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Making Sauerkraut for New Year’s

October 30th, 2009

On Wednesday I started my sauerkraut for our New Year’s Day tradition. We’ve been eating sauerkraut for New Year’s in my family since I can remember. We used to go out to my grandma’s house and she would have a big roaster full of sauerkraut, sausage and dumplings. When my grandma died my dad took over. He developed his own special recipe, changing it each year to make it better. It’s not your typical kraut recipe, it includes carrots, apples, tomatoes and all kinds of delicious goodness. For a few photos of my dad cooking on New Year’s and the recipe see this post.
Sauerkraut that ferments at cooler temperatures – 65 or lower – has the best flavor, color and vitamin C content. The fermentation process takes longer at these temperatures, around 4-6 weeks. That’s probably why it’s traditionally made in the fall. Looks like I’m making mine at the right time, it should be ready by mid-December and waiting in the fridge for New Years!
Making sauerkraut is quite easy all you need is cabbage (red or green), salt, and time (generally 3T of salt for every 5 lbs of cabbage). First you slice up the cabbage as thinly as you’d like, I usually do some really thin and some thick for variety. Then you put some sliced cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle salt over it, then smash with a wooden spoon or potato masher and mix. Continue adding cabbage and salt and mixing and smashing until the bowl is half full.
When the bowl is about half full I let it sit for 10-15 minutes to take a break and to let the cabbage wilt a little. This makes it easier to stuff into the glass jar I’m using as a fermenting crock. Transfer the cabbage to the jar, smash it down and continue working until all the cabbage is salted, smashed and packed into the jar. Let the cabbage sit overnight, if the brine hasn’t covered the cabbage make some brine (1.5 T of salt to 1 quart of water) and pour over the cabbage. I use a canning jar to weigh down the cabbage because I’m not comfortable using plastic. Let it sit for 4-6 weeks until it stops bubbling and it tastes like sauerkraut. You really can’t get much simpler. I’m hoping to try a few of the recipes in my The Joy of Pickling, Revised Edition
When I was making this I thought about all the women in past generations of my family that spent time each fall making sauerkraut for New Year’s. Connecting with our food heritage is such a wonderful thing. Hopefully our nieces & nephew will grow up with fond memories of eating Grandpa’s Famous Sauerkraut on New Year’s and continue the tradition with their families.

Do you have a specific food or menu that has been passed down through the generations of your family?

33 Comments to “Making Sauerkraut for New Year’s”
  1. Annie on October 30, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I grew up with Italian traditions which root back to my maternal grandmother whose family came southern Italy. I remember my mom getting a bushel of long skinny peppers every fall and then stringing them up and hanging them in various places around the house to dry. (I eventually saw this done in Italy when I spent a semester abroad there and was so excited!) Then, on Christmas Eve, she took out the dried peppers and flash fried them in oil. That oil would take on the pepper flavor and would top bacala (salt cod) and be served with capellini with marinara sauce. There’s nothing like it in the world! It’s a family treasure.

    Reply to Annie's comment

    • Susy on October 30, 2009 at 9:43 am

      That sounds delicious!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Mike on October 30, 2009 at 10:58 am

    We, too, just finished making a batch of kraut. What a great tradition your family has, I may have to try a version of your dad’s recipe out it sounds very good.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..One Thing Leads to Another… =-.

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  3. Chiot on October 30, 2009 at 11:24 am

    As a French living in Bavaria, your advices are very useful to me. I will try to make sauerkraut and let my German friends test it!

    Reply to Chiot's comment

  4. rachel on October 30, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I thought that you had to keep the air out of the crock or it would go bad… does the layer of brine on top do that or are you covering the whole jar with something?

    Reply to rachel's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 12:39 am

      The brine covers the cabbage, you don’t want the cabbage touching the air and the brine keeps that from happening. If scum forms on top of the brine you just skim it off. You do have to periodically check the jar to make sure the cabbage is still covered in brine.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Gudrun on October 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I made my first batch of sauerkraut this summer, following the Juniper Berry Kraut recipe from Joy of Pickling and it turned out well. I covered the top of my kraut with an extra cabbage leaf or two, then a plastic bag filled with saline solution. Seemed to be ok.

    Once my first batch was done, I put it in the fridge, and when I want sauerkraut for something, I just help myself. Do you know how long it will last in the fridge? Should I have canned the extra?
    .-= Gudrun´s last blog ..Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (recipe) =-.

    Reply to Gudrun's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 1:06 am

      I think it will last for quite a while in the fridge (probably until it tastes “off”). I’m sure in the old days they just kept it in the crock in a cool area of the house. If you want to eat it for probiotic reasons I wouldn’t can it, it kills all the good stuff in there. I usually cook mine, so this summer I canned some.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. melissa on October 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I adore that jar!!

    We have a few things that have been passed down, and a few things I plan on passing down. My great-grandmother used to make marshmallows (no corn syrup required) and I revived the tradition several years ago.
    .-= melissa´s last blog’s the meat of kings =-.

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    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 12:40 am

      The jar is a one gallon barrel jar from Anchor Hocking. I’ve considered getting the 2.5 gallon version (link below) for pickles. I really like the wide mouths, it makes them easy to clean!!!

      I keep wanting to make marshmallows, I found a recipe with egg whites and I can’t wait. I think that will be a winter treat when I’m a little less busy!

      Anchor Hocking 85679 2-1/2-Gallon Glass Barrel Jar with Brushed-Aluminum Lid

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Pampered Mom on October 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Our family has carried on a couple of traditions. One is a chili recipe from my Great-Great Aunt. She lived on her own until she was around 100 and passed away around 104. We used to chuckle at the fact that the recipe called for suet – now it endears the recipe to me even more.

    The other dish is one we’ve always just called Lettuce, but based upon a few recipes I’ve seen out there it’s also likely called “Dutch Lettuce” or “Wilted Lettuce.” My family is the only one that really likes it so my Grandma looks forward to getting together with us at least once a year for it. We’re having it on Tuesday and I can’t wait!
    .-= Pampered Mom´s last blog ..Folk Music Fridays – "Pick a Bale of Cotton" =-.

    Reply to Pampered Mom's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 12:41 am

      MMM, I’d put suet in my chili! I’ve been looking for a local source of tallow and suet.

      That’s great that you guys still have the favorite recipe with grandma!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. jenn on October 30, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Questions – Where do you let the sauerkraut sit while it’s doing it’s thing for 4-6 weeks? I’m asking because I’d like to try, but live in Florida, so need to determine it the 4-6 weeks will need to be in the fridge, because we can be very warm in the summer – even here in NW Florida.

    Reply to jenn's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 12:42 am

      Some people put it in a dark cabinet, I usually just leave it on my kitchen counter or on the dining room table so I remember to check on it periodically. You can make it at higher temps (my mom used to make it when they lives in the jungles of South America and it was in the 100’s) it just ferments faster.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. Helen at Toronto Gardens on October 30, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    One of my maternal great grandfathers spent time stationed in India with the British army. Ever since, our family has made curry for any informal get-together. I’ll admit, ours might not be genuine Indian fare, as over the years it has evolved to incorporate other pan-Asian cuisines. But it’s a great recipe that can be adapted to almost any type of ingredient. One of my favourite versions if I think there might be vegetarians for dinner, for instance, uses sweet potatoes, apricots and chick peas.
    .-= Helen at Toronto Gardens´s last blog ..What’s to love about a rainy October day? =-.

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  10. ruralrose on October 30, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    This is a lovely tribute to your heritage. What strikes me this dish is prepared in anticipation of the feast. Instant gratification would be the opposite of this loving tradition. Each season as I put up my harvest, I think of the people before me who did the same to survive. Thanks for sharing, I am going to make some tonight. Peace for all

    Reply to ruralrose's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 12:43 am

      That is one of the nice things about canning/preserving/fermenting. It’s all about the future and it definitely is a hopeful endeavor!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Lorna on October 31, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been living in the Middle East for over a year now and cannot find sauerkraut anywhere. . . and I love to put in on my home made pizza!! I will have to try this (thank you Suzy for mentioning the heat of South America). Two questions–do you need to sterilize the jars before packing with the cabbage? Also, is there a specific type of salt to use–idodized/not, sea salt etc. Oh, and is there anything that can go wrong that would make us sick when we eat it, and how would we know? Thank you :)

    Reply to Lorna's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 7:48 am

      I usually was the jar really well with hot soapy water beforehand. The ratio of salt to cabbage is generally around 3 Tablespoons of salt (I use sea salt) to 5 lbs of cabbage (you do want to avoid iodized salt). Some people will probably tell you to not used sea salt, but I’m sure that’s what people have been using for years before store-bought salt was available and I only keep sea salt in the house.

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  12. Nic @ nip it in the bud on October 31, 2009 at 4:30 am

    how lovely to have a tradition of making and eating a dish together each year. We don’t have anything like that only the national tradition of eating turkey on christmas day which we kick back against because I’m veggie and my husband prefers other meat to turkey.
    When we got married my brother created a wedding cookbook for us by asking our guests to send him a recipe. My husband’s nan gave us her christmas pudding recipe and when she died a year later in 1999 we realised she’d never told it to anyone else before and it would have been a culinary secret that died with her. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never made any of the dishes from our cookbook so your story has inspired me to dig it out and find her recipe. Should mature nicely by christmas and would make a very special present for my father-in-law. Thanks for the inspiration Susy

    Reply to Nic @ nip it in the bud's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 8:52 am

      That’s a great idea for a wedding present. You’re so lucky you had the recipe or it would have been lost forever.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. Diane on October 31, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I make mine the same and you’re right, it can’t get any easier! Is that a Kerr jar? I am in total envy! Great find!
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Happy Happy Day! =-.

    Reply to Diane's comment

    • Susy on October 31, 2009 at 8:52 am

      It’s Anchor Hocking (1 gallon). I like it because I can fit a batch of sauerkraut made with 2 large heads of cabbage or 3 small ones in each jar.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  14. […] blogged over at Not Dabbling yesterday about how to tell if that sauerkraut you started a while ago is finished. There were a few questions from readers about how to know. I thought perhaps some of […]

    Reply to How to Tell if Your Sauerkraut is Finished | Chiot’s Run's comment

  15. Busy New Year’s Weekend | Chiot's Run on January 3, 2010 at 4:46 am

    […] ate a big serving of my dad’s sauerkraut to ensure a prosperous New Year. The kraut we ate was the batch I started in October, it was really really tasty! I was too tired to take any photos of our New Year’s Day celebration […]

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  16. […] Ellix Katz – has to say here or on this Youtube video. Plenty of others are doing it too, here and here – illustrated with plenty of pictures to help you along the […]

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  22. songbirdtiff on December 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I was going to ask about the jar, too, so I’m glad I read some of the comments. I added a few rows to my garden plan next spring so that I’ll hopefully have plenty of cabbage to ferment next year.

    Reply to songbirdtiff's comment

  23. Cooking up Some Prosperity | Eat Outside The Bag on January 16, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    […] racks of pork spareribs (4 to 6 pounds of local pastured pork) 3 to 4 pounds of sauerkraut (preferably homemade) 4 finely chopped tart apples (about 2 cups) 4 finely chopped or shaved (with vegetable peeler) […]

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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