This is the week (okay, last week too) that I make my Christmas kraut. Sauerkraut makes a great food gift, of course, and although I prefer it raw, my dad cooks it up with kielbasa for a traditional (at least in our family) Christmas Eve dish.
Even better, I consider kraut to be a kind of blank canvas onto which my preferred palette of flavors can be painted. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something a little wacky (like the Sauerkraut Satay from my book that has been a crowd favorite at book events), and I go nuts. Other times, I want a classically-seasoned, simple kraut with a more traditional flavor profile. Of those more simply seasoned krauts, this kraut, that I call Mirepoix Kraut, is a favorite for the holidays, mostly because, in addition to being a crowd-pleaser, it’s so pretty it can double as a centerpiece.
If this kraut sounds good to you, (or even if the wackier krauts, or kimchi, or kvass, or pickled veg or fermented condiments, etc, are more your speed) don’t miss the big ol’ blog giveaway of Ferment Your Vegetables that’s going on through Monday, 12/7.)
MIREPOIX SAUERKRAUT RECIPE
Yield: 1 Quart. Adapted from Ferment Your Vegetables (by me), used with permission of Fair Winds Press
The only trick to this kraut is finding bay leaves that have maintained their shape through processing and shipping. I like to have a few extras on hand, in case one gets clipped during the packing of the jar. Several of these in a row or a circle honestly do make for quite a pretty centerpiece.
- 1 3/4 pounds (790 g) cabbage
- 4 teaspoons (22 g) kosher salt
- 2 carrots
- 1/2 small onion, peeled
- 2 small celery stalks
- 1 teaspoon (1.5 g) dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon (1 g) dried sage leaves
- 4 whole, unblemished bay leaves
Remove any unattractive or wilted outer leaves from the cabbage. Keep one handy and compost or the rest or use them for another purpose. Cut out the core and rinse the cabbage in cool water.
Shred the cabbage into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) wide strips using a sharp chef’s knife, slicer blade of your food processor, a mandoline, or a kraut shredder.
Place the shredded cabbage into a large bowl, add the salt and toss thoroughly for about 30 seconds or until the cabbage has a sheen of moisture on it. That means the salt has successfully drawn some water from the cabbage.
Let the salt and cabbage sit while you dice the carrots, onion, and celery. Then, gently massage and squeeze the cabbage until there is a visible puddle of water in the bottom of the bowl, and the cabbage pieces stay together in a clump when squeezed. Add the diced vegetables, thyme, and sage to the cabbage mixture and toss to distribute.
Takea handful of cabbage in your dominant hand and a clean quart (1 L) jar in the other. Press the cabbage in the bottom of the jar and pack it down with the top of your fist or fingers. When about an inch of cabbage mixture is in the jar, gently slide the stem end of 1 bay leaf down along the side of the jar, securing part of it in the cabbage mixture so that it is pressed flat against the side of the jar.
Pack more cabbage into the jar, carefully, so that the bay leaf is pressed against the glass but not pushed down and broken. On another side of the jar, place another bay leaf and secure it against the glass by pressing more cabbage mixture into the jar. Repeat until there dis 1 bay leaf visible on each side of the jar, and all of the cabbage mixture is pressed in, to about 2 inches (4 to 5 cm) below the rim. If you need more space for cabbage, press down on the cabbage and tilt the jar to pour liquid from the jar back into the bowl.
Use the reserved cabbage leaf to create a “cabbage shelf.” Pour the cabbage liquid from the bowl into the jar, covering the cabbage and leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) of headspace at the top of the jar. Using your preferred method , weight the veggies down and cover your jar, loosely with its own lid if your weight fits in the jar, or with a cloth and rubber band if the weight protrudes above the rim of the jar.
Allow to ferment at room temperature for 4 to 6 weeks, checking at least once a week to make sure that the brine level is still above the top of the cabbage. If it isn’t press down on your weight to get the brine to rise back above. Once you’re happy with the flavor and acidity, remove the weight, secure the lid and place the jar in the fridge.