Cabbage Batch

July 18, 2013 · 4 comments

What a Crock

Although I grew up just outside of New York city, there are some things I never assimilated. One was the accent, another was the ubiquitous sauerkraut on hot dogs. I always thought it was nasty, foul-smelling and -tasting stuff – at least the kind that came out of a can. It wasn’t until I started making Reuben sandwiches with my own beef that I realized that sauerkraut could actually taste like cabbage. When I saw the fermenting crock shown above (the other side says “ferment”), I took it as a cue to try my hand at homemade kraut.

I only needed four components: chopped cabage, salt, the crock, and my copy of The Art of Fermentation. Within a few hours I had a crock full of cabbage and brine.

Brined Cabbage

I weighed down the lid and placed the crock in my cheese fridge, which is set to a constant 55 °F. I wanted a slow ferment, which would produce a less sour kraut. After a week I had evidence of active fermentation: small bubbles forming on the surface of the brine.

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I tested out the batch by adding some to reubens made with Montreal smoked meat. The kraut was crunchy and salty, but only had the slightest amount of acidity.

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While I waited another week for more fermentation, I brined, cured, and smoked some pork belly and hocks to make bacon and ham.

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Shortly after that I read the latest post from Nose to Tail at Home, Bacon Knuckle and Pickled Cabbage. I had been unaware of that recipe, but I’m not nearly the Fergus Henderson expert that Ryan Adams has become. He leads, I follow.

Henderson’s pickled cabbage includes a lot of aromatics I had intentionally omitted from my first attempt, so I added them to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients for a long braise: cabbage, bacon chunks, a whole hock, bay leaves, peppercorns, and a handful of crushed juniper berries.

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I covered everything with more cabbage, the entire skin from the bacon slab, and an entire bottle of white wine.

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Three hours later we dug into this plate of loveliness (with pretzel bread from a local bakery):

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Tender smoky pork, chewy skin, bright salty cabbage – this was a winning combination, heartily endorsed by He Who Will Not Be Ignored as “a keeper.” I still had a lot of braised kraut and bacon left, so I worked up this variation with duck breast and roasted carrots.

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How do you improve on a bacon dish? Add duck fat.

I still have about a quarter of the kraut remaining ion the crock. I will continue to sample it until it stops tasting good, then I’ll have an outside date for the fermentation process. Next I’ll try a version with the traditional caraway and juniper. And after that? I see more kimchi in my future.

4 comments

Tamidon July 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I’ld trade you all my hocks for a few backed smoked
Does homemade sauerkraut can well? My worry about starting a batch is we would never get thru it quickly

Karl R. Wurst July 19, 2013 at 8:37 am

According to the waiter as The Student Prince in Springfield (MA) they add duck fat to their sauerkraut…

David July 19, 2013 at 10:29 am

Kraut crisped in duck fat is pretty tasty.

David July 19, 2013 at 10:28 am

Deal.

I can’t think of a reason why kraut wouldn’t can well. Although you should consider reserving a bit from one batch to use as a starter for the next.

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