Awesome picklers, it’s time for sauerkraut with caraway seed and dill. Familiar and exotic at the same time, sauerkraut is like the pickle poster boy of fermentation’s current popularity. Packed with enough beneficial micro-organisms to make foodies and health nuts go nuts, it also smothers sausages with perfect working-class, old-school credibility. Plus it’s easy to make and hard to screw up.
As much cabbage as you like. I usually make 5 or 10 pounds at a time, but I think a half-gallon mason jar is about right for 1 head of cabbage. Tell me if I’m wrong.
A bunch of dill (I used 1 for 5 pounds of cabbage)
1-2 Tbsp caraway seeds per 5 pounds of cabbage
3 Tbsp salt per 5 pounds of cabbage
First, shred your cabbage into a big bowl or crock. If there’s one trick to good sauerkraut, it’s getting the shreds nice and thin and consistently sized. Thin strips will get crispy, crunchy, and pickled all the way through while thick slices risk getting mushy on the outside and staying raw on the inside.
I like to chop the heads in half, cut out the hearts, and then split the halves and shred them with a mandoline. That gets the strips much thinner than a knife does. Watch your fingers!
To get a good distribution of salt, stop to add spoonfuls of it as you go along and mix it in with a spoon. You can use your hand but that stings after a while.
Mix in the caraway seeds and chopped dill a bit at a time as well. Then punch or pack it all down to force out air bubbles.
While it ferments, you want your cabbage pressed under a salt brine away from air to keep it from rotting. In my crock I use a glass lid that just happens to fit perfectly. A plate would work well, too. If you’re using a mason jar, you could use a smaller jar filled with water like at the bottom of this post.
Here’s a closeup of the lid on top of the cabbage.
Depending on how wet your cabbage is, the salt you’ve added may draw out enough water to completely submerge your kraut. To help bring water out, add pressure by placing a jar or several jars full of water on top. Throw a towel over the whole thing and leave it overnight or for a day. If there still isn’t enough after that, make up a brine of 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water to completely cover the kraut. Especially when packed with extra panache the sauerkraut tends to expand a bit, so if you’re using a plate it’s a good idea to have about an extra inch of brine. If you’re using a jar you might want to store it on a plate, a towel, or something else to catch any overflows.
Cover your fermentation vessel with a towel to keep the dust out and put it in a dark place to begin its voyage. Check on it every few days. A sort of thin white scum often forms at the surface. You can scoop it out if you like, but it’s not dangerous. If mold begins to blossom on the surface in little islands or as a thicker skin, you should scoop it out. Your cabbage is safe, but you don’t want mold in there when you remove the kraut. And get rid of any cabbage bits that float to the surface.
Within two weeks you’ll have a bunch of kraut on your hands. Harvest what you want to eat and stick it in a jar in the fridge, which will slow the fermentation. The rest you can leave as it was—it just gets riper and more delicious. I wanted to take a picture of it for you once it was ready, but we ate it all so quickly I didn’t get a chance!