Two-bit Guru | Canned Sauerkraut | Photo of canned sauerkraut.

We made our second batch of canned sauerkraut, ever, in December. We let the first batch that we made in the fall ferment for two weeks and then eagerly canned it before it turned into some kind of unexpected sauerkraut monster, dripping slime and taking over the kitchen. That first batch turned out edible but was more bland than exciting.

Thanks to several cabbages we planted in the summer, and protected with cold frames into the fall, we started our second batch of sauerkraut on December 1st, and canned it on December 30. The second batch is superb, trending toward exquisite, in my perhaps skewed opinion.

We’ve taken guidance from several Internet sources, but the most helpful voice of experience belongs to my father-in-law, who has shared his wisdom with us many times on many subjects over the years. He found an antique cabbage shredder for us at an estate sale and made a new box for it as well. It’s from the Tucker & Dorsey Mfg. company and was patented Aug. 28, 1908. The shredder cleaned up good, as they say, and it’s a useful asset in our ever-growing collection of food processing devices.

Sauerkraut is remarkably easy to make, in it’s simplest form nothing more than shredded cabbage and salt. Simple as it is, you still have to wonder how in the heck people discovered the process. It’s baffling that somebody learned that by shredding cabbage, adding salt, and putting a weight on top of it you get one of the healthiest probiotic foods you can eat.

While the cabbage is happily fermenting away under water, the surface exposed to the air is another story, and an icky one at that. That’s where the politely monikered “bloom” resides, something that could perhaps be mistaken for icing on a cake, except for the smell. Some sources simply call the bloom “scum,” others say it’s mold, others say it’s bacteria. Whatever it might be, 2,000 years ago or so, for the first time, an unknown Chinese person had to scrape the bloom away to discover the tasty sauerkraut fermenting an inch below the surface.

1,000 years later Ghengis Khan brought sauerkraut from China to Europe, undoubtedly as part of a cultural exchange program with Europe providing innocent victims, Ghenghis providing the sauerkraut.

A precautionary note on canning and healthfulness: the experts say that heating the kraut to canning temperatures destroys the probiotic value of the product. They’re probably right.

Some sauerkrautists keep a crock working away on the kitchen countertop. They began sampling it, say, after two weeks, and as the kraut continues to ferment they continue to enjoy the ever-changing flavor. If you’re happy with your kraut when you sample it, you can just put it in covered jars. Some folks say it will keep in the jars for a month or two just sitting in the cupboard. I say I’d rather put it in the fridge.

Next season, we’ll try not canning the kraut. For now, we’ve got 24 tasty pints of it to eat, even if it’s not as nutritious as it might have been.