Over a Cup of Coffee: Making sauerkraut, Part 1

Diane Prather
Diane Prather

Years ago, Mom used to make and can all kinds of pickles. She prepared some of them by leaving them in a crock of brine for a while. One time, when Lyle and I were home for a visit, she asked Lyle to bring a crock of pickles up from the basement. Some of the brine spilled on Lyle’s pants and made holes in the denim. We have laughed about “Mom’s Atomic Pickles” ever since.

This week’s column isn’t about pickles, but it is about something sour — sauerkraut. Mom made sauerkraut, too, but I don’t remember anything about it. However, Louise Irvine, of Craig, knows how to make sauerkraut, and this week she’s sharing her recipe with readers.

Louise is the daughter of the late Gale and Edna Mae Brannan, of Maybell. Her mother’s maiden name was Gerber. It was Louise’s grandmother, Alice Brannan, of Maybell, who gave her a cookbook in 1972. Recipes for making sauerkraut are in “Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook.”

The cookbook has two recipes for making sauerkraut — “Glass-Jar Sauerkraut” and “Stone-Jar Sauerkraut.” Louise used the first one, so that’s what I’m featuring in this column.

Louise has an amusing story to go along with the sauerkraut. She says that, since the sauerkraut needs to be put in a cool, dark place to ferment, she put the jars in closets. So, when she showed up with all of the jars, ready to put them in her son’s closet, Lonnie said, “Oh, no, Mom. You’re not putting that in my closet.” It takes about two weeks to make sauerkraut, and sometimes, the juice leaks into the pans.

Since there’s so much information in this recipe, I have divided it into two columns — Part 1 this week and the rest next week. Here it is, straight from the cookbook.

Glass-Jar Sauerkraut

If you have a big crop of cabbage, it is economical to cure it in brine to make sauerkraut. The fermented vegetable serves as a “pickle” and brings variety to winter meals when fresh vegetables are not always abundant. An easy way to make sauerkraut is to ferment the cabbage in glass fruit jars. Here are the directions.

  1. Remove and discard the outer leaves from firm, matured heads of cabbage. Wash, drain, cut in halves or quarters and remove and discard cores.
  2. Shred 5 pounds of cabbage with a shredder or sharp knife. It should be no thicker than a dime.
  3. Sprinkle 3 ½ tablespoons salt over shredded cabbage (5 pounds) and mix thoroughly by hand.
  4. Pack down clean, glass jars, pressing cabbage down firmly with a wooden spoon. Fill to within 1 ½ to 2 inches from jar tops. Be sure juice covers cabbage. A quart jar holds about 2 pounds of cabbage.
  5. Wipe off jar tops. Cover cabbage with pads of cheesecloth, edges tucked down against inside of jar. Hold cabbage down by crisscrossing two dry wood strips (some good kraut makers first coats the strips with melted paraffin) so they catch under the neck of jar. Wipe off jar, put on lid, but do not seal tightly.

The next information is about the fermentation process—to follow next week. Save this column so that you can put it with next week’s. If you have a recipe that you would like to share with readers, call me at 970-824-8809 or write to me at PO Box 415, Craig 81626. Thanks, Louise!

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