is all reusable so you can keep experimenting with different krauts, kimchis, and lacto-fermented pickles!


The kit comes with everything you need, except the cabbage itself:


1/2 Gallon Glass Fermenting Jar

Glass Fermentation Weight

Lid with Airlock

Glass Writing Pencil

Kosher Salt

Caraway Seeds


If you add up the components of the kit, it might be a little over-priced, but as I’ve said before on other threads, I don’t care. I am very happy to support this endeavour; to me, the education, experience, convenience and the inspirational “get-it-done” enthusiasm that come with the kit are worth it. On top of that, the folks at FarmSteady (and Brooklyn Brew Shop) are very accessible, and always ready to answer questions or provide feedback regarding ongoing projects. They take a genuine interest in the progress that their customers have, and I cannot count the number of times that they have truly been excited and happy to see someone’s efforts come to fruition. To me, things like this are worth paying a little more, and I will continue to support them for it.


With all of this in mind, I wasted no time ordering a “Kraut Kit,” as they call it, and eagerly awaited its arrival; my enthusiasm was pretty high, and I found myself actually tracking the progress of the shipping, which is something I normally don’t do. On the expected delivery date, I went to the local grocery and bought the biggest head of cabbage that they had at the time, which was about 2.35 pounds, or just a bit over a kilogram. Unfortunately, the post office was closed by the time we got home, so I had to wait until the next day to pick it up.


That same evening, 2 May 2017, I began the process of making my sauerkraut, using this kit, which I think is pretty cool. Before getting started, I read (and then re-read) the instructions, which can be found here:


http://farmsteady.com/instructions-how-to-make-kraut


The following photos and commentary will summarize and dovetail with those instructions.


Here is a list of all the equipment that you will need, including the components of the kit:


Large Mixing Bowl

Fermentation Jar

Fermentation Weight

Lid

Airlock



The only other equipment that you might want are a wooden spoon to stir the cabbage with and something to tamp the sauerkraut down with as you pack it into the jar; however, these are not totally necessary, and there can be much satisfaction found in doing this work with your (clean) hands. If you are like me, you will also need measuring spoons and a liquid measuring cup; I am not good at “eye-balling” things, and I generally like to have a measurement to use as a reference point, even if I don’t follow it.


Oh, yes - you will also need a good, sharp knife, for slicing the cabbage. If you have a mechanical slicer or a mandoline that can slice cabbage, so much the better; but there is something very satisfying and “old school” about slicing it by hand.



Moving along, here’s the short list of ingredients for making some good, old-tyme sauerkraut with this kit:


1 Medium Head of Cabbage

1.5 Tablespoons Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon Caraway Seeds


For this first attempt, I omitted the caraway seeds; but in the future, I plan to use them. There are, of course, many, many other ingredients that can be added just for sauerkraut alone, not to mention other fermenting projects. It seems to me that - with few exceptions - one could let his or her imagination go wild when it comes to this. One goal for the future is to add some chopped hot chiles.


Let’s get started, shall we?


First, I removed and discarded any damaged or wilted outer leaves; with this particular head of cabbage, this wasn’t really a problem. I also took care to reserve one large leaf, which will be used later.



Next, I quartered the cabbage and cut out the core from each quarter:



I then cut the quarters of cabbage into thin ribbons:



It’s amazing how much results from a seemingly small head of cabbage!



Here we are, all sliced and ready to proceed:



Now comes the fun part!


Add your salt to the shredded cabbage; there is probably an “exact” ratio by weight, but for those of us who are less precise, it seems to be about half a tablespoon per pound of the original head of cabbage.



Next, you need to mix the salt and the cabbage; this can be done with your hands or by tossing it around with a wooden spoon. The idea is to “massage” the salt into the cabbage, so that it (the cabbage) softens and releases its liquids, which will be instrumental in the fermentation process. With this in mind, don’t be afraid to show both the cabbage and the salt who the boss is, in this regard. The next time I do this, I plan on not being quite so gentle as I was this time; indeed, this sauerkraut-making thing might be rather therapeutic, I think, but it’s all good.


This process will probably take about 8 to 10 minutes; you will know when you are finished because the “cabbage juice” will start to pool in the bowl, and the cabbage shreds will drip when you squeeze them. The cabbage will have also wilted quite a bit:



If you are using caraway seeds, now would be the time to add them to the mix and combine them; FarmSteady suggests 1 tablespoon per batch of sauerkraut; if I ever use them, I’ll probably cut that amount in half, at least the first time.


Moving along, pack your cabbage into the fermentation jar; once again, there’s no need to be gentle when doing this.You want to pack the cabbage tightly, pressing it down and squeezing more liquid out. This can be done by hand, or with any utensil that will help tamp the cabbage down. I used this wooden pestle from a cone-shaped strainer/juicer commonly used for making jelly:



Once all of the cabbage is packed into the fermentation jar, be sure to add any liquid left in the bottom of the bowl before proceeding to the next step.



Speaking of the next step, this is a part that I personally found to be really cool; it seemed to me to reach pretty far back into the art of sauerkraut making, and as simple as it was, I really enjoyed it.


Remember that large cabbage leaf that we reserved, way back when we began this project? What you need to do is to trim that leaf into a circle, using the the base of jar or the lid as a guide. If it’s a little larger, that’s okay, too.



Next, place your cabbage leaf circle on top of the packed cabbage; here, you can see that I used a bit of the trimmings to cover a spot where the cabbage leaf had split:



By the time you have completed this step, you want to make sure that the packed cabbage is completely submerged in the liquid that has been released from the cabbage. If there is not enough liquid, you can make a brine consisting of 1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1 cup of water, and add as much as necessary to cover the cabbage. Because I was probably too gentle with my cabbage, I did end up adding some brine; that won’t be the case next time, but it all works well, either way.


Next, add the fermentation weight that comes with the kit:



This holds everything down and keeps the cabbage submerged; it ensures an anaerobic environment so that the “good bacteria” can work without any harassment from the “bad bacteria.”


Finally, screw the lid onto the fermentation jar, fill your airlock up to the line with water and insert it into the lid:



If you want to, you can use the glass writing pencil (my dad would call these “grease pencils”) to mark the date that you began the sauerkraut.


That’s pretty much all there is to it! All you need to do now is to put the jar someplace out of direct sunlight, where it can ferment for 7 days. This time might need to be extended, if the temperatures are a bit low; I will do some research and see if I can find some good visual indicators that show the progress of the sauerkraut.


Once your sauerkraut is fully fermented, it can be enjoyed fresh; any surplus sauerkraut can be packed into jars and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 months, according to FarmSteady. Alternately, you can also process the finished sauerkraut in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, or in a pressure canner according to the manufacturer’s instructions; you will lose some of the fresh crunchiness, but the flavour will all be there.


I hope you enjoyed reading about this project as much as I enjoyed doing it; I also hope that you learned a few things and are inspired to give this a try, with or without the kit. I will continue to post my progress as this project continues, and will note any significant happenings. My guess is that this sauerkraut project will only be the beginning of some great things; I am already looking forward to lacto-fermented dill pickles, peppers and possibly even some Korean Kimchee. If anyone has any questions, comments or other feedback, please feel free to post them here, and I will be sure to reply.


Enjoy!


Ron



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Replies:
Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 04 May 2017 at 10:40
awesome writeup Ron, can't wait to see the finished product!

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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 04 May 2017 at 10:48
Hi, Mike - and thanks for the feedback. I am finding this to be a really cool endeavor, and am looking forward to seeing where it leads me.

I took a look in on it this morning, and there seems to be a little activity; but then again, maybe not yet. I know that it takes some time to get going, but when it goes, it goes.



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Posted By: gonefishin
Date Posted: 04 May 2017 at 19:09
   Nice write-up!  Looks and sounds great...I'm only left wondering why I haven't started doing this???

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Enjoy The Food!


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 05 May 2017 at 08:51
Thanks for the kind words, Dan ~

Originally posted by gonefishin gonefishin wrote:

I'm only left wondering why I haven't started doing this???


This was EXACTLY my own thought as I was finishing up. I sincerely hope that some folks who read this are inspired to give it a try. I highly recommend this kit, as it can become a gateway into some really interesting things. This, to me, goes beyond just getting a head of cabbage and cutting it up. There are a lot of avenues that can be explored with different food - and this, to me, leads to a greater interest in gardening...or, at the least, local farmers' markets etc. It's pretty cool over-all, I've decided.

Also, Brook and I were discussing this project privately, and he brought up a great point:

Originally posted by Brook Brook wrote:

[This particular kit] includes hard goods you can use over and over again. Think in terms of amortizing that through usage. The first time you make a batch, it costs 35 bucks plus the cabbage. Second time, it’s down to $17.50 plus cabbage, etc....


Looking at it like that, the cost-effectiveness of this kit shot way up, in my opinion.

I took a peek at my developing sauerkraut this morning; it looks like the colour of the cabbage is changing, and I do think that the brine is starting to get a bit of that milky, lacto-fermented look. It was a bit dark in the room and I was in a hurry, but I think we are right on schedule, here.

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Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 19 May 2017 at 09:37
Following up, my sauerkraut fermented for an extra week due to my lack of good time management in life...no big deal; everything seems to have turned out fine!

I had some pint-sized jars, so I loaded up the sauerkraut into them:



Worthy of note: a 2.35-pound head of cabbage yielded three pint-sized jars, filled up to 1-inch from the brim. The packing into the jars was neither loose nor overly-tight; just a happy medium. With this room to spare, I am guessing that a 2.5- or possibly even three-pound head of cabbage would have made enough sauerkraut to fill them completely.



I tried a bit of the sauerkraut and it was...GREAT!

I was very impressed with the crispness, the lacto-fermented tang and the whole experience over-all. This was really incredible stuff, and almost no work was required by me to achieve it.

When I finished packing the canning jars, I divided the liquid in the fermenting jar between them, and put the lids on.



I then put the jars in the back of the refrigerator, where they hopefully will not disappear too quickly. Another option, of course, is to process them in a boiling water bath; however, considering the long shelf-life in the refrigerator, I don't think this will be necessary. If anyone does decide to process their sauerkraut for room-temperature storage in the pantry, let me know, and I will provide the details.

Based on the experience, and the fact that I can use this equipment over-and-over, I am 100% satisfied with this kit, and I do strongly recommend it. I had a lot of fun, it was easy, and I can't wait to try a few more projects with it. Once thing is for sure: I probably won't be buying sauerkraut at the grocery store any time soon!

Ron

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Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 11 September 2017 at 17:08
My kit just showed up today. Now I have to decide do I go for the sauerkraut, or try some dill pickles. 

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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 12 September 2017 at 08:57
Hey Mike -

Glad to see that you got this...let me know what you think of it!

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Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 12 September 2017 at 10:43
I'm thinking I might go with the dill pickles since I should still be able to get fresh dill in the stores right now, and it won't be available much longer. I can do the sauerkraut later in the winter when dill and pickling cucumbers aren't as easily found.

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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 12 September 2017 at 10:50
That sounds like a good plan, and I would do the same...in fact, I might see about doing exactly that, this coming weekend, if I don't have too many other things happening.

Let us know how it goes ~

Ron

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Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 18 September 2017 at 13:42
Well I guess I waited a little too long, no pickling cukes to be found anywhere. So I picked up a head of cabbage for kraut. I did add some caraway seeds, not a full tablespoon as recommended, somewhere between a half and 3/4 probably. I don't think I've ever had kraut with caraway so we'll see what it's like. Hopefully good.

See ya in about a week.

(photosuckit link, let's see if it works)



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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 18 September 2017 at 13:49
Great news - the photo works!

This really makes me wonder what PhotoBucket is up to....

Also, it looks like you are off to a great start, Mike. Let me know what you think of the addition of caraway.

As far as making pickles with this goes, I got to wondering what I would end up with if I sliced a bunch of cucumbers and used them. They might not be completely crisp; but then again, they might be just fine. I may try it, adding garlic, a couple of red chile peppers and dill; my dad grows a lot of dill at his place, so we should have plenty, but I would have to get the cucumbers at the store or, perhaps, a farmers market, if there are any.

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Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 18 September 2017 at 14:26
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

Great news - the photo works!

This really makes me wonder what PhotoBucket is up to....

Yeah, I'm not sure either. I did have to endure more than a fair share of popup ads to get the photo uploaded, and at least twice I got notifications that I needed to upgrade to the "only a $1 a day" $399/yr account to link images. Additionally I couldn't click on the text for the image link and have it copied anymore. I couldn't even manually select it, so I had to right click on the image and select 'view image' then copy and paste the link from the browser. Also, I heard over on S-M that if you add ~original to the end of the image url it fools photobucket into displaying the image even if you are restricted. I don't think my account is restricted yet, but I added anyway.

Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

As far as making pickles with this goes, I got to wondering what I would end up with if I sliced a bunch of cucumbers and used them. They might not be completely crisp; but then again, they might be just fine. I may try it, adding garlic, a couple of red chile peppers and dill; my dad grows a lot of dill at his place, so we should have plenty, but I would have to get the cucumbers at the store or, perhaps, a farmers market, if there are any.

I think it would probably be ok, you'd just have bigger chips, and probably quite a few seeds to deal with. But I'm sure it'd make a good pickle. As for being crisp, I saw in one of the farmstead videos that the lacto process helps the pickle stay crisp, or at least something along those lines. Might be worth a shot if you've got nothing else going.


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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 18 September 2017 at 15:26
"Regular" cucumbers are the ones that I normally use for pickles anyway (usually cut into spears), so I think this will be something I will try, hopefully soon.

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Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 25 September 2017 at 12:17
well today marks one week since I started my sauerkraut. I tried a bite just now. Not much "sauer" to the kraut yet. Possibly because I've had it in the garage where it's colder. I'll give it another week and see where we're at. I could definitely taste the caraway seeds, gave it a bit of a "rye bread" taste. I think it'll be good once it gets sour.


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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 25 September 2017 at 12:27
Mine went an extra week as well, with no ill effects that I could detect. I wouldn't be surprised if it could even go three weeks, or to desired "sauer-ness."

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Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 24 January 2018 at 09:51
guess I never got around to updating this huh? The kraut was good. Everyone that tried it loved it. I'm still a little up in the air about the caraway seeds, they're definitely different from what I'm used to, but not in a bad way. It's kind of like eating sauerkraut on rye bread :) 

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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 24 January 2018 at 10:10
I'll have to try a batch with caraway seeds. The things scare the heck out of me, but in all honesty there is no logical reason for that.

I was rummaging around in my refrigerator last night, and found my jars of sauerkraut, still waiting for me. In the hustle-and-bustle that was the previous year, I completely forgot about it.

After a quick look-around through the internet to confirm what I already expected to be true (that the sauerkraut should be just fine for at least a year, kept in the refrigerator), I tried it, and was pretty impressed with how it has matured. There was a really nice, unique tang going on that was neither too salty nor too sour. I was pretty amazed to see such depth and complexity of flavor that resulted from nothing more than cabbage, salt...and time. The sauerkraut also was still quite crisp - much more so than I expected. In all ways, it was superior to the jarred or canned stuff available at the grocery store, and the experience has left me wanting to make more.

As has been mentioned, sauerkraut is only the beginning; this kit can obviously be used to make a lot of lacto-fermented things...even a sourdough starter for some great bread, pancakes and biscuits! I never did get around to making cucumber pickles with this method, but am re-committed to doing so. I can easily - very easily - see what might possibly be the best pickle I've ever tasted coming from this process. Other projects come to mind, as well....

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Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 27 January 2018 at 10:30
For those interested, here is FarmSteady's video on making sauerkraut:

https://youtu.be/1k-LDM5TUu8



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Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 26 March 2018 at 14:40
I started a second batch of sauerkraut yesterday, and am really looking forward to enjoying this again; my first batch was so good that I'm strongly considering purchasing another one of these kits dedicated to churning out sauerkraut while I use the first to experiment with other projects. I suppose I could also make bigger batches of sauerkraut; but on the other hand, these half-gallon batches seem just about right as far as my "sauerkraut pipeline" goes....

I pretty much followed exactly the same procedure for this batch as I did for the first one; I elected not to bother with the caraway seeds, simply because I enjoyed the first, "plain" batch as much as I did. With this second batch, It required two heads of cabbage to fill the fermentation jar; this was something of a surprise, as both "seemed" to be about the same size as the cabbage that I used for my first batch. My only conclusion is that the cabbage used this time must be a different variety, perhaps with thinner leaves.

One issue did crop up: I had already packed the first shredded head of cabbage into the fermentation jar when I discovered that I would need a second head of cabbage, because of this, when adding the second shredded head of cabbage, I added a little more salt, but not quite as much as I would when making a full batch. To complicate matters, with this second batch, it did not seem necessary to add any brine solution in order to keep the liquid at the right level, as I did the last time; so, even though I added some extra salt to the cabbage, I did not add any later on, in the form of brine.

So, this unexpected development means that I might have a little extra salt in this batch...or I might not. What I should have done was removed the first head of cabbage and then weighed the total amount cabbage; this way, I would have known whether I needed to add additional salt, and how much I should add, if any. The only thing I know for sure is that I am "pretty close" to being "correct," and that I am sure that my "eyeballing" will produce fine sauerkraut; but it is always a better practice to know, rather than guess.

I'll know in a day or three how things are looking, and expect to be at least two weeks total before the sauerkraut Is "ready." Having said that, I have found that best results come from letting sauerkraut "mature' in the refrigerator, and plan to do so with this batch, as before.

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Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 30 March 2018 at 09:45
My sauerkraut looks to be plugging along without any significant trouble. I might need to add a little bit of brine to the mix, in order to get the sauerkraut fully submerged. For the sake of reference, the brine consists of 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water.

In the meantime, I do believe that I found my next sauerkraut project; I'll post the recipe if (when!) I make it, but for now, here is the link:

http://farmsteady.com/field-guide/recipe-dill-pickle-kraut

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Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 27 August 2018 at 08:58
My last batch of sauerkraut is long gone, so I started a new one on Saturday, 25 August, using the procedure as described before.

This new batch is slated to be used for the upcoming FotW Choucroute Day, on September 29th; details here, for anyone interested:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/is-there-any-interest-in-an-fotw-choucroute-day_topic5082.html

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Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 23 September 2018 at 12:24
So, thanks to Ron’s nagging, I went and ordered one of the FarmSteady kraut making kits.

Just kidding, Ron. But, the fact is, they sounded so intriguing that I had to give one a try. And, for 35 bucks, didn’t figure I had anything to lose.

Before ordering I had a question, which I sent to the folks at FarmSteady. Got a quick response, that resolved the issue. So, that’s on the up side.

On the down side---and I realize it’s the modern way---I hate buying things that do not include instructions. In FarmSteady’s case, you have to go to their web page. There’s no reason for this. It’s certainly not a cost factor. The kit comes with a large card that, basically, identifies what you bought on one side, while telling you to go to the website for instructions. They could just as easily have printed those instructions on the 5 x 5 inch card.

That out of the way. I started by cleaning the kit in warm, soapy water. Cleanliness is next to nothing when preserving foods. It’s everything. There is not a single word about cleaning the equipment, though.

I only had enough cabbage to fill the jar halfway. Not a problem. But even extending the “massage” time, I hardly produced any brine, and had to add a considerable amount more.

I suspect, too, that due to Ron’s input (and probably others as well) they made the weight a bit smaller in diameter. There is enough space around it so the problem he had with the weight jamming in the jar mouth could never happen. Another good thing on their part. I mean, how can you fault a company that actually listens to its customers?

I’ve just put the jar up, so have no comment yet on how well it works. But, based on Ron and Mike’s comments about overspill, I set the jar in a tub, rather than have it just sit on the counter. For this first batch I did not add caraway, cuz I want to see how the basic kraut turns out.

More in a week.

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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 24 September 2018 at 10:39
Hi, Brook -

I'm glad to see that you have taken the plunge, and very much appreciate your detailed and candid observations.

I purchased one for my dad, and he also noted that his full head of cabbage only filled it halfway. I noticed that his cabbage seemed to have "thinner" and more delicate leaves, whereas mine had leaves that tended to be "thicker" and a bit "rubbery," for lack of a better term. In either case, the sauerkraut was indeed excellent for both of us, so no worries; however, that might explain the difference in volume.

I'm looking forward to seeing how your sauerkraut turns out. I've been enjoying mine quite a bit since I learned to make it. At my latitude, 2 weeks seems to be best before putting the sauerkraut in the refrigerator, but of course your mileage may vary. Once in the refrigerator, my observations show that it lasts at least a year, so no real need to put it through the canner, unless you are looking at storage space issues or have some other reason to need to do so.

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Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 01 October 2018 at 10:13

Well, it’s been a week since I put up the cabbage to ferment. So far, the results are disappointing.

There was no visible signs that the kraut was working. I didn’t know if this was normal, but, apparently, it is.  I consulted with Ron, after four days, and he said the only sign he’d ever noticed was a “funky” smell. There was none of that.  Next day, however, there was a slight smell, the sort you get from finished kraut. So, I was hopeful.

Today that smell has not deepened.  I tasted the cabbage, and it was still fairly crisp. The only flavor I got was that of a salty brine, nothing at all like kraut.

Ron usually lets his work two weeks. So I’m going to let it go another week, to see what happens.

The fact is, I’ve never been able to make kraut, using traditional methods. I’m wondering if there’s something about my environment that causes this?



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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 01 October 2018 at 13:14
Hi, Brook -

I'm not sure that you could have done anything different than what you did - it just seems to take longer than the instructions indicate. One recipe that I read for Alsatian Choucroute said to start your sauerkraut 5 weeks before you expect to make the dish, and this seems - to me - to be a good minimum (2 weeks on the shelf, 3 weeks in the refrigerator).

My main takeaway from the whole experience is that the flavor, aroma and "sauerkrautness" improve dramatically over time. I'm guessing that after 2 weeks total, you'll have a much better product; but having said that, I wouldn't be shy about letting it go as much as 3 weeks before refrigerating, myself.

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Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 08 October 2018 at 09:44
Sounds like a plan, Ron.  

Frankly, I was surprised when FarmSteady said a week. Most kraut making instructions I've read indicate it's a much longer time frame. 

It's now been two weeks.  The slight kraut-smell has not deepened, and the cabbage remains on the crisp side. Sort of wilted, but not like finished kraut at all. The saltiness has abated, slightly, and there is a faint taste of kraut. So, maybe, it's just a question of time?

I'll give it another week, and see what happens.


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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 08 October 2018 at 13:58
Keep us informed, Brook - I noticed that mine continued to mature in the refrigerator after being on the shelf for 2 weeks. At first, it was much as you described, but as time went on it got much deeper and better with the sauerkraut. An extra week at room temperature should - I would think - hasten those results.

I agree about their timeline of a week; it just doesn't bear out, in my experience. On the other hand, when I've made pickles according to their instructions, they were close to being as I expected after two weeks, and even more so after a couple of additional weeks in the refrigerator.

Maybe things ferment faster in Brooklyn? I'm not sure; my only guess is that the instructions are written for people new to the idea, and FarmSteady might be giving those instructions on the conservative (milder) side.

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Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 08 October 2018 at 14:15
Could be, Ron.

But I suspect, given my past failures with kraut, that there's some sort of environmental problem affecting how things ferment.

I have the same thing happen when I try to make sourdough starters.  You'd think that, with all the baking I do, there's be all sorts of yeasts floating around.  But, apparently, that's not the case.

Ah, well. We'll see what happens in another week. 


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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: gracoman
Date Posted: 09 October 2018 at 06:56
Brook, are you keeping the fermenting kraut in a dark place?  Yeasts are everywhere so I don't believe that is a problem.  It can be iffy with sourdough starters but I've never heard of a problem with sauerkraut fermentation. Doesn't mean there isn't one, just means I need to get out more Wink

It takes a minimum of 20 days for kraut to run through all 3 stages of fermentation.  The first stage is active.  The other two, not so much.  20 days is under perfect conditions.  This realistically  translates into 3-5 weeks depending on how warm or cool your home is.  The longer the fermentation time the greater the flavor.  Health benefits are maximized when all three stages of fermentation have been completed.

I will remind the good folks here, who have not already invested in a fermentation jar or crock, of the Fido jar method.  No airlock or weights required.


Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 09 October 2018 at 07:51
I'd call it semi-dark, or gloomy, G-man, but not dark. It's in a spare bedroom that I also use for seed starting and the like. Windows are curtained, but not opaque. 

When you say the first stage is active, does that mean there are visual indications? Bubbles or that sort of thing? 


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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 09 October 2018 at 11:32
I agree with G - darker is better, for sure.

G - have you got a link to the Fido jar that you can post here? My opinion: there can never be too many options!

Ron

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Posted By: gracoman
Date Posted: 09 October 2018 at 18:00
Brook, yes the first stage is active and gas bubbles will form and enter the airlock.  This slows and seemingly stops but fermentation is still taking place.

Ron, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0001BMYHA/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 - Fido jars of all sizes can be found on Amazon , even over http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IIVXZXC/ref=sxts_kp_bs_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=8778bc68-27e7-403f-8460-de48b6e788fb&pd_rd_wg=Wc7js&pf_rd_r=RVGBQJRNM1XD3JYSB706&pf_rd_s=desktop-sx-top-slot&pf_rd_t=301&pd_rd_i=B00IIVXZXC&pd_rd_w=4pjDU&pf_rd_i=fido+jar&pd_rd_r=0ebd55f5-a8b0-446a-9ab7-d211d105af5b&ie=UTF8&qid=1539129285&sr=1 - 100 oz , but the most inexpensive place they can be found that I know of is in Christmas Tree shops. I am not near one of these so used Amazon.   
The Fido jar gasket is weak enough to allow gas and fluid to escape through it but strong enough to seal out oxygen.  This is why no weights or airlocks are required.  Just fill it, close it, place in an overflow dish (I use an 8" x 8" baking dish), and put in a cabinet.

http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/05/08/no-fail-no-pound-sauerkraut/ - How to ferment sauerkraut in a Fido jar


Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 10 October 2018 at 08:42
Well, there's the problem right there, G-man. To date there has been no visible activity; no bubbles or other signs.

Maybe I need to start over, and keep it in the dark?


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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 10 October 2018 at 08:51
I've only made three batches so far, so take this with a grain of salt; however, my "guess" is that even without the activity early on, it's still happening, just much more slowly.

We're coming up on three weeks, I think? Give it a try tomorrow and see if its "deepening" in flavor at all. I think that it can still be saved, but I'll yield to the judgment of those with more experience.

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Posted By: gracoman
Date Posted: 10 October 2018 at 10:55
The first stage, the active stage, is not violent bubbling but you may notice it within the first week.  With the Fido jar, the unweighted fermenting cabbage rises to the top and a little brine usually leaks out. It settles back down afterward.  I've never done the airlock method with added weights so I can't really comment on how noticeable it would be.  Cooler temps also make for a slower fermentation.  If you added a homemade brine that could also make a difference if the salt level was off.

I'm with Ron on this one.  Let it be and check it again.  It's probably fine and just needs more time.

Beware of "watched pot" syndrome.  Gets me every time LOL


Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 10 October 2018 at 11:23
The last time I made straight sauerkraut it went a good 5 weeks in the fermenter before it was sour enough for my liking. This was in the garage where temps were probably in the 60s during the day and 50s at night. My garage has a north facing window so it wasn't completely dark in there.  I can't recall if it actively bubbled or not. My last batch of lemon fennel kraut did bubble quite a bit, to the point of blowing the brine out the air lock. That was done on the kitchen counter and not protected from daylight at all.

However on the flip side, I recently attempted to make a fermented steak sauce in the same way and it never bubbled a bit. I lost that batch due to a mold infestation on top that I couldn't get out without it mixing in, but when I opened it it had the characteristic sour smell of sauerkraut so despite never bubbling I'd say it was working. If I hadn't opened it halfway through to check on it and contaminate it in the process it probably would have been fine.

So, long story short, your kraut is probably fine despite not bubbling. Give it a little more time, but be cautious about opening it up unless your very vigilante about skimming the scum and any mold.


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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 10 October 2018 at 11:39
I agree with Mike - the purpose of the air lock is to prevent any scum or mold, but if the jar is opened, there is a risk. Two ways to help prevent it are two make sure that the cabbage is completely submerged in brine and to keep the lid on in order to prevent the risk of anything getting in.

Having said that, I check mine all the time, because I enjoy seeing (and smelling) how it is coming along.

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