Sunday, October 19, 2008

Canning Sauerkraut, Part II

Well, now's the time to finish my kraut. I just need to remind you all that these kraut listings (Making Sauerkraut and Canning Sauerkraut) are how I make kraut. They are not intended to be definitive "how-to's" and I am not responsible for what you assume or do because of them. If you click on the title to this post, you should be taken to the earlier post on making sauerkraut. BTW, I also am posting these pics to the Mother Earth News web site WeCU photo section; just search for either "sauerkraut" or Swamp Creek Farm.

So! My kraut has fermented and fortunately I had minimal problem with vinegar flies. I wheeled my crock into the kitchen and put it near the garbage can.



Then I prepare my jars and lids. The jars and lids are washed with hot, soapy water, then the jars are filled with hot water to keep them warm, and the lids and bands are placed in hot water, too. I try to use my oldest screw bands because the acid in the kraut wrecks the shiny finish and I use my nice bands on gifts I give to friends and family. My pressure canner is clean and in good working order. About two inches of water is put in it, and the canner is set on the stove with the heat on "low" to warm it up.






I go back to my crock and carefully remove the cheesecloth covering.




Yuck! The mold is gross but I don't fret. I take off my rock weight, rinse it off and put it in the dishwasher. Then I take a stainless steel spoon and carefully scoop off the mold. The mold goes into the garbage. Then, using the spoon I pry off the plate and expose the kraut. The plate goes into the dishwasher.







Next, taking my stainless steel spoon I peel off about the top 2" of kraut and toss it in the garbage -- not the compost bin! This spoon then goes into the dishwasher with the kraut rock and plate, and I get another stainless steel spoon, this time a slotted one -- using a slotted spoon at this point is less messy. Why use stainless steel? Because it's easy to sterilize.




Working quickly, I fill my jars, top them with hot water, remove the air bubbles, put the lids and screw bands on, and put them into the canner.







I lock on the canner lid and turn up the heat. When I see steam venting clearly in a steady stream from the canner vent hole, I set a timer for 5 minutes and allow the steam to vent unhindered. When the timer goes off I put on an oven glove and carefully set the weighted steam gauge at 15psi over the vent hole.





Then I start watching the pressure dial gauge. I never leave the kitchen at this point. When the dial gauge reaches 15psi, the weighted gauge starts jiggling and I start a timer set for a 20 minute count down. I carefully watch the dial gauge and adjust the heat under the canner as necessary to keep the dial gauge as close to 15psi as possible. The weighted gauge will have a steady jiggle. When the timer goes off, I shut off the heat under the canner and let the pressure come down to 0psi naturally. Once the pressure is down, I take off the weighted gauge and carefully remove the canner lid being sure to open it away from me. Anyone who doesn't have a healthy respect for steam deserves what they get! I remove the hot jars from the canner and let them cool undisturbed.




Two canners makes the work go quicker.



When the canning is done I clean my work area, set the dishwasher to sterilize and hand wash my canners and crock with hot soapy water and a little bleach. Then everything gets put away for next year. The next day I remove the screw bands from the sauerkraut jars and put them in the dishwasher to get washed. I wipe down the jars, check to make sure all jar lids have sealed, and write the contents and date on the jar lid. Then the jars get taken to the basement and put on the pantry shelf. This year I made one 5-gallon crock and canned 15 1/2 quarts of finished sauerkraut. Eating one quart a week starting in November will give us kraut till about the end of February. Of course, I will send my soldier girl the pint jar for Christmas!

46 comments:

  1. This is a great article! I have had some people ask about how to make sauerkraut -- and I have a feeling this is one of the best instructions for the process out there. How can I get in touch with you? You may email me at karrianns@earthlink.net

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  2. Thanks for the great instructions. I would like to know what kind of pressure cooker you have.
    oxforddebra@gmail.com

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  3. What a great article. I would like to know what kind of pressure cooker you use.

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  4. Anonymous11:02 AM

    I'm curious why you choose pressure canning over hot water bath or steam canning?
    Crazyaboutcanning

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  5. It's probably my age more than anything else -- I'm 54 and grew up watching my mom use a pressure cooker for just about everything. At the time, pressure cookers were THE way to cook quickly. I am not convinced of the safety of steam canners, and steam canning is not an approved canning method according to the WI DATCP Certified Acidified Food Training Course I just completed this June. Water bath canning is fine for acidified foods, but I like to use a pressure canner because I think processing kraut at 15 lbs/psi will kill any fear of bacteria that might linger in the back of my brain.

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  6. Anonymous10:23 AM

    Great article.
    I have a question. do you need to keep liquid over the cabbage for the full time.and do you
    drain this liquid right before canning.

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  7. Yes, I keep the cabbage under the juice the entire fermentation time -- the juice acts as a kind of seal against bad bacteria. Before I can, I do carefully remove as much of the juice on top of the kraut, as well as any mold, AND the first couple of inches of kraut without disturbing the kraut that is deeper in the crock. When the kraut is lifted out of the crock any liquid that comes with it gets canned. However, I don't use only the fermenting juice because (1) there will not be enough of it to fill all the jars and (2) it is very salty -- something the folks in our house have to watch. I top the kraut in my jars with hot water. Some people rinse their kraut before canning it.

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  8. Anonymous9:28 PM

    We prepared our kraut as you did except we mixed small batches of cabbage and salt and then added to the crock. I am afraid that our kraut has not fermented correctly. It does not have a sour taste when I have taken a small bit to taste and it also tastes very salty. There is not much activity in the crock, it is not foaming, etc. What do you think?

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  9. A couple of things come to mind: (1) Nothing is wrong. (2) Did you stomp your cabbage to break it down till it was juicy? (3) What was the temperature of the room where you let your cabbage ferment? Room temperature around the mid '70sF seem to give me the best fermentation action, but kraut doesn't always "fizz" or smell strongly when it makes, and that I think is caused by the characteristics of the cabbage. Lower room temperature and even air humidity can affect fermentation. Some years I don't even get a lot of mold. (Just like when some years grapes are sweet but sour in other years; it's still the same vine, but the product is different. Some years cabbage is fizzy and some years it isn't.) My freshly made kraut doesn't always have a real sour taste or smell. That sour taste comes with canning and ageing awhile in the jar. The color of fresh kraut is light compared to its color after canning. Very salty kraut isn't necessarily a bad thing. You can always rinse it either before you can it, or before you use it. And believe me, I've made some really salty kraut! When my kraut turns out to be too salty we rinse it before we use it and do not add any additional salt to whatever we are cooking. Remember, salt is a preservative and helps to prevent formation of bad bacteria, and that's a good thing. If when you go to can it and the color of the clean kraut (the kraut that is below the top layer that you peel off and throw out) looks all right, I would go ahead and can it using either the instructions in the Ball Blue Book for a water bath canner, or use a pressure canner at 15psi for 20 minutes. If it doesn't turn out, well, practice makes perfect as the saying goes; you just toss it and try again. I have thrown out kraut, too. I didn't like doing it, but when in doubt, don't. If you don't feel comfortable with the product, don't use it. Hope this helps. It's always hard to give advice when I'm not there to actually see and smell the cabbage.

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  10. I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up Mold Inspection

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  11. I don't understand what you mean by saying you remove the screw bands the next day and put them in the dishwasher. Do you then screw them back on or use others? By the way, this is a great article, I hope to make some kraut real soon!

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  12. Hi, Mary. I take the screw bands off the jars after the jars have cooled down (usually overnight) and then wash them in the dishwasher before either putting them away or using them to can something else. I wipe down the sauerkraut jars if they are sticky and then store them. I do not store any canning jars with the screw bands on. Just my style I suppose.

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  13. Anonymous10:49 PM

    Thank you!

    I am new to your blog and I must say your instructions are top notch, easy to follow and direct! I am looking forward to making my first batch of kraut in a old but new to me crock I picked up in Hibbing, MN. Thanks again for the tips, keep up the amazing work, there is a new generation of young 20 somethings out there searching for guidance in the way of self reliance with regards to food - keep up the great work!

    cheers, Milo

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  14. Anonymous6:57 AM

    Hi, I'm using your site while making my first ever kraut making. Thanks ,your blog is great. My kraut stopped bubbling. I thought something was wrong till i reread yuor post. everything you need to know is right here. I'm 2 weeks into this and can't wait till its done.

    Thanks Melvin, Shamokin,Pa

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  15. Anonymous6:00 PM

    I like your details here. I'm using my new presure canner for the 1st time & wasn't sure what the presure was, I saw another site said 5lbs & you said 15lbs, I also saw a site that said not to presure can krout? I put a bag of brine over the top while fermenting so I don't get mold, then I don't discard any, I hope thats ok, just my 2nd try on it so I'm still not sure what is best?
    chekyerkrout
    Northern MN

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  16. Hi, chekyerkrout: The Ball Blue Book uses a water bath canner for canning kraut. That's because kraut is an acidified food. Using a pressure canner is probably overkill for kraut, but it is my preference because 15 psi is going to kill just about any bad bacteria that might be hanging around. Pressure canning your kraut is going to "cook" it; i.e., it will be soft when you take it out of the jar. If you want your kraut crunchy, you will be better off using a water bath canner. I read that some people just put their finished kraut in freezer bags and freeze it right away. I have always used a pressure canner for my kraut. (BTW, I use two 9 quart American pressure canners I picked up for $10 each at an estate sale). We happen to like our kraut soft.

    Good luck, Everybody, with your kraut this year!

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  17. Anonymous9:53 AM

    Yes, thanks I think I want to use my pressure canner, soft krout or krunchy I love it over dumplings, in reubens or when my tummy is upset- it does help! Thanks for your answers
    chekyerkrout
    N MN

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  18. Anonymous9:59 AM

    one more ? Can't I just use the brine rather than hot water when putting in the canning jars. I would think that would keep your sauer more sauer? Thats the way I did it last year cause I never saw the fill it with hot water way? I have no mold on my krout.
    chekyerkrout
    N MN

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  19. If you have enough brine, go for it! I usually take whatever brine goes with the kraut when I fill my jars and then top each jar off with hot water as I don't tend to have alot of brine. I don't see anything wrong with just using brine if you've got enough of it.

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  20. Anonymous4:07 PM

    Don't know if this blog is still active. Made kraut twice in the last two years... second time with your methods. It's awesome but I have a question... Why did some of my jars loose a lot of liquid, and is there anything I should do

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  21. Hi, Anon -- jars lose liquid for a number of reasons. Unless you lose more than half of the liquid, the jar is ok. If you do lose more than half the liquid, just be sure to put the jar at the front of your stash and use is quickly. Here is a link you might find helpful: http://www.simplycanning.com/liquid-loss-in-home-canning.html.

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  22. Tim Wisconsin7:15 PM

    Thanks for the link...I believe it was to little head space and I may have packed the jars to tight. anyway better luck next year.

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  23. Shari5:55 PM

    I had a question about the canning. Doesn't the heat used in the canning process kill all the good enzymes of the fermented cabbage? Wouldn't it be better to make small batches all through the year and keep it fresh to keep all the good stuff of freshly fermented food?

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  24. What an interesting question and one I never would have thought to consider! I really don't know the answer as to whether or not beneficial enzymes are damaged by the canning process. Of course, many people prefer to keep their kraut fresh. We prefer to can it as a (subjectively) better method of preservation because of our father's caution about spoilage -- when he was growing up his mother's kraut was kept fresh in crocks in the family root cellar and often spoiled. We had considered freezing the fresh kraut in freezer bags, but frequent power outages in our area discourage the use of freezers as primary storage units. There is certainly nothing wrong with making frequent small batches of kraut throughout the year, if that is your choice.

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  25. Anonymous6:58 PM

    great article. thank you. what kind and size canners are you using. i ask because i have a canner that looks the same, but may be a larger version. zif not then it relieves some of my canner apprehension. at this point i am intimidated by my canner and have never used it.
    Tabitha

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  26. Hi, Tabitha. I'm glad you like the article. Both of my bolt down canners are the same size and each holds 9 quarts. I find this a perfect size especially as I get older -- a bigger canner would be heavier and harder to handle. I understand your fear of your pressure canner. I bought my first canner back around 1977 -- and never used it until 2005! I was terrified that I would cause an explosion in the kitchen with it and so I only used a water bath canner for all those years. What helped me overcome my fear was actually doing a canning session with my sister who learned how to use a pressure canner in her home economics class when she was in high school -- a critical life skills class that many schools unfortunately no longer offer at all and one that I was not allowed to take because I was considered "college material". If you cannot find someone to pressure can with, go ahead and download info about pressure cooking, read it thoroughly, and then try cooking something in your canner first -- like a chicken. Pick a pressure cooker recipe and follow the instructions, one step at a time. Get used to using your pressure canner as a cooking pot. Your fear will rapidly fly away. Then, move on to use it as a pressure canner. Pressure canning would be like "cooking" jars LOL. If you really don't think you want to try it by yourself, call your nearest Extension office and see if someone there can set up a time to work with you.

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  27. Captsteven1:12 AM

    Great article....I just followed part one for my first ever attempt at making kraut. It was an interesting process. the only thing I am not sure of is the amount of onions to use...is it 3 or 4 per layer or batch? Anyway, am really looking forward to the next six weeks to see what happens.Thanks for all of your experience and all of the answers to everyone's questions...I really learned a lot. Thanks again

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  28. Thank you! Onions are just a matter of taste. If you like onions, add more. If you don't like onions, don't add any. Truthfully, I can't distinguish the onions from the cabbage when the kraut is finished fermenting. Good luck with your kraut!

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  29. I didn't really answer your question, did I, Captsteven? Well, it's 3-4 onions per layer, but as I said in the previous comment, onions are really optional.

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  30. Lorane Gal3:33 PM

    I started my Krat in a crock using another recipe that did not mention using onions on top, and it said to put a clean dish towel over the Krout before the plate and weight. It seems to be doing well, but should I remove the towel? It's been setting for one week and foaming.

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  31. Gee, Lorane Gal, I have never put a towel between the kraut and the plate. I guess my answer to you is: when in doubt, don't.

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  32. I add fresh dill when frementing and when I'm ready to can I pull out the whole stems, caraway seed is also one of my additions. To decrease the sourness I also add napa cabbage about one third of the amount of green cabbage

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  33. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Well my finished product is in the canner and I have a couple questions. I used pint jars and I have a 22 Qt Pressure Canner, I stacked them, do you see any problem with stacking them? My pressure canner book states you can stack with a flat rack between them. Do you do a 20 minute count down for pint and quart jars? How would I know if it doesn't turn out? You said you had to toss some out in the past, why did you toss it out? I really liked your article and thank you in advance for answering my questions.
    One of your canning friends, Deb

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  34. Hi, Deb (Happy New Year!). I made a batch of kraut two years ago with cabbage purchased from the grocery store. My sister bought some of the same cabbage to make her kraut, too. Both my and my sister's kraut did not ferment right. The batches were slimy and smelled funny. If it happened only to me, I would have thought that the fermentation failure was due to something I did, but for the same thing to happen to both my sister and me suggests to me that there was something wrong with the cabbage. So, I followed my cardinal rule -- when in doubt, don't -- and threw the batch out.

    I have stacked jars in my tall canner without a problem. Just use something with holes in it like a wire meat rack from a roaster or the bottom rack from another pressure canner between the levels so the steam can reach all the jars. And yes, at 15 psi I do both pints and quarts for 20 minutes. One thing I have found is this year I started switching from conventional metal canning lids to the Tattler lids and I have unfortunately had several (too many for my liking) jars of various foods, including sauerkraut, go bad. Before this year I only had one jar in over 30 years of canning go bad on me. This year I've had at least 10 bad jars. So, if you use the Tattler lids, be aware that there is definitely a learning curve in how to use them, and if you do use them, check your jars regularly for signs of spoilage. I really like using the lids and am sure the problem is with me, but I am really disappointed with the amount of spoilage I've had this year.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous9:26 AM

      Hi, I make sauerkraut all the time. I have a Harsch pot and don't get any of the white foam or mold with it. The reason you got slimy kraut is because the cabbage was not fresh which often happens when you buy the cabbage from a regular grocery store. I grow my own or buy it at the farmer's market and only when it is in season. Also summer cabbage does not hold up as well to fermenting as winter cabbage.

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  35. Anonymous9:19 PM

    Why do you not want to put the mold scraped from the top into the compost?

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  36. Just found your blog while looking for recipes for sauerkraut, and wanted to say hello from Park Falls! :-)

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  37. Anonymous12:02 AM

    I am not sure what your recipe is, but I found mine at "Wild Fermentation" and simple use 3 Table spoon Kosher salt to 5 pounds shredded FRESH cut cabbage. I add salt to each 5 lbs. shredded cabbage and mix well (with scrubbed hands) and I have a rolling pin that I punch the cabbage down to start the juices flowing, and I repeat each 5 lbs. till full, then I cover with a cotton cloth and then I put about a 5 lb. piece granite and set in spare bedroom to "kraut"

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  38. This year I made kraut and put it in two 1/2 gallon mason jars .. then set a 1/2 cup mason jar inside the lid opening to keep the cabbage below the brine. A plastic wide mouth jar lid was loosely screwed on the larger jar. There was no mold and they fermented quite well. I happen to like the health benefits of the active culture in fresh kraut. One year when we had an abundance of fresh kraut I decided to can some of it. It turned out great. AND .. I was able to 're-ferment' it by draining the brine from a freshly opened jar, adding back filtered water and about 1/2 tsp whey. Kraut was left out with a loose fitted lid on the kitchen counter for a day or two. It was great!

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  39. my question is my old crock has chips in it would it be ok to put a trash bag in it to keep it for the chip place ?

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  40. Anonymous4:38 PM

    Doesn't the canning basically destroy the pro-biotic properties of the kraut? Is fresh the only way to get these benefits?

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  41. Fresher is always better. I'm afraid I don't know much about pro-biotics. I make sauerkraut because my family and I like it. I'm sure there are web site like http://nourishedkitchen.com/ where you can get more information on the issue.

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  42. Anonymous9:28 PM

    Thank you for your time on the web site. I canned a great batch of sauerkraut and all the jars sealed quite a feat for a second attempt. Last year had a few failures to seal. Besides cabbage I add a layer of onions and then a layer of apples. The taste was great. First time using a crock and it was an improvement. Thanks again keep posting Jeff

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  43. I know this is an old blog but you seem like an accomplished canner. I made about 20 lbs of a great kraut and today froze some, packaged some for storage in Fridge (keep that pro-biotic thing going) for myself & friends and canned the last 4 quarts. My question is after sterilizing everything I packed the kraut tightly into jars. The kraut was about an inch down with half inch of liquid over it leaving half inch head space. After processing the kraut had expanded and there was no head space left. The jars sealed fine and are staying under vacuum but there is now some air in the top quarter of the jar. It looks like if I could push the kraut down everything would be covered again. My question is should the kraut be safe to store on a shelf or do I need to keep it in fridge and plan on eating it withing the next few months? I really would like to be able to have kraut a year from now. Was my mistake packing the kraut too tightly? I'm new at responding to a blog so will check back here.

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  44. Hi, Ray! As long as the seal on the jar is good, I think it is safe to keep the jar stored in a dark, cool, dry place. I keep my kraut in my basement -- it is a half-finished basement and we keep the temperature at 65°F. I have lots of jars that seal as yours did and they are just fine. The acid tends to corrode the screw lids and that is why I don't store my jars with the lids on. As long as the seal is good, I wouldn't worry about it.

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