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FarmSteady’s Sauerkraut Kit

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 03 May 2017 at 14:45
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.c...s-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.activeb...kraut_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.activeb...orial_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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BEAR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 May 2017 at 03:20
Could one add some thin sliced onions with the caraway
seeds?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RobertMT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 May 2017 at 05:07
I use 3 1/2 gallon bakery buckets and plate weighed down with gallon ziplock back (filled with brine, 1/4 cup salt per gallon, in case it leaks) covered with towel or loose lid.

I use pickling salt (non-iodized) 1 tbs per med head of cabbage, double if using kosher salt.   I shred with knife, layer in bucket, sprinkle with salt each layer, and using meat stomper from grinder, crush each layer. If you like caraway, add to taste. I fill bucket, about 15-20 heads worth, cover with clean glass plate, weigh down with ziplock bag. After 24hrs, I stomp it down again and make sure cabbage is under brine, place plate, weight bag, and lid back on. I let it go, checking for scum every day and skimming if needed. After week, test for sourness and when sour enough, pack in jars and place in frig.

My great-aunt used to always have few crocks going in basement, some with caraway some without. I don't care for canned, too soggy for my taste, I like a bit of crunch to mine. Over time, even in frig, it gets more sour and may build pressure, so burp jars every once in a while and it should keep until summer.



I also made Kimchi, gallon worth, I had reg cabbage, but napa cabbage is traditionally used.

I used 4 heads cabbage, 2 sliced red onions, pound of daikon radish (cut in short match sticks), 2 tbs pickle salt, 4oz of chili garlic sauce (half a 8oz jar from Asian section of groc. store), 2 tbs of grated ginger, 1/4 cup of fish sauce (more or less to taste), 1/4 cup of dragon tooth chiles (too taste).

I cut half cabbage and all other vegies (carrots are normally added, I didn't have so added second onion instead) mixed salt, chili garlic, ginger, chilies, and fish sauce into cabbage. I then added rest of cabbage in couple additions, mixing and mashing each time. I weighed down with gallon ziplock bag, filled with brine, making sure everything was covered. Checking after week and placing in frig when hot and sour enough.

Next time, I would add carrots, pound of so of matchsticks, instead of second onion, I also didn't pickup any fishy taste, might add shrimp sauce or anchovy paste to bump that up. Dragon tooth chilies added heat, but when you bit into whole one, you knew it, will leave out and add more chili garlic if heat is desired. All in all, it turned out well, almost additively, salty, hot, crunchy, goodness, not near as hot/fishy, as spicy Kimchi in store.    
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 May 2017 at 06:11
Originally posted by BEAR BEAR wrote:

Could one add some thin sliced onions with the caraway seeds?


I believe so - I see no reason why not, and it sounds good!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 May 2017 at 06:13
Robert - some very good, very valuable information. Thank you for posting. 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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I caught cabbage on sale, after St. Pats day, for quarter a head. I made up a 3 1/2 gallon bucket of kraut and Qt of Kimchi(with just chili garlic and fish sauce), by Easter it was gone. They had cabbage on sale again, I made another bucket of kraut and gallon of Kimchi, adding vegies this time, down to three pints Kimchi and couple gallons kraut. I just eat by itself, as snack, or as a side.

I was nervous, making Kimchi, but it's pretty easy, just like making coleslaw, except salting it, adding chili garlic, and adding fish sauce, instead of dressing. If fish sauce doesn't sound appealing, I'm sure soya would work. As you know from doing kraut in jar, once you salt and smash it down, you'll fit about double in jar (shouldn't need to add water) and just burb jar couple times a day. I put jar on saucer, in cardboard box on counter, to cut out all light and control any overflow.

Neighbor is Ukrainian, she gave me some canned kraut, she makes from red cabbage and some sliced beets and greens, beets were sour, spiced and very good.

https://www.thespruce.com/lacto-fermentation-fruit-and-veget able-recipes-1327727 has many recipes to explore.



Edited by TasunkaWitko
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 May 2017 at 04:07
Good link - thanks, Robert!

I wish I lived next door to your neighbor. I am betting I could learn a lot of good things from her!

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.

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

Edited by TasunkaWitko
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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 loosely nor overly-tightly; 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

Edited by TasunkaWitko
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I would start another batch, before it gets too warm, you'll be though first batch before you know it. If you have room in frig, you can leave it in gallon crock and it'll slowly age. Remember it goes great, as a side with BBQ or instead of slaw on pulled pork sandwich.

When I pack in jars, I like to pack it tight and work all the air bubbles out. It will keep better, if you keep it packed, less surface to oxidize.
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