A few weeks ago, I spent a foggy Saturday morning at a local farm learning how to make sauerkraut. The class was taught by a white-haired, bearded gentleman from the local extension service. Apparently, it’s an annual event that draws a standing room only crowd (trust me, I was standing).
Using an ancient, wooden ‘kraut cutter, our ‘kraut master made quick work of five huge heads of green cabbage, shredding it while managing to maintain a conversation with the crowd. No fingers were lost, though he noted he now wore a metal mesh glove when shredding. He lost a bit of finger previously. He was exceptionally fast. The resulting cabbage was mixed with salt and stuffed tightly into a glass jar, which was then topped with a sealed plastic bag full of brine (a fancy word for saltwater).
The whole thing was extraordinarily fast and very unscientific. When asked how we would know the ‘kraut was ready, he muttered a vague answer about it looking transparent, but not transparent. Then he quickly added that any pink or purple ‘kraut should be trashed without sampling. That’s the bad stuff, apparently.
After the lecture portion of the class, we were released to make our own ‘kraut, using tubs of pre-shredded cabbage. We had to bring our own jars, but everything else was provided. It was very cold and I wondered if blood would ever return to my fingers, but I salted and stuffed my cabbage into two half-gallon iced tea jars and tried to make small talk with my classmates. There were no takers. Apparently, sauerkraut class is very serious. No one laughed at my jokes.
Thankfully, I had my cabbage to cry into. More brine, anyone?
My jars of wannabe sauerkraut have been in my laundry room ever since. They are hidden in paper bags to keep out the light and, initially, there were pie pans underneath the jars to catch ‘kraut water runoff. They warned us of mold and fruitflies, but so far I’ve had problems with neither. The runoff water got pretty funky in the pie pans, but the jars themselves have been surprisingly clean.
I’m not sure if my ‘kraut is “transparent but not transparent,” but it’s definitely changing. It was green before, then white, and now it’s a kind of beige. There were a few smelly days, when Ben lovingly suggested we move it out to the garage, but it’s odorless now. (Or it’s just been around long enough I no longer notice the stink.)
I’ve never actually eaten sauerkraut before, so I’m not even sure if it’s delicious. I just made it because sauerkraut class sounded like a damn fine way to spend a Saturday. Plus, think of all the good bacteria I’m growing!