by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
Sei mir gegrüßt, mein Sauerkraut, holdselig sind deine Gerüche.
(Greetings my sauerkraut, sweet are your smells.
– Heinrich Heine, German poet and essayist
Sauerkraut is German for "sour cabbage" and because of that is thought to have originated in Germany. However, there is evidence that it came from China, where cabbage was fermented in rice wine. Most likely it was brought to Europe 1,000 years later by Gengis Kahn after plundering China. Presumably, he carried it to eastern Europe, and from there it went to Germany, France, and the rest of Europe.
In Germany, instead of using rice wine, they dry cured it by sprinkling salt on the shredded cabbage. The water draws out of the cabbage to make the juice that accompanies the sauerkraut. The sea-faring Dutch used sauerkraut on their ships because it didn't need refrigeration and helped prevent scurvy.
Several quart jars, throughly cleaned. Steam cleaning is preferred.
1 head cabbage
1/4 tsp Caraway seeds
1 tbsp salt (per jar)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (when cooking)
Cut cabbage into thin shreds. Add Caraway sees and pack a small amount of cut cabbage into a quart jar. Press down hard into jar with handle of a knife. Keep adding small amounts of cabbage and pressing down hard, adding some of the salt each each time. When jar is packed tightly, repeat for additional jars until cabbage is used up. Or reserve a portion for other dishes such as Cole slaw.
Add enough boiling water to fill jar completely. Place lid on jar, but do not tighten. Place jar on tray for any water that may run out and set aside in an undisturbed place at 73.4ºF(23ºC) for 3 days. Let it ferment for up to 8 weeks. Temperature control is critical, because food poisoning can occur if the fermentation temperature is too high.
When it is no longer fermenting, remove lit, add enough cold water to fill jar and screw lid tightly. Do not taste sauerkraut since it is not a cooked product. Sauerkraut can be stored like this for a long time.
Cook sauerkraut with a pork roast and serve with mashed potatoes, which is a traditional New Year's Day Pennsylvania Dutch meal. This homemade sauerkraut is milder tasting that the canned variety. Add some brown sugar to cut some of the bitter taste. Apples may also be added.
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