Make homemade preserves that reveal a world of endless flavor combinations with the help of The Preservation Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2012). Author, restaurant owner and renowned chef Paul Virant with Kate Leahy provides expert preserving techniques and sophisticated recipes for everything from salads to cocktails. In this excerpt from part one, “In the Jar,” is a classic recipe for sauerkraut that is tasty and easy to make.
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Classic Recipe for Sauerkraut
24 cups Green cabbage, sliced finely or shredded (97% of total volume)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and 3 tablespoons for making the weight (3% of total volume, not including the salt in the weight)
1. In a tall, large ceramic crock or food-grade plastic container, mix the green cabbage with 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the salt. Using a mallet, pound the cabbage to encourage it to release water. Or simply crush the salt into the cabbage with clean hands. (It may be easier to do this in a large, wide bowl.) Cover and set aside. It will take about 12 hours for the cabbage to release enough water to form a brine.
2. Once the brine forms, keep the cabbage submerged by making a weight. In a pot, simmer together 4 1/2 cups water with the remaining 3 tablespoons of salt. Cool to room temperature, then pour the brine into 1 or 2 heavy-duty resealable plastic storage bags. Place a plate or plastic lid on top of the cabbage and put the bag(s) on top. If you are using a ceramic crock for sauerkraut, it may come with a weight designed to fit inside the crock to weigh down the vegetables, eliminating the need for a makeshift weight. If this is the case, keep the extra brine in the refrigerator in case the sauerkraut looks dry or you need it for processing the jars.
3. Store the sauerkraut at a cool room temperature (60˚F to 65˚F) for 2 to 3 weeks, or until the fermentation stops. Bubbles on the surface will indicate that the fermentation is going strong. Periodically skim off foam with a ladle and scrape away any mold that may adhere to the sides of the container or surface of the brine. When bubbles no longer appear on the surface and the cabbage has a pleasant, tangy flavor, the fermentation is done. You will have about 12 cups of sauerkraut. At this point, the sauerkraut is ready to process. Alternatively, you can transfer the sauerkraut into a clean container and refrigerate it. If the cabbage stays submerged in the brine, the sauerkraut will keep for a few months in the refrigerator.
4. Scald 6 pint jars in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack — you will use this pot to process the jars. Right before filling, put the jars on the counter. Meanwhile, soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal.
5. Strain the brine. Divide the sauerkraut among the jars, then ladle the brine over the top, leaving a 1/2-inch space from the rim of the jar. Check for air pockets, adding more brine if necessary to fill in gaps. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, seal with the lids, then screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
6. Place the jars in the pot with the rack and add enough water to cover the jars by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 15 minutes (start the timer when the water reaches a boil). Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for a few minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool completely. Makes 6 pints.
Variation: You can use the same quantities of vegetables and salt to make a rutabaga sauerkraut. When rutabagas ferment, they become rich and subtly sweet. I use them as the foundation for improbably delicious latkes. To make rutabaga sauerkraut, grate the rutabagas with a box grater and follow the instructions for cabbage sauerkraut.
Reprinted with permission from The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Buy this book from our store: The Preservation Kitchen.