Now that I've learned how to make my own sauerkraut, I think it's likely to be a pantry staple in my home from now on. However, unlike most people who make lacto-fermented foods on a regular basis, I don't have a pickling crock (yet), so I've had to make due with stuff that's already in my kitchen. Despite any inconvenience this may pose, I think my initial experiments with wild fermentation have turned out quite well, so I'd like to share my method for those of you who, like me, may not be equipped with all of the tools that are typically called for with this type of recipe.
1 large head green cabbage
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds and/or juniper berries
1 sanitized quart-sized wide-mouth jar
1. Remove a few outer leaves from your cabbage, rinse, and set aside. Quarter, core, and slice the rest into thin strips.
2. In a large glass or ceramic container, mix the ingredients together and let sit for ten to fifteen minutes.
3. With clean hands, press and knead the cabbage for another five to ten minutes, extracting as much of the liquid from the leaves as you can.
4. Pack the mixture and all of the extracted liquid into your jar, and press down on the cabbage with your hands until the liquid level rises to the top. Using the cabbage leaves you reserved in the beginning, press down on the cabbage to pack it in so that the vegetables are submerged under the brine. You can leave the whole leaf in with the jar to help ensure that the liquid stays above the rest of the vegetables.
5. Cover your jar with a cloth or paper towel, and secure with a rubber band. Set in a cool, dark place for 3-14 days (the warmer the temperature, the faster it will ferment), checking each day for sourness, and to make sure the level of the brine remains above the vegetables.
6. Once your sauerkraut has reached the level of sourness you prefer, secure it with a lid and band, and place in the refrigerator. The sauerkraut will continue to ferment at a slower pace, and will remain good for several months.
-If you want to double or triple the recipe, that's totally fine. Just make sure you use 1 tablespoon of salt per head of cabbage, and figure on 1 quart jar per head as well.
-If you see bubbles and froth, that's totally normal.
-If you see mold develop on the surface, it might still be okay. Assess whether the mold is growing on the vegetables themselves, or just the brine where their air meets the liquid. If it's just on the surface of the brine, you can scoop it out and clean the edges, and the vegetables should remain fine, but I would close the jar with a lid and band and stick it in the refrigerator. If the mold is growing on the vegetables, you'll probably need to discard everything.
-You can use red cabbages in place of green ones, but you might need to expend more energy in kneading the liquid from the leaves. If necessary, you can add a bit of cool water to help raise the liquid levels over the vegetables.