Sauerkraut: from the ground up

Hi gardeners!

As you are plotting your new garden this spring, it’s great to think about long term projects.  Planning plants that you can preserve later is a great way to use your bountiful harvest and reduce waste! There are three primary methods to preserve your harvest later on: canning, freezing, and pickling/fermenting.  If you have a preferred method, think ahead of time about what produce will do the best with your method of choice.

Today I’ll discuss fermenting 101.  My favorite vegetables to ferment result in fun takes on the traditional sauerkraut.  First, what goes into traditional sauerkraut?

Traditional sauerkraut:

  • green cabbage
  • salt
  • caraway seeds

In my opinion, the best sauerkraut requires a little bit of invention and pizazz! Think: beets, carrots, pink cabbage, ginger, radish, garlic.  In order for the sauerkraut to preserve optimally, you should add spices. Think: turmeric, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, cumin, curry powder, and even seaweed!  The spices help to control the bacteria levels – inviting the good ones in and keeping the bad ones out.  From an aesthetic perspective, keeping all of your ingredients in the same color palette will result in vibrant colors in your kraut.

We will host a workshop to address the process of making sauerkraut, but here a brief run down once you harvest your produce:

  1. give your produce a light rinse
  2. chop, shred, and mince your vegetables
  3. add spices and flavors (garlic, ginger, turmeric) and salt!
  4. massage, squeeze and beat your mixture until the juices from the vegetables are oozing out
  5. transfer to a large mason jar or sauerkraut crock (nothing plastic).  Pack down the kraut tight, so all of the liquid rises to the top (leave at least 2 inches on top of jar)
  6. cover jar with a cheesecloth (any mesh will do), place in a bowl to catch overflow and put in a dark cupboard
  7. “burp” each day for the first week of fermenting.  Burp: using (clean) hands or a glass jar to press down on your kraut, bringing the air bubbles to the top
  8. let ferment as long as you’d like, tasting along the way until you like how it tastes.  In cold weather, I ferment for 3-4 weeks.  In warm weather, I ferment for ~2 weeks.  Add a lid and place in your refrigerator to enjoy!

Back to the garden: for fun sauerkraut, think about planting your spring produce…beets, carrots, radishes, and cabbage. Choose a new variety or a different color.  Golden beets make a wonderful tasty addition to sauerkraut.  Or get creative and try something new!

We’ll keep you posted on plans for our sauerkraut workshop, and in the mean time get planting. We can’t wait to see those beet greens pushing out of the soil soon!