That's a Crock!

CrockHere's a bit of trivia: Instead of Urban Farm Store, I nearly followed my gut and opened a fermented pickle shop. It's a good thing I didn't because I would have soon been crushed by my friend Stewart of the amazing MoonBrine Pickles!

As Stewart can attest, it's not always easy to get consistently good results when fermenting cucumbers and most other veggies. Cabbage on the other hand is much more forgiving, making kraut the perfect ferment for kids and novice adults to get their fingers in the brine for the first time. While it can be made in almost any food-safe vessel such as a canning jar, kraut and other fermented foods seem to work best for me in heavy crocks that help stabilize the environment within (we just got a fresh load of crocks and lids, BTW).

Preparation for making kraut involves nothing more than shredding, salting and bruising cabbage. Cram that tightly into a container to ferment without air for a few weeks in a warm (not hot) place and microbes present on the cabbage will do the rest. This excellent article provides more details.

Here are a few personal observations to add:

1) For best results, use only cabbage that's been harvested in autumn or winter, ideally that have experienced a frost or two. Avoid cabbage grown in California or out of season as these tend to make for mushy kraut with an off taste. Thankfully, because kraut keeps to well, you can make enough each fall to last an entire year with little difficulty. This leads me to...

2) Storing kraut when fermentation is complete is best done in the back of the fridge where it will remain edible for at least a year (longer if you can handle the soft texture). Stronger brines and cooler temperatures increase shelf life. During long storage periods the kraut may emerge from brine and dry out. If this should happen to you, simply push it back down and/or top it off with fresh brine (water with about 2% salt by weight). I don't recommend canning your kraut as this will both make it mushy and kill the beneficial microbes within.


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