Simple Purple Sauerkraut
This is my favorite basic sauerkraut, and it's the foundation for my favorite tempeh sandwich. I've been promising my Ma that I'd post the recipe for literally months. It's not that difficult or time consuming to make, but I haven't gotten around to writing a post to go with it. At this point, I'm accepting that blog posts and recipes aren't always going to arrive at the same time.
So, here's the kraut recipe, just in time for Mothers' Day :)
With any luck, I'll have the sandwich recipe up by the time this is ready.
1 small red cabbage - about 1 1/2 lbs
1 small (or 1/2 a large) red onion - about 1/4 lb
1 tbsp salt
If you have more or less cabbage & onion than specified, adjust your salt so you still have about 1 and 3/4 pounds of veggies to 1 tbsp salt. This amount generally fits in a one quart jar.
Remove the outermost leaves of your cabbage and compost. Remove one more leaf and cut out a flatish piece the same shape as the top of your jar, set aside. Cut the base of the cabbage off, then cut it into quarters and slice out the core
Cut your cabbage into thin ribbons. Note that the thinner you slice, the easier it will be to release the brine and the softer the finished kraut will be. Remove the outer skin of the onion, halve and slice into very thin crescents. If you have a scale, weigh your veggies at this point and calculate the right amount of salt. If you don't have a scale at home, you can weigh them when you buy them and assume some loss for scraps. (It's a good thing I have a kitchen scale because there's no way I'd remember to do this). Sprinkle the salt over your veggies and scrunch them a bit with your hands
Option A: If you want a really good hand workout (build those crimping skillz!), keep crunching the cabbage until it releases sufficient liquid to submerge the cabbage when you press it down with your palm.
Option B: If you're not into working that hard for your dinner, let the cabbage sit for about a half hour after the initial scrunching and come back to it. Warmer cabbage will release juice more easily, as will cabbage that isn't too old.
Once your cabbage (mostly) passes the submerge test, pack it into a jar, put the reserved cabbage leaf on top, press to submerge, and top with something heavy & clean. I have fermentation weights (overpriced glass discs), but a smaller mason jar filled with water, a clean paperweight, or a boiled rock could also work.
If your cabbage has been sitting in the fridge for unknown months (I would never let this happen... like never), you might need to add additional brine. In this case, dissolve 1 tbsp of salt in 2 cups of water and pour enough over the kraut to cover it by about a half inch.
Put a lid on your jar, (and maybe a weight on top of that) but don't screw it on tightly, so that it can "burp" carbon dioxide produced during fermentation. If you're using a flip top jar, use a rubber band to secure the lid instead of the clamp. Put the jar on a plate or bowl to catch possible overflow, and store in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, for about a week. Then taste for sourness and ferment longer if desired.
After desired sourness is reached, refrigerate to slow fermentation. This will keep up to a year, mine never lasts that long. The brine might absorb back into the cabbage, leaving the top dry and that's okay.
Now you've got the secret! You can make all kinds of veggie ferments to suit your taste.
Check references below for tips on if something goes wrong - but the general consensus is that if there isn't any mold (this has only happened to me once in two years), and it doesn't make you gag, it's safe to eat
Sauerkraut has been around for 100's of years and there are 100,000's of recipes for it. This is the formula that works for me, and I learned to make it by reading recipes from Sarah Britton & Elenore Bendel Zahn. These ladies are wayyyy more knowledgable than me about the science-magic of whole foods, so if you want to know the "why make sauerkraut" (besides sour = yum), you should check out their sites. When I finally tracked down a definitive veggie-salt ratio, I found one here.
Full disclosure: I used a pretty old cabbage for this, it never quite passed the submerge test and was only barely covered the top of the cabbage when the jar was initially packed, and I forgot to do the cabbage leaf trick to capture tiny bits, but by the next morning there was enough brine that I didn't bother to mix any salt water.