This new blog I'm addicted to, Food in Jars, had a post on making sauerkraut a few weeks ago, which seemed way too easy. As the cabbages are still trickling through our farmer's market--and I love kraut like no one's business--I thought I'd give it a try.
It seems counter-intuitive to preserve food by letting it rot, but that's exactly what you do. Per the instructions I mashed up a head of shredded cabbage, a tablespoon of kosher salt, and some dill (that's my modification, the recipe says caraway or fennel) for about ten minutes. (Consider it you arm workout for the day!) Then I mashed it into a jar, which I topped up with some bottled water.
My kraut is currently mellowing on my kitchen counter-top. I'm opening the jar once a day or so to release any built up gasses--just whenever I walk by and think of it, generally--and it's starting to smell like sauerkraut. Haven't had any scum yet, but, per the directions you just scrape it off if any appears. (Not really looking forward to that part honestly, but anything in the name of science, right?) I braved a taste the other day, and it's starting to taste pretty good.
In doing a little outside research on making the kraut, I also found a recipe for fermented pickles. It just so happens that I have a really tiny pickle crock--seriously, I could only fit in about six baby cucumbers--so I decided to do a small batch just to see how they would turn out. Follow the link for the exact recipe, but basically you just submerge the pickles in brine and spices until they're as pickled as you want them to be (some scum scraping has been necessary for these). I sampled one of these the other day too. They're good, but I think I like my fresh-canned recipe better. The fermented ones just kind of have a funny wang.
I'll try to report back when they're all done....