It's pretty, isn't it? You can make it with regular old green cabbage, savoy cabbage, red cabbage. It's about as old as food gets—they say the Tartars took it in their saddlebags to Europe. It started as a way to preserve cabbage—to keep it well past its winter sell-by date—but then people got a taste for it. Today, on top of that, we know how good it is health-wise.
The versions you see up there were made by my neighbor, Helen Miranda Wilson. She started playing around with fermented cabbage about a year ago, and she's hooked. She makes a batch every 2-3 weeks and eats it as a condiment—a little dollop alongside lunch or dinner, nearly every day. As she puts it, "It's good for you, and it's tasty, but it's salty. A little goes a long way."
I've been wanting to learn ever since I got a copy of The Art of Fermentation two Christmases ago. Helen also learned from the book, and under her guidance, I've finally started my first batch. Have you ever tried your hand at sauerkraut? Any tips? Let's share!
This recipe is adapted from this site and Helen's advice. I highly recommend reading through the advice on the webpage before getting started.
one roughly 3 pound cabbage
1 and 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/2 to 1 cup water
Remove the heart and finely chop or grate the cabbage. Place in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage (this pulls out water and creates the brine, and also keeps the cabbage crunchy) and add the caraway. Mix well and cover the cabbage with a lid or plate weighted down so that it's tight fitting on top of the cabbage mixture—Helen says a gallon of water in a jug works well. You want the cabbage tightly packed; the weighted cover will help force the water out. Cover with cheesecloth to keep out flies and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
Check the mixture. If you don't see any brine, or if there's only a little, add enough water to bring the liquid up to the plate. Recover and weight and leave to ferment for several days, tasting periodically. The kraut is ready when you like the flavor—it should be tangy and the texture of the cabbage should be fairly limp. When it's where you want it, move it to a cool part of your basement or the fridge.