Michael Pollan's Sauerkraut
Zippy Cabbage Slaw
Sauerkraut Recipe: This zippy sandwich topper would also be delicious in a stew or as a filling for dumplings.
- 4 pounds Cabbage (2 heads Red and 2 heads Green)
- 6-8 teaspoons fine Sea Salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Juniper Berries
- 1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds
Catching Up With Michael Pollan
4 pounds Cabbage (2 heads Red and 2 heads Green)
Thinly chop or shred the cabbage into roughly 1/4-inch thick slices and place in a very large bowl or tub. Shredding the cabbage on a mandolin gives the best result. If using other fruits and vegetables, slice them to about the same thickness as the cabbage and add to the bowl. The rougher the cut, the better as more surface area is exposed to the salt.
6-8 teaspoons fine Sea Salt
Add the salt (1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons per pound of cabbage mixture) to the cabbage mixture, mixing it into the shredded leaves with your hands, squeezing the cabbage and pounding on the mixture as you go. (It’s best to start by adding 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt per pound and then adding another half or whole teaspoon extra per pound if needed.) Within several minutes, the salt will begin drawing water from the cabbage leaves. Continue to squeeze, bruise, or pound the cabbage to speed up the process. You can also place a weight on the mixture to drive out liquid.
1 1/2 teaspoons Juniper Berries
1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds
Wait until the vegetables are dripping wet, like a sopping sponge. Taste the cabbage. It should taste salted but not salty. If it’s too salty, add more shredded cabbage or briefly rinse with water to remove. If it’s not salty enough, or not wet enough, add a little more salt. Add the spices, if using, and toss. Pack the mixture tightly in a glass jar or crock fitted with a lid that can hold at least 8 cups, making sure all the air is squeezed out and the vegetables are completely submerged in their liquid. (If you don’t have a large container, use two or three smaller containers, about 1 quart each in volume.) There should be at least 3 inches between the packed cabbage and the top of the jar. Push the vegetables down tightly using your fist. They should be covered in their liquid. Before sealing the jar, either weight the vegetables down with a small ceramic or glass jar or insert something nonreactive between the lid and the vegetables to keep them submerged in the liquid: a plastic bag filled with stones or PingPong balls works well or lay a large cabbage, fig, or grape leaf over the shredded cabbage and weight that down with clean stones or other heavy nonreactive objects. There should be enough liquid to cover, but if not add a little water.
For the first few days, store at room temperature, ideally between 65°F and 75°F, then move to a cooler location, such as a basement. If you’re making kraut in a sealed glass container, make sure to release the pressure every few days, especially the first couple of days, when bubbling will be most active. In a mason jar, you’ll know pressure is building when the metal top begins to bulge; open just enough to release the gas and reseal. Those old-timey glass crocks with the hinged tops held in place by a metal clasp work well since they will release pressure along their rubber gasket. Easiest of all is a ceramic crock designed for making sauerkraut. If at any point water seeps out of the jar during fermentation and the cabbage mixture is not fully submerged in liquid, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt in a cup of water. Add enough brine to keep the sauerkraut submerged in liquid.
Taste it after a week, then two weeks, and then weekly after that. When the level of sourness and crunchiness is to your liking, move your kraut to the refrigerator to put the breaks on the fermentation.