Monday, July 21, 2008

Homemade sauerkraut with goat-milk whey

This post prompted an unplanned trip down memory lane. I knew that somewhere I had a photo of a cabbage truck in China, taken by my friend and teaching partner, Deirdre. Once I tracked down the box of photos (a challenge in the new house) I had to go through them to find this one. You're lucky I was able to tear myself away! I'll probably scan and post a few more.

Anyway, all of this is to say that cabbage is a staple everywhere it grows, whether it's the big round kind I got Friday or the Chinese báicài (white vegetable) as it's called in Mandarin (bok choy in Cantonese). As winter nears, families stockpile loads of the stuff, drying it a little and then pickling it. You see it everywhere in northern China at harvest time. In Korea, too, I'd imagine, where kimchi is the national dish.

Here, cabbage is mostly relegated to St. Patrick's Day dinners, boiled, and to top hotdogs, pickled. If you want to get fancy, you can make the Alsatian choucroute (sauerkraut and sausage).

Another memory: shopping in Germany with a friend who wanted to know the English words for various foods. "Und was ist das englische Wort für 'Sauerkraut'?" she asked. Ummm, it's "sauerkraut." She did a great double-take.

The best sauerkraut, as ever, is homemade, using whey as a fermenting agent. You can make it with just salt, but it takes longer and isn't as authentic. As I mentioned in my homemade ricotta post, I found a great step-by-step sauerkraut recipe and put that leftover whey to use.
The ingredients are simple: a large head of cabbage, some carrots, and onion. Plus two tablespoons sea salt and a quarter-cup of whey. Plus non-chlorinated water (more on that in a minute).

You could chop everything by hand, but for this amount of cabbage a food processor is extra-handy. Core and slice the cabbage and feed it through. Remember to check the bowl and empty it often or it will look like this:
Yes, that's a lot of cabbage. You'll need to put it in a very large bowl or stockpot, because next you'll sprinkle the two tablespoons of salt and the quarter-cup of whey over it, mix, and then mash.

Mash it and stir it several times over a half-hour to 45-minute period. It will get quite juicy and reduce somewhat in volume.

Then you need a gallon jar (or two 2-quart ones). Make sure it's very clean. I wash mine in hot hot water and then rinse it with a mild bleach solution and let it dry.

You can see how big the jar is here. I can barely get my hand halfway around it.

Pack the cabbage in and mash it down thoroughly. You don't want any air pockets in it.

You'll probably need to add a little water to the top. The cabbage should be completely submerged.

I confess, I'm a little worried because I just read somewhere else that you should not add chlorinated tap water because it will inhibit fermentation. Uh-oh! Stay tuned.

Next, take a gallon-sized ziplock bag and push it down into the jar so it's touching the cabbage and the sides and fill it with water. This will act as a weight on the cabbage and seal out any air. Close the bag and put the lid on the jar.
This jar used to contain olives or pickles or artichoke hearts. Then it was a candy jar on my desk for a while. That was in a small office, and it wasn't hard to keep full, especially since there was a guy who would come by once a week from Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Co.. My cow-orkers would buy candy from him to help replenish my stock.

The jar still has my old label:
My days of promoting tooth decay from my desk are over, alas. In a bigger office it would bankrupt me. Plus I'd never get any work done with all the traffic.

The sauerkraut has to sit at room temp (ideally 68-72 degrees F) for three days. I put it in my basement, where it's not as warm as my kitchen. Then I'll put it in the fridge. Supposedly it gets better the longer you leave it in the refrigerator.

Here's hoping it turns out!

And here's an update. Turned out great!

Other recently tested goat-milk recipes:
honey vanilla ice cream
Raspberry ice cream
Mexican chocolate pudding
ricotta cheese
And an excellent use for the ricotta:
Ricotta torte with squash, corn and dill


  1. Nothing like the smell of rotting cabbage in the morning ;-)

  2. Yummers! I'm definitely going to try this!
    Last year I became obsessed with pickled eggs, you know, like the ones you see in truck stops when you're in the middle of nowhere. They are so very fabulous.
    Now THERE is a site for a basement shelf, pickled eggs and fermenting cabbage. That should keep out the riff raff anyway!

  3. Must buy The Joy of Pickling which had all kinds of kimchi recipes that sounded fabulous. Yes... the smell of cabbage. There IS that. LOL.

  4. I thik it sounds like you've made a giant jar of poison.

  5. Leslie, it's in my basement, safely quarantined beneath a trapdoor.

    Summer, I don't think I've ever had a pickled egg! Must investigate. How did yours turn out?

    Dani, I'm not sure I'll do much pickling beyond this! Just refrigerator pickles.

    DG, your confidence is inspiring. If I stop posting in three days, you'll know why.

    Try it, Kevin!

  6. Wow, you are industrious. I can't imagine making this, I don't think I have a place far enough away from living quarters to store it while it ferments. I need a trap door to a cellar like Alton Brown. I also would like to have Alton himself, but that's another story.
    Let me know how it turns out!

  7. Natashya, you could always bury it in the back yard like the Koreans!

    Alton you could stash somewhere else ;-)

  8. Mmmm...saurkraut with chili, mustard,and onions on a plump hot dog. My tastebuds are dancing right now.

  9. If you really want to go all the way with sauerkraut and ferment it the proper way (6+ weeks) without collecting scum try this baby out

    These crocks are amazing. A friend bought one and I used it and it make almost three gallons of sauerkraut, if I remember correctly.

    It sat on the fridge and would talk to us in the morning. Nice company. I still have some and it's the best sauerkraut ever.

    I have used the same method you used for a kimchi and it was good but I wouldn't ferment it for much longer than a few days, definitely not the 6-8 weeks the crock can handle. And, you don't have to worry about wiping off scum like the old crocks.

  10. Thanks, anon! I'm not sure I'm hard-core enough to invest in a proper crock, though! Three gallons of kraut is a lot of kraut. It's neat to see the cutaway illustration of how they're constructed, though. I need some crock rocks!

  11. i am going to make this over the weekend!

    anyone have any success using something other than a ziploc to seal/push down? I'm a little bit nervo about the whole plastic-touching-your-food thing sometimes, and also try to keep disposable-item use to a minimum just for trash reduction reasons ... thanks :)