Cabbage is a wonderfully nutritious food. It provides vitamin C and other essential nutrients, protecting the human body against diseases such as cancer. The Lactobacilli that colonize the sauerkraut release bound-up nutritive factors in the cabbage. Sauerkraut contains twenty times more bioavailable vitamin C than raw cabbage! It also offers an excellent source of probiotic bacteria for the human gut. Make often and eat daily!
*MAKES 4 QUARTS
5 pounds (2 or 3 heads) cabbage
3 tablespoons sea salt or pickling salt (non-iodized)
REMOVE JUST THE outer leaves of the cabbage and slice the heads in half through the core. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin, slice the cabbage into shreds and discard the core when finished. You can also remove the cores before slicing. Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl. As you add handfuls, sprinkle the cabbage with a little salt. When all of the cabbage is shredded and in the bowl, add the remaining salt.
USING YOUR HANDS, toss, squeeze, pound, crunch, and massage the cabbage for about 10 minutes, until the shreds grow limp and the cabbage juices start to run. As the cabbage turns limp and juicy, use a wooden mallet or pounder to finish the cabbage for the last 3 or 4 minutes.
PLACE THE CABBAGE IN a small ceramic crock or wide-mouthed 1-gallon glass jar. Place a plate that fits in the crock or jar on top of the cabbage and press down hard to work any air bubbles out of the cabbage. Weigh down the plate with a gallon jug of water or with a zip-top freezer bag filled with brine. Place the bag unsealed on the plate with the seal up so it spreads to cover the plate and any juice showing between the plate and crock. Then seal it. The juice should completely cover the cabbage. If there’s not enough juice to cover the cabbage, put a little extra brine in the crock or jar until the cabbage is entirely under the liquid.
COVER THE CROCK OR JAR with a clean dish towel held in place with a rubber band and store it in a place that ideally is between 70°F and 75°F. Check the crock or jar after a couple of days and every few days after that. It will start to ferment (bubble) after a few days. If you see any mold growing on the surface of the liquid, remove the weight bag or jug and the plate and skim off as much as you can. Don’t worry, the sauerkraut is safe as long as it’s submerged under the brine. Just get as much scum or mold off the liquid as you can and replace the plate, weight, and towel.
THE KRAUT WILL IMPROVE in flavor over the next month or two. If you find it exactly at the place you like it, pack the kraut into canning jars with brine to cover and store them in the refrigerator, where it will last for several months as long as the kraut is covered with brine. Rinse the kraut to remove salt before serving if you wish.