As I added the sliced cabbage I sprinkled it with sea salt. I used 1 1/2 Tablespoons.
I then massaged – no, truly kneaded the heck out of – the cabbage to release the juices in the leaves and spread the salt all throughout. This is great physical therapy, by the way, if you have weenie hands like I do. Apparently my grip strength is the equivalent of a 64 year old woman. I figure if I make enough sauerkraut I will have bionic hands! We will NOT mention other side effects of sauerkraut and the possibilities of bionics at this time, thank you.
The more I worked the cabbage leaves, the more juices came out. I also added 1 Tbsp Caraway and 1 Tbsp Dill seeds. My hands also got very, very cold. I was seriously tempted to chase the 4 year old around the kitchen and tickle her with my icy hands but she was happily occupied in the other room eating Easter candy, so why tempt fate??
As you can see, the volume of the cabbage decreased dramatically and there were juices all over my hands. If you have ANY sensory issues with little things sticking between your fingers, this is the point where you run across the kitchen screaming “get it off, get it off” as the tinier strips of cabbage really stick.
I then began stuffing a 1/2 gallon wide mouth canning jar with the mixture. One is supposed to use a crock, but I am not going to buy one until I am sure I want to make this often. Well, more like, “I don’t get to buy
another seriously expensive gadget a crock until I’m sure I’m not going to accidentally give my family food poisoning …”
I really enjoyed tamping the cabbage/juice/spice mixture down with my fist. I must have some psychological stress to work out… They do sell spiffy wooden doohickeys to do this with, but the thrill of beating it down with my bare fist along with the risk of perhaps getting my hand stuck in the jar was irresistible. You need to release enough juices for the cabbage to be completely submerged when it’s put in the crock or jar.
In the interest of encouraging the scientific method, I hypothesized at this point that I would, indeed, have enough juice to cover the cabbage. (Speaking of science – covering the mixture is necessary because this is an anaerobic process. No air. There are three different stages of bacterial growth and NONE of them need air. Air be bad. You could put a lid on the jar but pressure might build up, so burp it if you do. The salt is what is supposed to prevent the growth of BAD bacteria. You can read up on all the science in other places. Just remember: air be bad. No air.) Back to my hypothesis: Did I make enough juice…. (drumroll, please).
Yes! I did! Boy, I’d make a good scientist…. 😉
Now, the next step calls for covering the cabbage with a plate or somesuch and then weighting it down so that the liquid continues to cover the cabbage and the cabbage continues to pack down. I could not somehow transform my saucer to small enough to fit in the jar then back to big enough to cover the cabbage so I improvised. Inspired by someone somewhere else on the interwebs (I’ve been researching sauerkraut for a few weeks now) I filled a zip-closure bag partway with brine (1Tbsp sea salt to 1 Cup water) and eased it atop the cabbage mixture, making sure only the brine rose to the top. I thereby covered the mixture, raised the brine level and assured that if the bag leaked it would still be brined. Clever idea, whoever came up with it originally!
As per directions, I then covered the top of the jar with a cloth and set it somewhere dark to do its fermenting thang. I shall check on it periodically to make sure that the brine level is adequate and for mold, etc. I may even get in serious philosophical discussions with my sauerkraut, but who knows.
Something is working, the sauerkraut is frothing and releasing a lot of bubbles when I pushed down on the top. Smells pretty stinky, but not bad stinky.
UPDATE again: it’s July, 2013. There is no more of this batch of sauerkraut. It was delicious but let me tell you if you taste it too early, it just ain’t right! My second batch bombed, but I was messing about with a pickler lid so I think I am at fault. I will try again soon.