Monday, September 08, 2008

How to Make Sauerkraut in a Crock

Over the years I have been asked, "How do you make your sauerkraut in the crock?", and now that I have a digital camera, I thought I would finally be able to put the process on-line with visuals instead of just text for those of you who would like to try this for yourselves. It really is simple, and once you do it a couple of times, you won't believe you may once have been afraid to try it. This process is for Bohemian style sauerkraut, taught to me and my sister by our Dad (now 78 years young), who learned it from his mother, Anna Kadrlik Ledvina. And just a note here to let you know that after the kraut is fermented, I will do a Part II and show you how I can the finished kraut.

First you will need a clean, 5-gallon crock that has no cracks. If the crock has cracks, it is useless for fermenting.



Next, a dolly to set the crock on. Remember, a full 5-gallon crock is HEAVY. The dolly will assist you in moving the full crock to where you will want the kraut to ferment. I use a cheap, plant pot dolly I bought for $2 at the Dollar Store. The large size fits a 5-gallon crock perfectly. (You may want to go ahead and purchase better castors for the dolly from the hardware store.)




You will need a cutting board, a good knife, 6-8 large heads of cabbage for a 5-gallon crock, a good supply of onions (preferably yellow onions), pickling salt, and caraway seed. You will need a plate or lid for your crock, some sort of weight (I use a rock I picked up out of the field -- and washed VERY well), cheesecloth or muslin and rubber bands or string, and, you will need something to "stomp" the cabbage with. I use a "stomper" I bought from Lehman's, but you can use a rolling pin that has no handles, the hitting end of a baseball bat, or a piece of 2" x 4" that has its ends smoothed (you don't want wood slivers in your kraut!) Make sure your "stomper" is very clean.







Now get out your knife sharpener and sharpen your favorite knife. Cabbage is easier to cut through if your knife is sharp.




How thick or thin you slice your cabbage is subjective. You can slice your cabbage with a knife, a grater, the slicer attachment on your food processor, a hand made "krauter", or a mandoline. I have tried all of these methods over the years and prefer to use a mandoline. It may not be as quick as the food processor, but with the mandoline you can adjust the size of the cabbage slice. Newer mandolines are safer to use to use than old-style krauters, but if you feel confident enough of your manual dexterity to use a custom-made krauter, you will probably get the "perfect" kraut slice with it. I happen to like my fingers, however, and will continue to use my ergonomic mandoline. Pieces that don't work through the mandoline get hand sliced with my knife.

Take a head of cabbage and cut it into quarters (4 pieces). Now it should be easier to cut out the core from each quarter. Trim away any blemishes. Slice each quarter and put the slices in a big bowl.






After each head of cabbage is sliced, place the slices into the crock. Now slice 3-4 onions and place the onion slices on top of the cabbage in the crock. Sprinkle at least 1 Tablespoon of pickling salt and 1 Tablespoon of caraway seed over the onions. How many onions you use, and how much salt and caraway seed you use is a matter of taste. The antiseptic properties contained in the onions help prevent spoilage, and the salt acts as a preservative. (You can use a lot of salt if you want, but remember to rinse your kraut before you use it.)

Now get your stomper and stomp down your kraut. The idea is to break down the cabbage and onions to release their juices as this juice is the fermenting liquid. The level of kraut in the crock will reduce dramatically as you stomp. When you feel "suction" as you raise your stomper or can visually see good wet juice on top of the kraut, stop, and slice up the next head of cabbage and onions. Repeat the layering process of slicing and stomping until the crock is full to about 3 inches from the top.







When the crock is just about full, you should have enough juices on top to cover the kraut completely. There are times, however, when the cabbage used is too dry and you will need to supplement liquid. If this happens, make a brine of 1/2 cup of pickling salt and one quart of water, and pour just enough brine to cover the top of the kraut. Now take your crock lid or a plain dinner plate (not one with a metal trim), turn it upside down, and place it on top of the kraut in the crock. On top of this lid, put a weight. The kraut should now be completely submerged by at least an inch under the liquid juices. NOTE: It helps when you buy your cabbage to ask when it was picked. Generally, if you buy fresh cabbage, it should sit for three days before you make kraut, otherwise you will have too much juice which can raise the chance for spoilage.




Now take your cheesecloth or muslin dust cover and cover the top of the crock. (Use a double thickness of cheesecloth if you are using that instead of muslin.) Put a rubber band or tie string to hold the cloth in place. Carefully move the crock to where the kraut is to ferment. You want this place to be cool but not cold (between 65 and 75F), and you want the crock to be left undisturbed for about 6 weeks. (Mark your calendar or you will forget when to check the crock!) When the kraut is fermenting, there will be a very acrid smell and you may need to air the room out. Also, no matter how clean a housekeeper you are, your crock will attract vinegar flies. When this happens I use a light vaccuum attachment and carefull suck the flies away. Periodically, carefully remove the cheesecloth or muslin cover and check the liquid seal over the kraut. The kraut should be fully submerged. If it is not, make a brine as described above and VERY CAREFULLY add enough liquid to fully cover the kraut. You do not want to disturb the kraut! Replace the dust cover and don't worry about any gook or mold you may see. I will tell you about that in Part II.

And that is all! I keep my crock in my laundry room as it tends to be cooler than the rest of the house, and I don't have to worry about the crock being disturbed because I am the only person that uses the laundry room. I open the back door to air the room out if the fermenting smell gets too strong, and when the vinegar flies show up, they are away from the kitchen and easy to vaccuum up. A cool, enclosed porch area, one that is out of the sun, is a good spot to keep a crock, too.



Stay tuned for Part II in about 6 weeks.

100 comments:

  1. Hello there from Southern MN! I found your blog while searching for pictures of a kraut board and although I didn't find them on your blog, I certainly enjoyed reading it. Your market gardening, cooking, and canning are very inspiring. This is my first year with a real garden and I love gardening so much, but it's daunting to think of doing it as a business. Best of luck and I hope all goes well with the gardening and your family's health as well. Take care, LM.

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  2. Anonymous2:37 AM

    When making kraut. I make it the same way every year. This year may not have the same results.

    The kraut started 'foaming' by the end of the first week and continued to do so into the start of the second week.
    At exactly the end of the second week going into the third week. It appears as if there is a 'yeast' ring which appears to be centering itself around the filled gallon jug used to keep weight down on the kraut. I have just noticied, that 'as of now the yeast seems to be foucus on the weight and not foaming.Did I just lose the whole batch?

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  3. Anonymous10:01 PM

    Wow!!
    You should write recipe books, (if you don't already!)Your instructions are clear, precise and easy to follow. Thank you for all the detail and pictures. I am going to use your recipe and mark this page as a favourite.
    Joyce Crouch, Durban, South Africa

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  4. hello!
    thank you so much for posting this up.

    i can't wait to see how it turns out.
    i'm helping my mum look for sauerkraut recipes and your's have been a great help.

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  5. Anonymous3:38 PM

    easy way to can kraut richard Philipps Findlay Ohio 4194226730

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  6. Anonymous2:30 PM

    can i freeze my cabbage from the garden and make kraut at a later date? or does i have to be fresh cabbage?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous7:08 PM

      fresh cabbage only

      Delete
  7. No. The fermentation process works with fresh cabbage. If you use frozen cabbage all you will get is mush.

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  8. Anonymous11:28 AM

    I'm waiting for the continuation of kraut making.

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  9. If you scroll down on the right side of the blog, under "Special Links on this Blog" you will find "Canning Sauerkraut in a Pressure Canner". This is the follow-up to the making sauerkraut entry. I put both of these photo ops on the Mother Earth News "C-U" photo section and both were deemed Editor's Choice. If you go to the Mother Earth News web site and their C-U section, you can search for the kraut entries under my e-mail name "ElderberryWine4u".

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  10. Anonymous11:44 AM

    This sounds really cool. I grew a lot of cabbage this year and am looking forward to trying your recipe.

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  11. Anonymous9:12 AM

    I have been raising a gargen and canning for several years but have never made sauerkraut before. My husband wants me to try it and I love your step by step instructions. I don't have a crock and am wondering if I can use a clean 5 gallon plastic pail instead.

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  12. I have not used plastic, but I don't see why you could not use plastic. Some people would have concerns about chemicals leaching from the plastic, which concerns would be resolved if you used what is called "food grade" plastic -- like ice cream pails and bulk berry pails that you get from your local 4-H truck sale; that sort of thing. Try it and let me know how it works out for you!

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  13. Anonymous1:55 PM

    hi, how do i find part II? i'm about 5 wks into the kraut. next week i start canning it, right? i sent out a group email to all my friends to find a crock. i found it and i'll return it when i'm done.

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  14. If you go to the main page on the blog, scroll down and on the right side look for Special Links on This Blog. Under the Making Sauerkraut ... link you will see Canning Sauerkraut in a Pressure Canner. That is Part II.

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  15. Anonymous12:41 PM

    I tried to make kraut before but this really cool way wish me luck

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  16. Anonymous4:53 PM

    GREAT

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  17. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Hey, we just finished making our kraut yesterday, a whole trash can full, and when we put the plastic bag on the top filled with water some of the water went into the kraut. I added more salt to the top but I'm concerned we will lose our finished product because of the water that had spilled onto the top. Can you give me some direction as to what we should do. It's only a day old and I'm hoping it will be ok. What do you think?

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  18. Not sure how much water you are talking about, but if there is obviously alot of water on top of the kraut, take a cup or big spoon and remove the excess liquid, but do leave a small amount of liquid -- it acts as a seal against bacteria. The added salt won't hurt anything. As you made a BIG batch of kraut, it might take longer to fully ferment. You may also need to remove excess liquid that draws out of the kraut more than once. Keep an eye on it.

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  19. Anonymous5:37 PM

    where's part II??

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  20. Anonymous5:20 PM

    WE are waiting for part two. Please POST!!!!!!!

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  21. Anonymous11:02 AM

    Our crock cracked and all the liquid was lost. We sealed the top with plastic to make it air tight. Would the fermentation cause the crock to crack, do you think?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous9:15 PM

      CO2 from the fermentation pressurized your crock and broke it, do not make it air tight. If you are clean freak, then devise a way to use a brewing air lock to let the gas escape; but this is unneeded.

      Delete
  22. If you are talking about an earthenware crock, I don't believe fermentation would cause a crock to crack. In any event, you don't want to make your crock air tight -- the cabbage needs air to properly ferment; your cover should be breathable.

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  23. Also, never ferment foods in a crock with a crack. Once the crock cracks, it's worthless for fermenting.

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  24. Anonymous5:43 PM

    Thanks for the tips. Your kraut recipe sounds mighty tasty. It'll have to wait till next year for me, but I'm passing your site on to my friends.

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  25. Anonymous7:58 PM

    How do you clean your crock pot?

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  26. I scrub my crock with hot water to which I add a couple of drops of dish washing liquid and one capful of bleach. If I need some scouring to remove stubborn cabbage particles, I use a PLASTIC scouring pad, but that is infrequent as most times a dishcloth is sufficient for cleaning. After scrubbing, I rinse the crock well with more hot water and dry it with a clean dish towel.

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  27. Anonymous1:33 PM

    Thanks for your input. I'm trying to modify the way I make kraut. For a lid we use a plastic bag filled with water and place it inside the crock.

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  28. Grandma Carol2:11 PM

    I inherited my grandmother's 6 gal earthen crock 40 years ago and have made kraut several times in it. It must be scalded out with boiling water to make sure it is as sterile as possible. I even boil the cheese cloth in salt water to make sure there are no mold spores in it. I weight it down with a scalded dinner plate (over the cheesecloth). No extra weight is necessary. I lay HandyWrap over the cleese cloth and tuck it against the crock wall so it is "sealed". Then I cover the crock with a large heavy plastic sheet and anchor it down with a bungee cord. I let it ferment for at least 6 weeks. There is no scum or mold, only nice white kraut when fermentation is complete. If you see scum or other nasty stuff on top, you haven't adequately sterilized the crock and plate, etc. In the old days, they didn't worry about that and just removed the scum every few days. Your enemy is bacteria and mold spores. Check it once a week and if you do get some, take out the cheese cloth and wash it, put it in some boiling water and resterilize it. Wipe down the sides of the crock and try to get rid of the bacteria and mold. Then put it all back together and continue. You'll know if you have some by black spots or white moldy scum around the edges....anything that is not kraut juice.
    If your house is air conditioned, it may take longer to complete fermentation. We keep our house at 76 degrees and it takes 6 to 7 weeks. I don't notice any odor and have no fruit flies.
    I love my kraut and can no longer tolerate the canned or bagged stuff from the store that has not been adequately fermented. Mine is mild and not gas-forming.
    By the way, don't use plastic tubs. I've tried it when I had more cabbage than my crock would hold, and it got nasty gluey stuff all around it. I had been warned, but tried it anyway. You can always find large crocks in any antique shop. Just make sure it isn't cracked.
    I don't understand the "plastic water bag" on top of the kraut. What is the purpose of that? It needs some head room for fermenting. It is done fermenting when there is no more bubbling activity. Then put it in jars and "cold pack" it. For you young people, that's a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. I use a pressure cooker; start in tap water about 4-5 inches deep, let spew for 20 minutes, pressure at 5 lbs for 5 minutes. (I don't trust the water bath method).

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  29. I am manually inserting a comment I received from Grandma Carol because for some reason the comment approval screen is not working properly. It's great info. Thank you, Grandma Carol!

    "I inherited my grandmother's 6 gal earthen crock 40 years ago and have made kraut several times in it. It must be scalded out with boiling water to make sure it is as sterile as possible. I even boil the cheese cloth in salt water to make sure there are no mold spores in it. I weight it down with a scalded dinner plate (over the cheesecloth). No extra weight is necessary. I lay HandyWrap over the cleese cloth and tuck it against the crock wall so it is "sealed". Then I cover the crock with a large heavy plastic sheet and anchor it down with a bungee cord. I let it ferment for at least 6 weeks. There is no scum or mold, only nice white kraut when fermentation is complete. If you see scum or other nasty stuff on top, you haven't adequately sterilized the crock and plate, etc. In the old days, they didn't worry about that and just removed the scum every few days. Your enemy is bacteria and mold spores. Check it once a week and if you do get some, take out the cheese cloth and wash it, put it in some boiling water and resterilize it. Wipe down the sides of the crock and try to get rid of the bacteria and mold. Then put it all back together and continue. You'll know if you have some by black spots or white moldy scum around the edges....anything that is not kraut juice.
    If your house is air conditioned, it may take longer to complete fermentation. We keep our house at 76 degrees and it takes 6 to 7 weeks. I don't notice any odor and have no fruit flies.
    I love my kraut and can no longer tolerate the canned or bagged stuff from the store that has not been adequately fermented. Mine is mild and not gas-forming.
    By the way, don't use plastic tubs. I've tried it when I had more cabbage than my crock would hold, and it got nasty gluey stuff all around it. I had been warned, but tried it anyway. You can always find large crocks in any antique shop. Just make sure it isn't cracked.
    I don't understand the "plastic water bag" on top of the kraut. What is the purpose of that? It needs some head room for fermenting. It is done fermenting when there is no more bubbling activity. Then put it in jars and "cold pack" it. For you young people, that's a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. I use a pressure cooker; start in tap water about 4-5 inches deep, let spew for 20 minutes, pressure at 5 lbs for 5 minutes. (I don't trust the water bath method)."

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    Replies
    1. We make 50 pounds a year, and we use the big bag of water on top to "seal" it. When the fermenting begins, the gas releases along the edges like a burp, and no air seems to go the other way. The bulk of our is used for a Russian Christmas vigil meal with extended family attending.

      Delete
  30. Hello! My father made sauerkraut this year, and when he checked on it he noticed that the brine had gone below the cabbage. He made more brine and added it to the crock. Before he did this it had been fermenting fine, when he checked it a couple days later though the fermentation had stopped. What do you think is the cause? Do you think that it will still be safe to eat?

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  31. Hi, Amber. In this blog entry I wanted to share with others how I was taught to make sauerkraut. It is not the end-all-be-all on sauerkraut making, and I cannot tell you if your sauerkraut is safe to eat. You must decide that for yourself. When in doubt, don't. Have you ever added a glass of water to soda pop? The fizz goes away because the carbonation in the pop has been diluted. The "fizz" does not come back. This is what I think happened to your sauerkraut. You may just want to start over with a new batch.

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  32. Anonymous8:50 PM

    I just tried making sauerkraut in a crock; before reading your info. I'm a Czech, too, and my parents always made theirs in a crock. But I didn't add onions, just canning salt and caraway seeds. Covered with a kitchen towel, then a heavy plate, followed by a heavy jug filled with liquid. Should I still cover with cheesecloth?

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  33. Hello! A kitchen towel is fine to use. The point of the cover is to keep out dust and wee beasties.

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  34. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Just spent this lovely Wisconsin Autumn afternoon in the garage making Kraut. I really enjoyed all of the information you shared and have made Kraut in my 5 gallon Redwing pottery crock for years. Thought I would share my basic recipe, that was handed down from my Polish grandparents. 4 very large heads cabbage, 2 very large onions (about 4 cups roughly chopped, in a mortar and pestle combine: 1/4 C. dried juniper berries, 1/4 C. caraway seed, 1/4 C. dried dill weed. Crack the spices to release their essences. 3 C canning and pickling salt. The salt is what draws the moisture out of the cabbage leaves, and sometimes just allowing it to stand creates the moisture needed. I have found that my Boleslawiec Polish dinner plate works very well on the top, with the addition of a large rock. I like the idea of a gallon bottle of vinegar (which I use a lot for cooking and cleaning) works well, also, as an alternate kind of weight. The temperature is crucial for good fermentation. Now that Autumn winds blow chilly the fermentation will be gradual---that is, I have found, the best thing. It is also a good time to make kielbasa. The canning is all done now, with the making of the Kraut. Incidentally, kapusta, (sauerkraut) is a major part of the Polish National Dish, Bigos, which is a stew of many meats, including wild meat, used for flavoring. When the fermentation is complete I will bag the kraut in freezer bags and freeze it. Kraut makes a really good Christmas present in this neck of the woods! Thanks again for the entertaining and interesting post. Smacznego! (may it be tasty!)

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  35. You make kielbasa? I'll be right over! LOL

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  36. Montana Pole9:03 PM

    Anonymous - would you mind sharing your Polish Sausage recipe? We haven't had good sausage since moving far from Urbaniak's Meat shop.

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  37. I just started my first batch:

    http://rebeccabaerartfulliving.blogspot.com/2010/11/homemade-sauerkraut.html

    I can't wait to see how it turns out!

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  38. Anonymous1:34 PM

    I made my kraut, I only had a 12 gallon crock. Covered it with a plate that did not fit snug, about 1/4 inch gap and weighted the plate down. A week ago the kraut looked great. Today it looks dry with mold around the gap. Do I need to throw it all away?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous7:33 PM

      IT WILL BE FINE. YOU MAY NEED TAKE THE DRY STUFF OFF THE TOP WHEN YOU GET READY TO CAN AND IF YOU THINK IT IS TO DRY ADD SALT WATER..

      Delete
  39. I wouldn't toss it. Make sure the kraut is pressed below the brine. As much as possible try not to disturb the entire contents of the crock, and watch the temperature of the room where you have the crock -- around 74F is good. The 1/4 gap from the plate is fine.

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  40. Anonymous8:11 PM

    We have a batch of sauerkraut brewing in a 5 gallon crock. I weighted the cabbage and brine with a plastic bag filled with water, but also covered it with plastic wrap. Now it has orange residue covering the sides of the crock. Did I ruin the kraut by covering it with plastic wrap? Is the orange residue a type of mold - will it be unsafe to eat?

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  41. I don't use plastic wrap to cover my crock and have never had orange residue on my kraut so I cannot speak to what the problem might be. I most certainly would NOT eat it. When in doubt, don't!

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  42. Anonymous6:55 PM

    Hi I added too much salt to my kraut when i made my brine and now the kraut is very salty. We have tried to rinse the kraut but its still a salty is there anything that you know that will help to reduce the saltlyness of the kraut?

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  43. Oh, Boy. I've made too salty kraut, too. Besides rinsing, I've let my kraut soak in distilled water for a couple of hours. There's something about distilled water that seems to draw the salt out of the kraut. Other than that, all I can say is that instances like adding too much salt are just part of the learning curve of making your own sauerkraut. BTW, we did eat our salty kraut -- mostly we rinsed it before cooking with it, and we used most of it in recipes (Sauerkraut Soup is a good one) where the saltiness in the kraut could be diffused throughout the entire dish. And, no additional salt was added to the recipe.

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  44. I made your saurkraut recipe last fall and it is the best I have ever eaten. I have given it to several of my friends. Thanks so much I will be making more this year

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  45. Anonymous3:28 PM

    Made my first batch of sauerkraut. At 3 1/2 weeks I opened it to check and it was rotten smelling. I wasn't sure if that was the mold everyone talked about. My plate didn't cover to the edges and at that point the brine level was suddenly below the cabbage. I'm guessing the extreme heat we experienced may have contributed. Must my plate cover completely to the edges? Every time I checked it before it smelled so good. Should it go in the fridge as soon as the bubbling stops? I tried scooping some out, but it still smells bad.

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  46. You don't want your plate to be a tight fit in your crock of you'll have trouble getting it back out! If you look at the picture of the plate I put on top of my kraut you'll see that it leaves about 1/4" around the crock uncovered. That is more than enough room to be able to insert a knife under the plate to lift it up and be able to remove it. Yes, the heat certainly would affect your fermentation and be a factor in your brine evaporating. I would toss this batch and try again when the temps are in the low to mid 70's -- 74-76°F seems to be just right. Cooler temperatures make for a longer ferment and higher temps make for a fast ferment. I don't even think about making kraut till the middle of September here. Don't give up and good luck with your next batch!

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  47. Kathy4:41 PM

    I just bought a Red Wing 12 gal. crock at a thrift store. When i cleaned it up it I noticed it has a hair line crack in it. It hold water fine. Can I still use it to make kraut with good results?

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  48. Hi, Kathy: Cracks in crocks, no matter how fine, will widen over time. Bacteria can get inside the crack. Do not use a crock with a crack in it.

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  49. Just made prepped my first test batch of kraut just one cabbage head.

    Wanted to add that from my experience making Kombucha - i never use any soap on my equipment or utensils. Instead I use vinegar which has always worked great. Fermenting should produce some discolorization, foam, scum - but often in speaking to others if your equipment wasn't perfectly clean - funny mold will happen

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  50. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Will a smaller amount of kraut take a shorter time to ferment? I've tried making sauerkraut 5 times but only succeeded once :-( I'll try again with some of the tips I've picked up here.

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  51. I've never made small amounts of kraut LOL, but I think that it is room temperature that dictates how fast a ferment goes.

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  52. Anonymous5:44 PM

    oh no my kraut has white mold on top of brine..does it have to be thrown out?

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  53. Anonymous3:34 PM

    my kraut has a layer of white mold on top..will I have to throw it away..my first time makeing kraut my dad always made it and he passed away so i have no one to ask..should have payed more attention when i had the chance..

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  54. Only you can decide whether or not to toss your kraut. There are many good suggestions in the comments section here about making sauerkraut. My kraut gets mold on top because I let it "breathe" while it ferments. Some people really wrap theirs up with cellophane and more to keep out mold. Some people are real germ freaks. This post is simply sharing MY way of making sauerkraut. Re-read the blog entry and read the comments. That should help you make your decision.

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  55. Anonymous7:07 AM

    Yesterday I made Kraut in a food grade plastic juice container. One of the recent posts suggests that this won't work. Is this true? Has anyone else used plastic?

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  56. Hi, Anon -- I have not used plastice to make kraut. If I didn't have my pottery crock, I would probably prefer to use a glass container. That being said, I don't see why you couldn't use a good food grade container for kraut. The only comment I would add is to remember that fermented products tend to have a corrosive aspect to them. For example, yogurt and kefir are excellent to use for cleaning stainless steel sinks! Fermented foods are known to clean out your blood vessels. I suspect that over time a plastic container used for fermenting would degrade from the lactic acid. Not sure about this, just my thoughts.

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  57. Anonymous8:09 PM

    I have made kraut 3 times in a 35 gallong (new) plastic garbage container. I usually make 100 to 150 pounds of kraut, (using 7 to 8 heads for sourheads). I put a pizza stone on top of the kraut with a huge clean rock on top. I then cover the barrel with a folded sheet. I never get scum or mold that needs to be skimmed of. I usually rinse the rock and stone every 2 to 3 days, and stir the kraut so the top stuff gets mixed in with the lower kraut. I usually have to add more brine during the process. I have a 2" gap around the pizza stone. I have had the best kraut!! Never had a bad batch. I make alot and provide it for family and friends. Hope this is helpful.

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  58. Anonymous10:02 AM

    I just finished a batch of kraut in my crock, which I have done before several years ago. This tine I noticed that I am getting a brine crust build-up on the outside of the crock, it is brown in color. I wipe it off but it comes back? Any advise on this would be appreciated.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous8:15 AM

      Anonymous -
      Did you ever find out what the build up on the outside of your crock is? I just made kraut for the first time and am having the same problem.
      Thanks for any info that you have!

      Delete
    2. No, I don't know what it could be. Bleach kills most nasties so I would wipe the outside of the crock with bleach.

      Delete
  59. On the outside of the crock? And you are finished making your kraut? I would clean the crock really well with hot soapy water and a plastic scrubber and wipe the outside down with bleach water. Sounds like it just needs to be cleaned well.

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  60. Anonymous2:15 PM

    Joyce- I have not finished making my kraut, it has only been three weeks, The red crusty brine on the outside keeps coming back after I wash it. Can not figure out how it is getting on the outside of the crock? What is you thoughts?

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  61. I can't think what it could be. If it's on the outside of the crock and keeps coming back after you clean it, I can only think that the finish on the crock has somehow been eroded and some kind of foreign element has invaded the clay. If bleach won't kill whatever it is that is growing, I'd buy a new crock and plant flowers in the weird one.

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  62. Anonymous6:14 PM

    Thanks Joyce, my kraut is still brewing and the red crusty material has subsided. Kraut smells and looks good, I have removed the moldy scum a couple of times in the four weeks that it has been processing. I feel it should be a good batch.
    Thanks for your help.

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  63. Another Polish Descendant4:58 PM

    Someone mentioned kombucha. Does anyone have a recipe to share on how to make kombucha? I have heard it, too, is extremely healthy to drink. Thanks for all the great info about kraut. I hope to try making some soon.

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  64. The plastic water bag on topof the kraut keeps air from contacting the krqaut. The air is what causes mold, etc. Put enough water in a plastic bag to make it about 2" thick when sealed and laid on top of the kraut making an air tight seal to the outside air. Kraut does NOT need head space to ferment. The fermenting is done in the kraut, not on top.
    Been doing it this way for years, nice clean kraut from top to bottom when done.

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  65. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Bill, You got it. I cut a thin plastic bag. place it over my stomped cabage and add about 3" of water. I let the edge's of the bag hang over the edge of the crock.5-6 weeks the top comes off. No mold, just fine krout

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  66. Anonymous5:52 PM

    I make 'kraut the way they do in WV. I chop it with an old cream can with the end cut out into a large dish pan. After washing the cabbage head and letting it dry a bit, it is chopped and put into my stone crock. All I use is cabbage and pickling salt. I put the cabbage in and put some salt on top doing it in layers. The cabbage has it's own water in it and the salt brings it out as you smash the mixture down into the crock. When crock is about full, put a plate which fits into the crock on top and weigh it down with something heavy. Put cloth over the top and tie it down. Set in a 65 - 75 degrees area and leave it alone for 4 weeks. It is said in WV to make your 'kraut when the full moon is going down. They go by the almanac and the signs. I always have good ''kraut and it doesn't spoil.

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  67. I made a batch and it came out fantastic. I used celery seed and dill seed. I also used pure sea salt with no aditives at all. I layered it in with a tablespoon of salt between each layer. It was wonderful. The most important thing I did different was I did not use an open crock. I went to the canning pantery and bought the gterman sauerkraut cermanic double lip crocks that allow you to pour water in the double lip to form a seal. As a result no top two inchs of spoilage the only mold was on the inside wall above the water line which was easly wiped out and the crock comes with two perfect stones that cover the whole surfaqce and kept everthing submereged. No waste, not too salty, no bad layers, no nats, and no slim, just a plesent bubbling soound as the kraut fermented. TGhe results was a wonderful product that everyone enjoyed including all the ladies at a church lunchen, Thank you for giving me the confidence to give it a try. I is just wonderful to know how to make sauerkraut that tastes soooooo good.

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  68. I would like to add that I uesd a little red cabbage in one batch, and it made a real nice light red kraut. After reading some of the above comments I would like to add some more thoughts. The crock is a Gartopf made by Harsch. It came from the from the canning pantry on line. I wan to restate, the double lip water seal allow the kraut to breath, and I got no mold, no slim, no nats, no waste, no spoilage, everything was just perfect. All you have to do is keep water in the double lip and every now and then wipe out a little mold on the side wall above the water line with a damp paper towel. Just make sure none of it falls into the water. I only do this about twice twice in a six week period. I also put some in quart jars using the same water and put it in the frige, and the rest I put in quart jars using the same water and canned it in a water bath. I hope this post helps some of you out a bit, I have two more batches brewing. Good luck.

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  69. Anonymous4:56 PM

    Like Mike, we too use the Gartoph. My understanding of the water trough is it simply allows the gases to escape while keeping the air out. With this last batch, we also jarred a couple of pints with some Korean chili powder.

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  70. Anonymous11:20 AM

    I liked your method Bill using the plastic water filled bag, if it keeps away the mold, scum and flies, then I am trying it! I have made my first (in years) batch of sauerkraut and have a couple questions. I filled a gallon size zip-lock bag with water and placed it on top of the kraut, and it didn't spread out around the top completely, leaving gaps the brine came up around it so I switched to a larger trash liner, is this ok to use? I filled the liner with a couple inches of water and placed it on top of the kraut, using a twist tie to seal in the water space. Then I spread the rest of the bag around and over the top of the crock pulling it down the sides a few inches. Do you just leave it at this point, no cheescloth or string to seal it? I also noticed that the brine was coming up and around the sides of the bag, should it ALL be below the bag?
    I would appreciate your tips and advice, I really want this batch to be good, unlike my last batch which was a disaster! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous8:43 PM

      I watched a lady from Alaska from one of those gov't "Extension" things (sorry for the incorrect terminology), and she kept stressing to NOT use garbage bags. Any plastic must be Food Grade.

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  71. kris &bill10:33 PM

    we made our first batch today. 3 gallon crock . seemed daunting at first , but muddled much better once we did the first 2 heads of cabbage . 3 GL guess will be done about 4 weeks. we enjoyed your recipe .

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  72. kris &bill10:36 PM

    we made our first batch today. first it was daunting but, after second head of cabbage was easier muddling. looking foward to outcome... thanks

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  73. Cecilia6:58 PM

    Hi, there! I found your article by searching on how to make sauerkraut in a crock and several weeks ago I made my first batch. It is supposed to foam? Mine has not foamed at all and when I check it, it smells delicious, not at all stinky! (Maybe the batch is actually not fermenting at all? What are your thoughts?) I also have noticed that the cabbage is not completely covered with the brine and your instructions above mention to carefully top it off with brine, but I can't see the instructions for the brine anywhere. Any help would be welcome, thank you!

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  74. Anonymous8:49 PM

    wHEN YOUR KRAUT IS DONE FERMENTING I WASH THE KRAUT THEN PUT IT IN 1 QT FREEZER BAGS AND FREEZE IT.. WORKS GREAT

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  75. Anonymous11:12 AM

    I am new at this I did my kraut (Ball Recipe) in a huge crock. After 1 week it stopped bubbling and I left it in the crock a couple more weeks. Yesterday I saw mold on top and removed it. Today I pulled my 25 lbs of cabbage out of hte crock and it smells musty. I tasted a little after heating and it taste a little musty. Am I in trouble here or should I heat and process in hot water bath canner?

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  76. Hi, Anon: Usually kraut that ferments in high temperatures stops fermenting in a short period of time. Such kraut tends to be "soft" and not have much flavor. A "musty" smell doesn't mean much to me; fermented cabbage does have a smell all its own. I really don't know how I would categorize its smell except that it should smell like sauerkraut. I do not heat my kraut before canning it, and I use a pressure canner, not a water bath canner. I cannot tell you if something is wrong - I wasn't there to watch how you made it. My cardinal rule is, "When in doubt, don't." If you don't trust yourself and how you made your kraut, and you don't think the kraut is good, toss it and try making another batch.

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  77. I always helped my father make his kraut and did not pay much attention. He always used brown sugar with the salt (he said it reduced the bitterness). Trouble is, I don't know how much sugar for how much cabbage. Do you have any idea? Can't ask my dad as he passed away.

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  78. Hi, Sue: I never add sugar when I ferment cabbage, only when I cook it!

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  79. Your link was MOST helpful!!! Thank you so much! I just finished my very first batch of Kraut. I am so excited to see the upcoming results. What a great site! Thanks for sharing! God Bless

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  80. Polly9:13 PM

    Have you ever noticed black stains in the crock after making kraut? This happend to me and I'm wondering what it could be. It's not mold and the stains were on the sides and bottom where the cabbage was pressed against the crock. The cabbage isn't fermented as much as I hoped after 3 weeks and has an almost pungent smell that slightly burns my nose. It tastes like briney cabbage but is still crisp. The cabbage was very mature from the garden. Any thoughts? Thanks
    Polly

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  81. Hi, Polly! Can't say that I've ever seen black stains in my crocks after making kraut so I have no idea what that could be. Your kraut sounds really good! The best kraut I ever made had that sting in your nose acidy smell. I usually let my kraut ferment for six weeks. Some people go longer. My sister only let her kraut ferment for three weeks this year. I think your kraut is fine.

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  82. Anonymous6:53 PM

    Hi Polly, My mother used to put green peppers (stuffed with cabbage & small green tomatoes) these were scattered though out the crock which was a welcome surprise, when one would surface. Great kraut!!!! I'm Hungarian on both sides Andy zaleczky

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  83. I haven't been able to find any comment or information about using a metal pot, instead of a ceramic or glass crock. Is that a no-no?! If so, why? Thanks for any help!!!

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  84. Hi, Ann. You certainly could use a glass crock (that would be a pretty site) or large stainless steel pot, but I would steer away from using anything aluminum. There is too much naysaying about aluminum these days and I would rather err on the safe side by not using it. I just bought two 6.5 gallon plastic beer fermenters from a brewing supply store to try making extra kraut in next year. If you want to try plastic, use only food grade.

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  85. I got about halfway down into the blog and noted that no one had posted this. If some one had, please excuse the entry.
    My grandmother would complete the loading process into the crock, place a close fitting plate on it (upside down), putting "the rock" on top, and then would "seal" it with salt all along the circumfrential edge, almost to the point of it being a "finger deep". (Her measurement, not mine.) The entire crock would be coverage with "the towel" (one of those sturdy "kitchen towels) and tired off with string.
    Once the kapusta starts to ferment, the evaporating water would be absorbed by the salt and form a "breathable" seal. Gases would pass through, but not any additional moisture.
    6 weeks later? WOOOOO-HOOOOOO!

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  86. Metal no-no?
    Too much acid is released during the fermentation. It will effect the metal, even if it's stainless.
    After searching FOREVER for a decent crock, I was able to find that Ohio Stoneware still makes a nice variety. (I purchase 2 - 3 Gallon ones.)
    The best place to order from? Ace Hardware, believe it or not. Otherwise, you have to travel to Ohio, because no one else is carrying them at a reasonable price.
    Good luck.

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  87. Anonymous6:56 AM

    nov.6,2013 what do you do after 6 weeks? still waiting for the rest of the story!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  88. On the right hand side of this blog under the "Special Links ..." section, click on "How to Make Sauerkraut in a Crock - Canning Sauerkraut in a Pressure Canner Part II"

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  89. Superb way of explaining, and great blog to get wonderful information.
    how to make sauerkraut

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  90. Anonymous11:30 AM

    I just made saurkraut in a quart jar. The recipe said to do everythng you did but it said to put an an airtight lid. I left it for three days and it bubbled like mad when I opened it, it tasted pretty good. but it was not really the strong kraut taste I like so I left it for another couple of days with the tight lid. It seems to have stopped fermenting. Should I have never put the tight lid on it. And what do I do with the kraut now. Must it be refigerated??

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