To make a smaller quantity of sauerkraut, reduce the recipe ingredients
proportionately. Allow 2 ounces salt to each 6 pounds of cabbage.
Let cabbage heads stand at room temperature for about 24 hours to
wilt. This causes the leaves to soften slightly and become less
likely to break when cut. Wash the head and remove outer leaves.
Cut heads into quarters and remove the cores. With a sharp knife,
shred 5 pounds of cabbage 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Place the shredded
cabbage in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons
of the salt. Mix the salted cabbage with your hands or with a stainless
steel spoon and let it stand 3 to 5 minutes.
Wash a 10-gallon crock with soapy water, rinse and scale it with
boiling water. Pack salted cabbage into the crock. A brine will
form as you press the cabbage down. Repeat the shredding and salting
in 5-pound lots until the crock is filled to within no more than
5 inches of the top. The brine should cover the cabbage. If it does
not, add additional brine by heating 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt with
1 quart of water. Cool the brine to room temperature before adding
it to the crock.
To cover the cabbage and weight it down to keep it submerged in
the brine, fill a clean, large, heavy plastic bag, such as heavy-duty
trash bag, with water and lay it over the cabbage. Fit the bag snugly
against the inside walls of the crock to prevent the surface of
the cabbage from being exposed to air. This will prevent the growth
of a yeast film or mold. Add more water to the plastic bag, if necessary,
to keep the cabbage submerged. Seal the bag with a twist tie. Cover
the crock with plastic wrap.
Fermentation will take place from 3 to 6 weeks depending on the
room temperature. The ideal temperature is 75 degrees F. At 75 degrees
F fermentation will take about 3 weeks; at 70 degrees F, 4 weeks;
at 65 degrees F, 5 weeks; and at 60 degrees F allow about 6 weeks.
Tightly packed in covered containers, the kraut can be safely kept
in the refrigerator for several months. If you don't have space,
can the sauerkraut.
Canning the Sauerkraut:
Bring the kraut to a simmer; do not boil. Pack it into clean, hot
jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; seal. Process in a water bath
canner for 20 minutes for quarts or 15 minutes for pints. Start
counting the processing time when the water in canner starts to
Yields 16 to 18 quarts.
Old-Time Sauerkraut Method
After packing the crock with salted cabbage, place a piece of thin,
white cloth (such as muslin) directly over the cabbage and tuck
the edges down against the inside of the container. Cover the cabbage
with a heavy plate that fits snugly inside the container so that
the cabbage is not exposed to air. Put a weight on top of the plate
so that the cabbage is fully immersed in the brine. A glass jar
filled with water makes a good weight. The brine should come up
2 inches above the plate, making daily skimming easier.
Cover the crock with a clean terrycloth towel and top with plastic
wrap to prevent evaporation. Tie string around the crock to hold
the towel and plastic wrap in place. Remove the scum daily from
the surface with a scalded stainless steel spoon. Replace the cloth
and plate with a clean one. Cover the crock again with the towel
and plastic wrap. This method takes about the same length of time
as the previous one.
The sauerkraut is done when bubbles stop rising to the surface.
Taste the kraut. When it suits your taste, remove it from the crock.
Refrigerate the kraut in covered containers or pack it into jars
and process as described above.