Quick Sauerkraut With Caraway Seeds and a Baseball Bat




About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

Sauerkraut cures all diseases, depression, and lack of pizzazz. Speaking of which, It goes great on pizza and zests up any dish. Cabbage is the cheapest vegetable. Here's how to make it into the most valuable sauerkraut.

Here are the basic tools:

Cabbage: These came from Haymarket in Boston, $1 each. If you wait til the Saturday night apocalypse you can buy them from in front of the bulldozer for a lot less. Or pick them up from the wreckage. Get a pile of cabbages that's bigger than the vat you need to fill.

Veggie Grater: What you really want is a "kraut knife" ($3 in Nicaragua) which is a board with a blade set in it at an angle. The shavings exit from a slot in the board under the blade. If you don't have one of those use a knife or machete.

Baseball bat: A friend cut the end off because he needed it for some project.

Sea salt: $1.50/lb at Trader Joe's. Don't use regular salt. It'll work okay, but God put sea salt in our blood for good reasons, and it's got to be replenished.

Knife: If the blade gets halfway through the cabbage it's plenty long.

Carraway seeds: Not seen in this photo but they improve the kraut. I have a friend whose real name is Cotton Seed. His brother's name is Caraway Seed.

p.s. I also have a friend named Paul who makes good sauerkraut.

Step 1: The Vat

Cut the top off a water jug.
As always, don't cut toward yourself and you won't get cut.

Use a knife to avoid getting shavings all over. Use a saw if you prefer.
This is a "shop knife" or "sloyd" from mcmaster.com.
It's got the best steel in the universe. It holds an edge while cutting other knives.

Ceramic pots from "crockpot" units are good for making kraut. Or any other vessel that won't put poison in the food when the acid "sauer" hits it. Don't use aluminum or stainless steel unless you want chromium, nickel, and other metallic poison in your food.

Step 2: Sharpen Your Slicer

Use a file to sharpen your veggie slicer. Then wash it off. Stainless steel is made from the same stuff as superfund toxic waste sites.

Now that your shredder is sharp, watch out or you'll shred your knuckles and fingers along with the cabbage.

Step 3: Split the Cabbage

If the blade gets halfway through the cabbage it's plenty long.

You can skip this step, but it's satisfying.
If you're going to chop with a machete or cleaver, the half cabbages are easier to dice.

Step 4: Shred Some Cabbage

Try not to shred your knuckles and fingers at the same time.

Step 5: Salt and Seeds

Each time you add one cabbage worth of shreds to your vat, sprinkle some salt and caraway seeds on it. Then mash it in with the baseball bat.

Use your own judgement as to how much salt to add. Blood is 2% salt. Sea water is 4% salt. You could probably make sauerkraut with no salt at all and it would be fine.

Step 6: The Bat

Brutalize the cabbage with the bat. Any style is fine. You want to bruise it and break some cell walls so the salt can get in there and draw some juice out.

If you don't have a bat, a wine bottle works well, as demonstrated by the illustrious Steve Cooke. The kind with a cone in the bottom are particularly good.

Step 7: Repeat

Shred another cabbage, sprinkle seeds, salt it and assault it with the bat.
After a few cabbages worth, you'll see juice coming out. That's good.

My dad and other health-loving folks will drink that as soon as it gets sour.

Step 8: Rock on Top

The top layer is going to rot in the most advanced way.
Unless you too are very advanced, you probably want to minimize the volume of that stuff.

I'm putting a couple of plates on top of the stuff to push most of the herbiage down below the top level of the liquid. If you need more weight put a rock on top of that. Choose a type of rock that won't hurt you if you eat it. Uranium ore would be bad.

Step 9: Time Cures All Cabbage

Here it is on the shelf with a lid to keep critters out.
The cabbage has the right bacteria on it already to turn it into sauerkraut.
All it takes is time.

Actually you can start eating it any time. There's not much left in this vat already because we started feasting early.

It'll keep pretty much forever, or rather it'll rot, but rot in a way that won't make it any less healthful.
It doesn't matter how rank and disgusting the stuff ends up smelling. It'll still be good for you. As the French say about cheese, "the worse it smells the better it is."

I once had a few gallons of kraut in progress when I left on a ridiculous trip somewhere. After many months the kraut got amazingly rank with a "dead animal in wall/garlic hellstorm" kind of smell.
Someone put it in the trash room but no one would touch it to throw it out.

I came back with a major kraut craving. I called my dad to ask if this stuff would be okay, and he said the smell doesn't matter. So I piled some on pizza and it was in fact delicious.

Just to make sure I didn't die, I got Juniorlee to have some too. She's an expert on Korean cabbage-based health foods among other things. After we ate a few pounds each on pizza we concluded that it

tasted really good
smelled really bad
seemed to be really healthful despite the smell, just like folklore would have it.



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    22 Discussions


    9 years ago on Step 9

    Salt MUST be added to keep bad bacteria from growing and give the good bacteria a friendly place to grow.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I've used a food grade five gallon bucket with a lid and weighed the kraut down with ziplock bags filled with water. I also used a salt water mix in the cabbage to 'top it up' once the cabbage is in to make sure it is submerged and there is plenty of juice. Are you just leaving it in the fermenter and scooping it out as needed? I guess that would work. I jarred mine.

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I do hope you don't mean you canned it, cause then you'd be destroying the beneficial bacteria and enzymes.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    No, I didn't heat treat or anything. Just put it in jars and put it in the fridge. Lots and lots and lots of jars.

    My favorite batch was made with savoy cabbage, bok choy, carrots, jerusalem artichokes, fat green onions, cayenne pepper, ginger, garlic (but much milder than kim-chee) and carrot/bock choy juice. And it was delicious with anything and everything. K maybe not toffee pudding, but I wouldn't wanna bet on that! ;-) If it could use a little more juice, you can use a juicer to top it off while adding more flavor and nutrients. You can reduce the sodium this way if you want. Get creative. If you like it or you have it, put it in. That goes for spices and veggies. It's kinda hard to screw up the flavor really, and you might hit on something you are wild about!


    10 years ago on Step 9

    Great post, just what I needed. So you don't buy any bacteria, just let it go? Courageous ...! How long before it tastes like sauerkraut? Would it speed up the process if one would add some of the old Sauerkraut to the new batch? (like with bread) btw, I love sauerkraut with juniperberries rather then carraway seed

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, I thought I was the only one 'tarded enough to use a baseball bat. Viva la scrounge! Whatever gets the job done, right? BTW, you made a comment about not using any salt at all---from what I've read, that's a no-no. Haven't done it, but I understand that the salt keeps the "bad" bacteria from growing, while allowing the correct lacto-aceto blah blah hootchiejiggers to convert the plants sugars to acids, hence the preservation and flavor. Great instructable. Try Kimchi, it's the same process basically, different ingredients, and tastes fantastic.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It can be done. I don't recall the details, but there's a nice yahoo group on wild fermentation.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks so much for this. I used one bag of coleslaw shredded cabbage and filled one mason jar with it. It made the best Reuben sandwiches ever.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Tim My brewbuddies and i have started to do this years ago. The first batch was some 70 pounds, now we make 150 pounds. We have a HDPE barrel and a wooden stomper with handle. It's something like a baseball bat, only tripple it's weight. Kraut is quite common around here, but i always hated the storebought stuff. I looked for Kraut recipes on the internet and found many. I looked for their similarities and differences. Our "Grand Cru 2007" was just bagged up yesterday. We bag it, when it reaches the desired sourness. Then we put it into the fridge to stop/slow down further souring. In addition to cabbage salt and caraway, we use some other interesting stuff, that makes it stand above the pack. We use some onions, horse radish, mustard seeds and juniper berries. We also top it up with white wine instead of just water. If someone is interested in the exact receipe, i have to get it from our brewery. Just let me know.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Most of the time I miss you, Tim. Step 7 reminds me there's an upside to being on the other side of the world. There's a reason it's not called 'happy kraut'


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I'll have to try the caraway in my next batch of Kraut :)

    Fermented foods have become popular in my apartment :) We have a bucket of kimchi (a Korean sort of Kraut) that's stinking up the place right now :p

    4 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    It's the same process :p Except Tim has style points for using a bat instead of your fists + using a water cooler jug :p Bigger Batches means less effort and more for everyone :)

    Awesome as always, I love kraut, married a Polish (the country, not the shoe) girl who hates it, go figure. Are you serious about the pizza?