How To Fix Too Salty, Too Sour Sauerkraut

It’s a muggy, hot and humid 92 degrees here in Michigan this afternoon, so of course I decided to cook something appropriate for the weather. NOT!

I decided on sauerkraut with pork, sausage, and dumplings. This calls for the stove to be running for at least four hours at the highest setting. Granted that’s only one burner, but then the other four are going intermittently to make the dumplings, sear the pork, and what would this meal be without some garlic and white beans on the side. Oh, and did I mention, our air conditioner is on the fritz? Well, it just wasn’t hot enough in my kitchen this morning after canning another batch of pickles, so heck, why not throw on a pot of sauerkraut to heat things up to that oh so pleasant temperature of 97 degrees?

Now this wouldn’t have been such a bad idea, if when I went to test the meal, about two hours before serving, I didn’t notice that my homemade sauerkraut was too sour and too salty.

With homemade sauerkraut, I find rinsing it prior to cooking is not a good idea. The reason being that many times all the sour gets washed out. When this happens, there is no fix other than opening another jar and adding it to the washed sauerkraut. Therefore, I empty the jars of sauerkraut into a stock pot and add several jars of water to start the process. As the kraut cooks I add water to it as necessary so it doesn’t cook down and burn. Usually this is enough to tone down the sourness and make the sauerkraut perfect by the time dinner is served.

Today I used two quarts of sauerkraut and added about three quarts of water. After adding the sausage, pork, and dumplings, my 8 quart pan was pretty full. This was left to boil for several hours. When I tasted it however, the sauerkraut was too sour and salty to the extent of almost being inedible.

What to do?

My fear was that if I were to wash the sauerkraut now, I would be left with tasteless sauerkraut and the meal would be ruined. Doing nothing however would result in the same, so here is what I did.

First I removed as much of the meat as I could. Then I strained out most of the original water in the stock pot, reserving it for later.

Next I filled the pot half full with fresh water and returned it to the stove. Right away I tasted the sauerkraut and found the salty taste gone, unfortunately so was the sourness — just what I had feared. But, I had planned on this. So, slowly I added back some of the reserved original water. Each time I added the sour liquid I let the pot come back to a boil and then did a taste test. Eventually I got it to my liking and then added back in the meat.

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Once the meat was back in the pot and it came to a boil I again tasted the sauerkraut. Because of the reintroduction of the meat the sauerkraut was a bit more sour and a little more salty. Not too much, but definitely something that should be kept in mind next time. It is possible that the meat could have taken the salt/sour ratio over the top again, so in the future I will add the meat back to the pot immediately and start taste testing from that point.

In hindsight, making this meal on the hottest day of the year might not have been the smartest thing, but I learned something new and that made it well worth it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Catching Up On Canning – Sauerkraut

March is the best time I have found to can homemade sauerkraut.  Because of St. Patrick’s Day and the hype to serve corned beef and cabbage, every super market and specialty grocery store puts cabbage on sale.  Typically cabbage is anywhere from $.33 to $.49 a pound.  The first two and a half weeks of March though you can get it as low as $.14 a pound, which is exactly what I paid for it this year.

At this great bargain price I bought six large heads of cabbage for less than $5.00 and with this I was able to get 8 1/2 quarts of sauerkraut.  This will be enough until I buy the token couple of heads of cabbage at the fall markets just because I love to buy farm fresh produce locally whenever I can.

I am not a big fan of fermenting cabbage or pickles in a crock.  I find it more cumbersome than doing it in jars and less sanitary.  For me, fermenting in a jar is the way to go.

Sauerkraut in jars is so simple, it took me about three hours from start to finish.  If I had used my food processor to shred the cabbage rather than a mandolin, the time would have been cut at least in half, but for some things I just like doing it a certain way.  A food processor will shred the cabbage quick, but not as thin as I like it.  My mandolin makes it paper-thin and then I use the chopping blade on my food processor to finish up any cabbage that couldn’t be done on the mandolin.

Here is what I do:

Homemade Sauerkraut Part 1

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  • 6 Heads Fresh Cabbage
  • Pickling/Canning Salt
  • Quart Jars

The first step is to shred the cabbage to the desired thickness.  The thinner the cabbage, the easier it will be to tenderize.

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Next you will add 2 tablespoons of pickling or sea salt for each head of cabbage.  Massage and knead the salt into the cabbage, reducing the volume by at least half.

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Squeeze the liquid from the cabbage and pack into clean quart jars.  Add another teaspoon of salt as you are packing the jars.  Be sure to really pack down the cabbage in the jars with a pestle  This is crucial to remove excess air.

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Once the jar is packed, add reserved salty liquid over cabbage and top with a folded leaf of cabbage.  This leaf will help keep the sauerkraut from floating to the top.

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Cover the jars with clean lids and bands.  Do not over-tighten bands as the jars will begin to ferment and liquid will need to escape.  Sealing them finger-tight is good.

Let jars sit in a cool dark place for at least three months.  During the first couple of weeks you should check on the jars every other day or so to burp them.  Also, check to make sure that the liquid in the jars does not fall below the folded cabbage leaf.  If it does, add a salt brine to top it off.  To make brine, combine 4 1/2 tsp. pickling/sea salt and 4 cups water.  Bring to boil to dissolve salt.  Let cool to room temperature.  I usually make a jar of brine the same time I make the sauerkraut so I don’t have to worry about having to do it later.

Once the sauerkraut has fermented for at least three months, you can remove it from the jars, heat, replace in clean jars and seal for storage.  I typically let mine sit for at least 4 to 5 months, as we like it pretty sour.  Some people don’t open the jars after they are done fermenting to re-jar them.  I have mixed feelings on this.  Although I have not always re-jarred them using the water bath method, I somehow feel more secure in doing so because I think it will prolong the shelf-life of the sauerkraut.  I’m not a huge believer that botulism would be a factor here because the jars seal themselves during the fermenting process and we never got sick when we ate them without resealing them, but everyone should make their own decisions and do what they are most comfortable with.

In a later post I will go into greater detail as to how to re-jar the sauerkraut, as my jars that were made in October are ready to be sealed now.  Possibly next week.

With St. Patrick’s Day over, so is canning sauerkraut for another year, unless I have success in planting cabbage in my garden this year, in which case I’ll be doing this again in October — keep your fingers crossed, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.