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Making the sauerruben

February 10, 2010

The last time I made sauerruben, I only made a 1/2 gallon.  Burnt out a little on sauerkraut, I was thinking the 1/2 gallon would suffice.  Lacto- fermented vegetables are condiments.  A nip here and there is all you need.  But, actually we have been craving this stuff after tasting it.  Of course, February is a good time to be boosting our natural Vitamin C intake – what better way than to have it come from our own garden, instead of China.

I had been perturbed with myself lately, since I have had this Harsch Pickling Crock sitting here for two years, and I haven’t used it.  We are crock poor – Hangdog collected crocks – I use most of them for mouse proof, dry storage.  A friend in Indiana was extolling the virtues of his Harsch crock and when I priced them I about fell over.  Then he found one on eBay for me – it was actually in Oregon and was being sold as damaged.  I won the auction, and it turned out the seller had purchased meat from us before.  She never had used the crock either, it had arrived damaged, the only part broken was the gutter for the water seal.  She glued it with a food safe glue and put it away.

I apologize if you’re reading this during a blizzard.  It was sunny here yesterday – so I did all my prep work for the sauerruben outside.  The general rule of thumb for kraut is 3 T of salt for 5 pounds of vegetable.  I wasn’t sure how much my crock would hold so I was shooting for 15 pounds of rutabagas.

To prep, cut off the top and root portion and peel the skin.  A paring knife works the best for this.

Figure out the tare weight of your container and weigh your vegetables so you know how much you’re working with.  The salt guideline is a rough estimate.  These rutabagas weighed approximately 1 pound apiece after prepping.

I used my cabbage slicer, a mandoline would be nice if that is what you have.  Grating these with a box grater would be purgatory!  My slicer is an antique, but The Raw Diet Health Store has new ones on sale with free shipping.  The crocks are on sale too.

Due to the shape of the rutabagas, the slicer produces wafer thin slices that will  need further cutting.

The easiest way for me to do this was to slice 5 pounds at a time (about 5 rutabagas), then slice handfuls with a sharp knife, and salt as I go.  The salt draws the liquid out of the vegetable to make your brine.

Celtic Sea Salt is what I always use.

Combine sliced rutabaga and salt in a bowl and mix.  I use my hands and really make sure the salt is well distributed.  While this batch of 5 pounds released its brine, I continued with the slicing and chopping.

I packed each 5 pound batch after some of the juice had been released.  A note:  I just harvested my rutabagas from the ground so they are most likely juicier than root cellared produce or store bought, since vegetables transpire quite a bit after harvesting.  If you find that your veggies aren’t too juicy after the salting, you can add a weak brine solution.  Brine:  2 T salt dissolved in 1 quart of water.  Add this after you have packed the crock.  Your goal is to have the vegetables submersed in the liquid.

15 pounds was a little too much for this 7.5 liter (2 gallon) size.  The stones require a little wiggle room since the opening in the crock is narrower than the base.  I ended up with 1 quart over, which fit nicely in a wide-mouth mason jar.

Stones in place.  Add water to the gutter, and place the lid on top.

Our house is cold, so I placed this near the cool side of the cookstove.

I am looking forward to using this crock.  Living in an old farmhouse with large, hairy dogs, I have always had a hard time keeping up with the maintenance of our regular pickling crocks.  If it is as wonderful as everyone says, I will consider it a good investment in a kitchen tool.  We went through this with our stock pots – ruining food, thinking we could get by on the cheap.  Buying good quality tools may cost a little more up front, but in the long run pays off.  If every batch of kraut turns out, it will be a great savings.

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday series.

43 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2010 8:31 am

    Now you ought make a little kraut and sour beets just so you can make some lactofermented borscht! Cook some potatoes in beef broth, season with caraway and celery seeds, add cooked stew meat if you have it (I suppose you could start with raw meat and simmer it for hours, but I always make this with leftover meat or no meat), then add your fermented veggies right before serving. Dollop with yogurt or sour cream.

    • February 10, 2010 9:11 am

      Chris, I can attest your borscht is very good 🙂 In fact thinking about it is making me hungry!

      • February 10, 2010 9:20 am

        Come over for lunch next time you’re in town. I’d love to get visit from you.

        • February 10, 2010 2:01 pm

          Chris – thanks I may just take you up on that!

          The last time I went to town – I was able to fit in a beeswax fix at Ruhl Bee Supply and hit Bob’s Red Mill on the way back.

  2. February 10, 2010 8:48 am

    I just added rutabagas to my seed order – so delighted to see this recipe! Do you ever add whey?

    • February 10, 2010 9:09 am

      I do if I have it – although it isn’t necessary. With seasonal milk production, whey isn’t always an option – unless I freeze some, which I didn’t.

  3. AKA Angrywhiteman permalink
    February 10, 2010 9:13 am

    Nice looking stool, maple burl?

  4. February 10, 2010 9:31 am

    I just took the plunge and bought the small crock. Your comments on proper tools is right on. When I looked at the description and saw the promises… well, I only hope it’s true. I’m really good at getting a lot of stuff done, and love cooking from scratch. But I’m crap at housework, and tending a crock has that feel to me – the interminable chores that are never done and don’t push you closer to your goal. Because for me… as wrong-headed as it is … I tend to think that once I’ve got the cleaning and slicing and packing done, I should be, well, DONE. Except for the waiting. Going back to tend it every couple of days is a disaster waiting to happen, because sooner or later, I won’t. And all will be ruined. This is worth a try. I really want to get fermented foods back into my diet, and I know to make it happen I have to make it easy. Life was so much simpler when I could choose among several brands of raw, fermented, local kim chi at my local SF food co-op.

    • February 10, 2010 2:06 pm

      Hayden, I’m crap at housework too – and cooking. The simpler the better. Every one I know that uses one of these swears by them. No more failed batches.

      I can’t believe mine has been sitting there that long! Stupid!

  5. February 10, 2010 9:47 am

    Regarding the cost of materials: I think the key is to identify where money is well-spent, and where it is wasted. One chef’s knife and one paring knife can do the work of a thousand expensive kitchen implements that you’ll never miss, and I’m not ashamed to say that I spent $20 on my chef’s knife and have never noticed the difference between it and its $200+ cousins. Well, once difference I notice is that I don’t worry about ruining it or losing it. At the end of the day, a $20 knife is replaceable!

    On the other hand, I probably spent $50 on my stock pot, a stainless-steel model with copper-clad bottom. I could have bought a thin sheet-steel one for cheaper, but I’d be burning my food to the bottom with hot spots all day long. So there’s money I consider well spent.

    Whenever I think I can get away with something cheaper, I do, and that’s frugal; but I also try to recognize when a little more money spent now on a good tool will result in long-term savings. I think there’s a sweet spot for most things, although figuring out where that sweet spot is can be tricky. When in doubt, I try to cheap it out, and at least if I turn out to be wrong, I haven’t wasted too much money.

    • February 10, 2010 2:11 pm

      Joshua, I couldn’t agree more. My knives are cheapies too, and they work very well. Although we went restaurant quality on our stockpots. I worked at a hospital and cruised the kitchen and picked the brains of the cooks. They all said – buy Vollrath, you can pass them onto your kids. I am especially in love with the flat lids, I can stack pots to keep food warm, or just to get something out of the way. For beer, cheese and any kind of sauce making – they can’t be beat. One twenty quart stock pot of scorched anything is costly.

      But, like you say, you need to experiment a little to find out what is cheap or just “cheap.”

      • February 10, 2010 2:16 pm

        I have gotten a lot of value out of a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated’s web site. They never shy away from recommending an inexpensive item if it performs well, and even when an expensive item performs best, they always include a budget option too. Most importantly, they do a great job pointing out equipment that just plain falls short, again, in every price range. Sometimes I have to roll my eyes, because they’re definitely not minimalists when it comes to equipment, but for items that I’m looking for, I trust their reviews.

        • February 10, 2010 2:20 pm

          Joshua, that’s good to know, I like their product review on their show. They always include a good range and seem honest. I have to say my Martha Stewart Kmart knife is very good, it was a gift, but despite the snickering it is really well made. I also bought some of her stainless steel pots – a rondeau, and a small sauce pan. They are excellent and have taken a beating and still look and cook great.

  6. myrevolvingpassions permalink
    February 10, 2010 10:13 am

    thanks so much! Looking forward to giving it a try

  7. February 10, 2010 12:06 pm

    I want to make kraut this year and have been frantically searching for a crock to make it in since I didn’t want to use a plastic bucket. I’m thinking I may have to order one of these crocks. I’m the only one who eats kraut, so what size do you recommend? I’m excited!!

    • February 10, 2010 2:14 pm

      Sarah, they have several smaller sizes on that website. It just depends on how much you think you will eat. I usually make the kraut and when it is done I jar it up and keep it in the refrigerator or basement. Then I start another batch.

      • February 12, 2010 8:10 am

        Thanks! I eat A LOT of kraut. I ordered the 10 liter one. So we shall see if it’s too big or just right. Thanks again for the great post! 🙂

  8. February 10, 2010 1:49 pm

    Thanks Nita! That’s the salt ratio that I used with cabbage too……..some use more but this works for me. Sure does look nice down there…….want to share?? 😉

  9. February 10, 2010 2:03 pm

    This sounds absolutely delicious. I’ve ordered rutabaga seeds and so look forward to making some of this. I made sauerkraut for the first time this year and we absolutely love it. Question – could I substitute turnips for the rutabagas? I still have a bunch of them in the ground.

  10. February 10, 2010 2:14 pm

    Linda, it was nice – 60F. Today is a different story – rain and mud, the usual.

  11. February 10, 2010 3:34 pm

    OK, I have to chime in on the cookware comments. I’ve just discovered J. A. Henkles classic clad and I am IN LOVE. Stainless with a full aluminum core (up the sides) sturdy and I think it competes head to head with All Clad. Except in price, which is exceptionally low for “quality pans.” I wanted stainless and I have a Sunpentown induction hot plate that I got on sale and want to use it more (energy-cheap, really cooks fast – even faster than gas, doesn’t heat your house.) Cast iron works, but – I’m lazy and hate cleaning it. Found this line on Amazon. Can use it on any heat source including halogen or induction.

  12. February 10, 2010 10:13 pm

    Ahem. I totally covet your crock. I first saw one in a you-tube video I watched on how to make sauerkraut, and I’ve had my eye on this exact fermenting vessel for months and months ever since. It’s too expensive new $120 for the 5 liter one, and $140 for the 10 liter one. *sigh* I’ll be living vicariously for a while longer I guess.

  13. localnourishment permalink
    February 11, 2010 6:23 am

    I can’t even imagine making lactoferments in a crock that large! I make mine in quart canning jars and even those usually mold before we get them all eaten! 😀 I appreciate the advice about “quality tools.” My $10 knife (really the only one I use regularly at all) has a sharp spot on the handle that is tearing up my hand and needs replacing. I was wondering about a carbon steel replacement (I’m not shy about sharpening) but they’re so expensive. I was also looking at a Wustof. I’ll definitely be looking into the Cooks Illustrated recommendations before Mother’s Day!

    • February 11, 2010 8:50 am

      I have been trying to avoid mentioning any particular product because I don’t want to come off like a shill, but I can’t resist. I’ve owned the Victorinox chef’s knife for a few years now, and it is awesome. It’s only $25, but Cook’s Illustrated includes it in every one of their chef knife tests, and it consistently beats or equals knives costing hundreds of dollars. It is wicked sharp and has remained so for years (I do touch it up with a whetstone and a honing steel as needed). It’s just possible that a $300 knife would be superior in some way, but at 12 times the cost, I’m unconvinced that it’d be worth it.

  14. February 11, 2010 8:43 am

    localnourishment – I lost my “good knives” in my divorce. That included Henckles, the old high-quality Sabatier (before the company was sold) and a less expensive carver from F. Dick. I was turned on to the later by a wonderful knife sharper/sales business in San Francisco. After detailed questions about how & how often I intended to use the knife, the female owner announced firmly “What you need is a good German Dick!” Luckily I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time, and managed to retain my composure.

    Since my divorce I’ve found myself very happy with the wooden handled Chicago cutlery – unbelievably low prices for the quality, and US made. This isn’t just patriotism – most steel simply isn’t up to it. German and US steel seem to hold an edge best. Chicago isn’t the same kind of steel as the Henkles, but it does a fabulous job and holds an edge well.

    And I got myself another “good German Dick” because she was right – it’s a great knife at a great price.

  15. February 11, 2010 12:26 pm

    Hello Nita! Great post. I’ve never tasted sauerruben, but I think I’ll try it now. I know Hanno will live it. We call them Swedes here. And I agree there is nothing like a good crock and tools.

  16. February 12, 2010 8:29 pm

    I always learn something new here- in the posts and the comments! I’m afraid a crock is just not in the budget for now, but I am excited for the chef’s knife recommendations as I am in desperate need of a good one on a budget.

    Where do I sign up for the Crap at Housekeeping Club? Oh, and cooking too, although that is my Big Goal for this year… learn to freaking cook already. *sigh*

    • peacefulacres permalink
      February 15, 2010 8:18 am

      Maggie, you don’t need a big expensive crock…you can use 1/2 gallon or gallon or quart jars. And I use rocks on top if I can’t get them weighed down well with a water bag. Really very simple even if you don’t know how to cook. We all start somewhere even if it is boiling water.

      • February 15, 2010 9:26 am

        Thanks for this- quart jars I’ve got! That sounds like a good size for a first go at it…

        • February 15, 2010 9:39 am

          Maggie, most of the recipes for lacto-fermentation in Nourishing Traditions are for quart size batches. Fermented foods are an acquired taste and small batches are a good place to start. I would use a lid on the jar though, a plastic bag on acidic food is kind of inviting trouble.

        • February 15, 2010 6:08 pm

          Thanks for this also! I haven’t yet gotten my hands on a copy of Nourishing Traditions- but not for lack of trying. My county library doesn’t have it and the counties that do have it have waiting lists. Until I feel flush enough to buy a copy I will have to scrounge directions from elsewhere. Although, after today’s kombucha explosion in my car, I’m not sure I’ll ever get my kids to eat another fermented food! Oh well, lemons into lemonade, right? Or in my case, blog poetry… 😀

  17. peacefulacres permalink
    February 15, 2010 8:16 am

    WO not sure how I missed this post…..Oh I know I was shoveling out from the blizzard….oh my. I’ll have to try your sauerruben. I do love kraut, but am planting more root veggies this year. Thanks.

  18. SUSAN FLETCHER permalink
    July 2, 2010 3:53 am

    Hi. I’m a Welsh woman living in rural Ireland, and over here, people are not familiar with fermented food. I am intrigued as to how you serve the fermented swede, and wondered if someone could please enlighten me.

    • July 2, 2010 6:05 am

      Susan, we tend to like the fermented swede as an additional vegetable on the plate, served cold to preserve the beneficial bacteria. It is also tasty as a condiment on sandwiches. Sometimes I eat a small bowl as a quick snack during the day. Like sauerkraut it is an acquired taste 🙂

  19. December 22, 2012 4:41 pm

    Thanks for the post. I just put 5 pounds of turnips in my Harsch Crock. This is the first time I’ve used the crock. I’m so excited. How long do you keep the sauerruben in the crock? Thanks.

    • December 22, 2012 8:52 pm

      Jennifer, it depends on the temperature in your house how fast the ferment will take place, just test it in a couple of weeks to see if you like the stage the turnips are at. If you leave it in the crock it will continue to get softer, so transfer to cold storage in jars (refrigerator, cold cellar etc) when it reaches the stage you want it. The fridge will slow down the ferment.


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