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
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.