This is my second go at making sauerkraut. I think the first time might have given me a bit of false confidence. My first batch was a very straightforward recipe: cabbage, salt and caraway. It turned out beautifully, with a mild (but distinct) fermented flavor and just enough caraway. It was idiot simple (especially since I used a mandoline to shred the cabbage instead of doing it by hand.) Since it turned out so well the first time, of course I had to change several things the second time around.
I tried adding purple beans to the cabbage this time around on the premise that sauerkraut isn’t cooked, so maybe they’d keep their purple color. (Also because when I cut up the cabbage and beans for the Thai coleslaw, I had waaaaaay more than I needed and figured sauerkraut was a good use for it.) Well, as you can see, the purple beans did not stay purple. I guess fermentation and cooking have similar effects on the pigment.
I also wanted to mix up the spices a bit, so I added coriander and allspice. Why? Because I like them. Honestly, I wanted to try something different and this seemed as good a choice as any. Friends occasionally ask me why I chose a specific combination of spices/herbs/flavors, and I’m always somewhat at a loss to describe exactly why. They just seemed like a good fit. I’ll get an idea in my head for a combination of spices. Sometimes I’ll open the jars and smell them together to get an idea of the combination; sometimes I just cook it and see. More often than not, it works out. I guess the largest part is being able to remember and combine flavors in my head, paired with my memory bank of recipes past.
Well, I think I changed one thing too many. This batch has a much stronger flavor…closer to the flavor of commercial sauerkraut. And I can’t pinpoint it to one thing. Is it because of the added purple beans? Is it somehow the spices? Was it a bit warmer when this batch was fermenting? Don’t get me wrong, this batch is good. I really do like the sunny, citrus-y grace notes the coriander added, especially with the base notes from the allspice. I guess there’s nothing to do but try these spices again without the beans.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge The Joy of Pickling. I changed enough things that I wouldn’t quite say this recipe is adapted from that book, but it is an excellent reference. The book as a whole is great; if you like pickles, it’s a must-have. But it also has a great little reference section on sauerkraut, troubleshooting several common problems and giving hints and reasons.
I was surprised to find out just how easy it is to make sauerkraut at home. Sure it takes some time to let it sit and ferment, but other than that, there’s really nothing to it.
1/2 lb purple beans, sliced about 1/4″ thick
3/4 lb cabbage, shredded (about half a head)
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp whole coriander
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Mix everything together in a large bowl, then pack into a jar. Pack it down tightly to remove as much air as possible. (This should fit nicely into a quart canning jar or a thoroughly washed spaghetti jar.) Fill a ziploc bag with saline and push it into the jar so the bottom of the bag is flat across the top of the cabbage. Put the jar in a cool, dark place (65-70 F is good) and forget about it for a month. Check it to be sure it’s ready, then move to the fridge to store. Should last a few more months in the fridge.
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