Category Archives: Fermentation Projects

Homemade Sauerkraut-It’s Just That Good!

My mother’s extent of fermenting anything was crock pickles. Even though the neighborhood I grew up in was mainly German with a sprinkling of Irish, I never caught wind of someone fermenting their own sauerkraut.  This may be why, up until five years ago or so, I had no idea of the process of fermenting my own “soured cabbage.” I encountered the process of fermenting cabbage from Sandor Katz’s book, “Wild Fermentation.”  His enthusiasm about making homemade kraut definitely fueled this crazy passion, and I am ever more excited to ferment my next vegetable of choice. I am going to admit something here: Mr. Katz may have lit the fermentation fire underneath me, but for detailed execution, I seek the help of the internet. His book is very casual about the steps in the actual fermentation process.  I have failed in making sauerkraut in the past, and I believe now, a few key steps were missed.  I either didn’t add enough salt, or I may have possibly left it in the crock too long.  After talking to my neighbor about her first time making kraut and starting it in the fridge, did the realization hit.  Yes, take it out of the crock after the initial ferment and finish out the fermenting in a chilled, more controlled environment!

Two cabbage heads with all tough, outer leaves removed, a 1 gallon crock, kosher salt and my handy pounding tool. You also need something to chop the cabbage.  I used the slicer in the food processor or you can you use a mandoline.

Remove the core and slice into chunks(narrow chunks if using the processor).

Shred the cabbage and add the first layer to a very clean crock or a gallon glass jar.  Sprinkle a half teaspoon or so of kosher salt on the first layer. Take out your day’s frustrations on the cabbage, or in other words, pound the water out of your cabbage. Keep adding layers, salt  and pounding until you run out of cabbage. Add the remaining salt to the top layer. I used three tablespoons of salt for 5 lbs. of cabbage but that was waaaay too much salt for me. The last batch I made I reduced it to two tablespoons.

Once you add your last layer, weigh-down the cabbage.  I insert an upright bowl and then place a gallon of water or two-liter bottle of soda in the bowl.  Whatever you add, make sure it is clean and the item of weight is sealed.  My ghost-like crock is covered tightly to prevent fruit flies or any other unwelcome pests but be sure the ferment can breathe. Check it after 24 hours and check the liquid amount; the cabbage needs to be submerged in liquid. If not, add a little filtered water until it is. It’s tough to get the cabbage to release water so don’t worry if you need to help it along. Leave your crock hang for a couple of weeks but don’t forget about it. Check it daily and clean off the bowl and the weight, and also any scum that forms.  Depending on the temperature of where you keep the crock, cooler may mean a longer initial ferment and warmer may mean shorter.

This is day two or three of the ferment. 

Here we are at day 16.  I moved the kraut to jars when the crock started to smell like…are you ready for this…beer, and I finished the ferment in the fridge.  The jars have been in there about three weeks, and they are still bubbling. I’ve started another batch since one of the jars is almost gone. It’s just that good.

Fermenting 101–Water Kefir

A facebook friend, a yogi in Colorado, posted a link about the benefits of water kefir. I read it, and quickly ordered the grains from someone referred to as the kefirlady. For $20.00, I received live kefir grains, directions, and a tablespoon or so of organic sugar(turbinado or sucunat).  And so began my trials and tribulations with water kefir grains.

What drew me to water kefir was it mimicked soda/pop, and it was a probiotic that will aid in digestion and elimination. Since I was giving up soda(that’s how we say it here), and I could always use some digestive help, I was intrigued.  Let me assure you, it was not love at first taste.  It was live bacteria, and I needed to nurture them with sugar, warmth and delicate handling–oh, great. Oh, and did I mention they have an odor about them?  Trust me, nothing like dairy kefir but that’s for another blog. I went out and bought organic, brown sugar and bottled water, and I treated them gently, but I continued to “lose” grains at an alarming rate. I thought my stainless steel strainer was to blame, so I ordered a tighter weave, plastic strainer from Amazon 4.
I then added organic molasses to the mix and also some organic, dried fruit(A tip on dried fruit: It’s messy and a pain to clean from your grains. Leave it in your kefir container for a day only or tie it up in cheese cloth). I still lost grains and had to order more. Where did my grains go, you ask?  Well, as far as I can figure, a fair amount went down the sink while the others dissolved due to not enough food. Since my baking with yeast turned out to be gigantic failures, it appeared my luck with live bacteria was equally pathetic. I would not give up!

I have tweaked my methods and I have had the most success when I change them every 4-5 days, and add four tablespoons of Whole Cane Sugar with two tablespoons of organic molasses in 6-8 cups bottled water.  Another addition to assure success is to add the dried fruit for the last few days of fermenting-this energizes the grains with more sugar. Be sure and rinse the boys when you refresh the recipe and use glass to store them in and non-metal to handle the grains.

 Water Kefir

DSC_0848Here is the outcome from my last batch.  The grains have been soaking for five days with figs thrown in for the last two days. Notice the natural carbonation with grains floating on top(the large pieces are the figs).


In this photo are the items needed to change-out the grains. The items are pretty obvious, but I want to stress the nylon strainer.  I was losing a lot of grains through my other larger holed strainers until I found this strainer on Amazon .It works like a charm.

DSC_0853I’ve strained the grains and saved the liquid in the water container. The saved water kefir will go into the fridge and consumed once chilled. Never put your grains into the fridge unless you want them to go dormant.  I’ve heated the water to take the chill off, added 3 Tbls of organic sugars and did a generous pour of blackstrap molasses. The molasses is what is making this future batch so much darker.   I gently spoon the grains into the sugar water and stir.

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I attach a paper towel and rubber band and place the jar in the bottom oven. It will sit in the cold oven for the 4-5 days.

It takes a little getting used to, but I have learned to love it.  I’ve been making water kefir for three years, and I drink about 8 ozs. at night mixed with powdered magnesium, before I go to bed.