Fermented foods have been used for years and have been shown to aid in digestion and enhance our immune system functions. Sauerkraut can be used as a topping on sandwiches, salads or as a side dish all by itself. This is a recipe for old-fashioned, homemade sauerkraut, with canning instructions, adapted by Diana Rattray from a recipe from Cooperative Extension. The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network offering the public education in agriculture and food systems, community development, home and family, and the environment.
Remove outer leaves and any undesirable portions from firm, mature heads of cabbage; wash and drain. Cut into halves or quarters; remove the core. Use a shredder or sharp knife to cut the cabbage into thin shreds about the thickness of a dime.
In a large container, thoroughly mix 2 tablespoons salt with 3 pounds shredded cabbage.
Let the salted cabbage stand for several minutes to wilt slightly; this allows packing without excessive breaking or bruising of the shreds.
Pack the salted cabbage firmly and evenly into a large clean crock or jar. Using a wooden spoon, a tamper or your hands, press down firmly until the juice comes to the surface. Repeat the shredding, salting and packing of the cabbage until the crock is filled to within 3 to 4 inches of the top.
Cover the cabbage with a clean, thin, white cloth (such as muslin) and tuck the edges down against the inside of the container. Cover with a plate or round paraffined/waxed board that just fits inside the container so that the cabbage is not exposed to the air. Put a weight on top of the cover so the brine comes to the cover but not over it. A glass jar filled with water makes a good weight.
An alternative method of covering cabbage during fermentation consists of placing a plastic bag filled with water on top of the fermenting cabbage. The water-filled bag seals the surface from exposure to air and prevents the growth of film yeast or molds. It also serves as a weight. For extra protection, the bag with the water in it can be placed inside another plastic bag.
Any bag used should be a heavyweight, watertight plastic bag intended for use with foods.
The amount of water in the plastic bag can be adjusted to provide just enough pressure to keep the fermenting cabbage covered with brine.
Formation of gas bubbles indicates fermentation is taking place. A room temperature of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is best for fermenting cabbage. Fermentation is usually completed in 5 to 6 weeks.
Bring sauerkraut and liquid slowly to a boil in a large kettle, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and fill jars rather firmly with sauerkraut and juices, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
Pint jars: 10 minutes
Quart jars: 15 minutes
Pack jars with sauerkraut and cover with juices, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust jar lids and process.
Pint jars: 20 minutes
Quart jars: 25 minutes