Sunday, November 20, 2011

In the Family: Making Sauerkraut (with Turkey Sausages)

It's an annual event:  one weekend in October, my sister comes for a visit, toting along her beautiful daughters and her father-in-law's cabbage shredder.  It's sauerkraut making time!  If my sis has a bumper crop o' cabbage, she brings that too, but this year the worms killed most of it.  Bloody worms.  Mom got a massive deal on cabbage from one of the local farmers at the market, so all dreams of sauerkraut were still intact. (Yes, I dream of sauerkraut, don't you?)  We grew up eating this stuff - fried with onions and perogies; baked with pork chops; the most perfect grilled sausage topping. In fact sauerkraut and sausages were born to party together.  Us Kohlmans, we love the stuff.  My younger brother is especially crazy for sauerkraut - like he almost has a problem.  Mom says that when she was pregnant with him she ate it like crazy, so maybe that accounts for something.  (In my case, she must have ate her weight in bacon and chocolate.  Must ask her.)  Even the little ones among us have acquired a fondness for cabbage. 

Disclaimer:  I had no part in the making of the sauerkraut - this is totally my Mom's and sister's show.  I had strict instructions to keep the kidlets occupied/entertained and the wine glasses topped up.  Two very important tasks indeed!   My sis cranks out the cabbage like nobody's business and makes us laugh.  And not just because we've tucked into a bottle of white.  She's the funniest person I know and I love it when she comes for a visit. On this mid October Sunday, we make our kraut (I watch, they make), gossip a lot little, watch the kids torment chase the cats, and count the days until we can crack one of these jars open. 

There are a couple of ways to make sauerkraut, that I know of anyway.  First is to layer the shredded cabbage and salt in a crock, weigh it down with something heavy, and let it bubble away and ferment.  After month or so it's good to go, with freezing in containers usually the way of preserving it.  We don't make it like that.  Our method is simple too, in that shredded cabbage is placed into sterilized jars, a simple brine poured over this, lids screwed on and done.  Here, I'll show you:

Start with clean, sterilized jars and lids.  

Shred the cabbage.  If you don't have a cabbage shredder (this one is quite old, not sure if they even make them anymore), you can do it by hand. Mom doesn't like how cabbage turns out in the food processor. Just sayin'.

Toss the shredded cabbage with coarse salt.  I asked Mom for quantities, and I got "the look".  She told me to tell you, sprinkle some pickling salt over a bowl-full of cabbage.  Thanks Mom. 

Put the cabbage into jars and pour a brine over this.  (Mom uses the same recipe every year, from this  Community cook book that I've known all my life.  Next year there is talk that they may pack some peppers in with the cabbage just to shake things up a bit.  That will be interesting.)  Screw lids on tight, and Voila!  You've made sauerkraut!  Let stand on the counter, with tea towels underneath just in case it bubbles over.  I know Mom will add more brine if a jar loses a lot of liquid.  

After 3-4 weeks, you can unscrew a jar and enjoy in your favourite recipe. This is simple yet delicious  peasant food that I cut my teeth on.  Mom gives us each a couple of jars to take home, but I'm lucky. I just live a few blocks away and I have keys to her house, so if I've run out and got a hankering, I know where to find the best sauerkraut in the world.  

I really like kraut with fried onions and sausages, especially when they are crispy and super flavourful like mine were.  (The turkey sausages came from Pine View Farms and were amazing.)  Here's what I did:  in a skillet, heat some oil, and cook off the sausages until all crispy and golden.  When done, remove from pan.  To the same pan, add a bit more oil (canola is fine) fry sliced onions, add a bunch of sauerkraut, minus the juice, to warm through and get a little browned.  Add sausages back to pan and let the whole thing mingle for about 5 minutes.  Add some cracked pepper and dish up some garlic sour cream mashed potatoes or cooked perogies alongside.  Comfort food all the way baby. 



  1. #1 I hate worms in my cabbage plants! Hate them. Had lots of problems with that in the garden this year, but still managed to get 1 beautiful head.

    #2 That cabbage shredder thing is awesome!

    #3 Your mom and sis did a great job on the sauerkraut. Looks delish.

  2. what does one need to do to get invited next time you are having this dish? what if I promise to bring good chocolate? :)

  3. Thanks Jess! Yes, the cabbage worm is a beast. My sis was cursing them all summer. Jean, good chocolate will always get you in the door. Consider yourself invited!

  4. Who knew saurkraut could be so EASY?!?! You know this is on my list for next year now....(note to self:must buy even MORE jars)

  5. if you want to ferment sauerkraut you just need to add salt, weight it down for a week or 2 and let it do its stinky thing! then you get all the beneficial bacteria for your gut! The vinegar pickles but unfortunately does not ferment.
    check out wild fermentation, its verging on a religion for some, lol

    gotta love kraut! i did it once as above and added some green onions.. yum!

  6. Candus - go get thee more jars! Ashley - thanks for the link!

  7. ohhh had no idea thats how saurkrauts are made...i dont have them too often..only when i go to certain restaurants! wish i have a shredder like that too :P so convenient!!

    btw, your french onion soup in prev post looks divine!

    hope you're having a lovely day :)

  8. What a fun family tradition! Sausage dogs with saurkraut is the absolute best part of going to football games, if you ask me. I'm not so much into the football and usually don't care who wins or loses. As long as I get my dog, it's a winning game to me!

  9. Renee,
    Cracked the first jar with porkchops, mashed potatoes and the rest. It was wonderful. Till next year sis. Glad you have as much fun as I do.

  10. Love sauerkraut!!! Mom makes it with "glaze" noodles fried with butter & onions or even better, homemade spaetzle!!! I'm definitely going to try this recipe!!! - Corinne

  11. Juan - yum! Corinne - Mom made glaze noodles, and spaetzle too! Thanks for the reminder! I should totally remind her to make it again :)

  12. Wow, this blog seems to be full of goodies :-). I am going to subscribe! Yum!

  13. Isn't homemade sauerkraut one of the best things! I have never fermented it in jars, I have one of those german fermenting crocks which are great but definitely an investment. Great post! Thanks!!!

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  15. Wow! I have never had home-made sauerkraut. I make do with canned Bavarian Style. I like the flavor much better than in the regular canned or bagged kraut. I know caraway seeds are in it, but I have no idea what else may be in there. Does anyone know exactly what "Bavarian Style" actually means or the seasonings it might require? I am going to try this recipe, for sure...and maybe just add some caraway seeds to see what happens!

  16. Hi! I can see that no one has posted anything here for a few years, so I do not know if you are still active here or not. I have some questions about how your sauerkraut is processed after it has been placed in your jars. Do you proccess it in a hot water bath or are the jars simply left on the shelf? I dont understand how it does not rot without any kind of processing. I also cut my teeth on sauerkraut, and my family one time made our own in a huge crock using the fermentation method followed by hot packing and hot water bath processing. Can you expand on exactly on what processing and also how you store the jars after the kraut is "done". Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Bonnie. I am very active here - check the home post :) To answer your question on how sauerkraut is processed: Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. To put it (fairly) simply: There is beneficial bacteria present on the surface of the cabbage and, in fact, all fruits and vegetables. Lactobacillus is one of those bacteria, which is the same bacteria found in yogurt and many other cultured products. When submerged in a brine, the bacteria begin to convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid; this is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
      As is stated in the above recipe, the cabbage is tossed with salt, packed into clean and sterile jars, and a brine is poured over. Jars are sealed and left to ferment for at least one month before using. Ideally, store the unopened jars on a shelf in the basement or somewhere else cool. Once opened, store them in fridge. No, the sauerkraut does not rot as it is being fermented. Hope this helps!


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