It’s the new year, and I’m slowly trying to shake off some things and slowly put on the good stuff. I am also just slowly finishing the holiday rush, with this weekend being the last big dinner of the holiday vibe. It’s our Ukrainian Christmas celebration, and we use it as a day to cook up some traditional meals (or at least, traditional to our family) and use it reconnect to a heritage that isn’t so close to us.
For the focus today, the sauerkraut will be used in this stuffed bread roll called Pyrizhky. It consists of a simple white roll, stuffed with golden fried onions, sauerkraut and enough salt&pepper to really pull it together. For some reason, butter and black pepper always does a heart of joy.
What is Sauerkraut (Kysla Kapusta)?
Sauerkraut is simply shredded fermented cabbage, using only cabbage and salt. It’s basic, but the uses are varied as a transformed vegetable. Other vegetables can be added and usually the timeline for fermenting is around a week, depending on room temperature and how you want the finished product to taste.
If you’re going to try any fermented recipe, I think this is a good first choice. It’s nearly fool-proof, and you get a good introduction to how you can change and preserve something a little longer. To add, the health benefits of introducing fermented foods into your diet is great. Improved digestion is the main reason people love eating the stuff.
Sauerkraut Recipe, Cabbage and Salt
-Green Cabbage, firm with a heavy weight- pale in colour, medium size -2 tbsp. of salt (sea salt works great) -vessels to ferment in i.e glass, ceramic or plastic vessels work great
First off you’re going to have to wash the cabbage and make sure your workplace, tools and vessel are clean. It just makes life easier in the fermenting game.
Next, quarter and cut out most of the core of the cabbage. Save the core to either slice thin to make a salad or put into a bag and save the scraps to make broth for a later date.
Figuring out how you want to slice the cabbage is going to change how and how long you are going to ferment. For simplicity, cut thinly using either practised knife skills, a mandolin or perhaps a useful wooden cabbage cutter? Either way, you want small bits and to create a good amount of service area to the cuts to have a consistent product. Below you’ll see the wooden cabbage cutter in use, and how thinly it slices the cabbage.
Once you have the cabbage sliced and sitting in a big bowl. Spoon out two tablespoons worth of salt into the bowl. As mentioned in the ingredient list- sea salt works great for this- but in a pinch, I’ve used Iodized Table Salt and saw just as good results.
Now you’ll want to make sure your hands are clean, for the moment has come to knead the cabbage with the salt. This process can take upwards of 10 minutes and you want to make sure that the salt permeates the cabbage and that you have the salt bringing out the water from the cabbage to create a brine. This brine will help protect your cabbage in the fermenting vessel and create a better environment for the magic to happen.
Notice you have a product that starts out full and crunchy and after a bunch of kneading and working it- it collapses into a limp and watery mess.
Next, you’ll want to stuff it into a jar and make sure to try and push it down as hard as you can. You want to limit the amount of air between the cabbage. Air can cause mold and other bacteria to thrive in the finished product.
Here, I just chose the simple method of putting the jar itself in the bowl I was working in to reduce my mess and to get a good grip on the jar itself. Luckily, the jar I used was a perfect size and I want to emphasize as much as I can please, while pushing the cabbage into the jar, make sure that while you are packing it- the excess liquid would cover it, and once you have the entirety of the product in the jar- that there is a good bit of liquid covering *if not more. This prevents molding.
Below is a series of photographs that demonstrates how the product itself changes in the process.
It should be noted that the product was placed in a warm room specifically and seeing that it is these winter months and colder ambient temperatures- I made sure to put the sauerkraut in warmer bits of the kitchen. Taste as it goes, and once you are happy with the product, put it in the fridge! It slows the process down and you now have a cool gut-friendly, source of vitamin C that will last a few weeks!
This is a two part series- stay tuned to see what the kraut was made for- and other recipes ideas to use up the jar.
Here is a link to show some of the science behind the product itself, here