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Home cooking: Sauerkraut

September 11, 2012

Julia Brugh of Hagers-town has canned with her mother and sister for many years.

"I refer to our endeavors as the Wildcat Growers Cooperative, after a fictional island called Wildcat Island our father used to tell us stories about when he was alive," Brugh said.

This is an old recipe the Wildcat Growers Cooperative used this year that my mother, Peggy Stinson, learned from her father. Her grandfather grew up in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and lived there before it became a national historical park.

Brugh said a mandolin slicer works for faster shredding. She said a cook can use a knife or food processor if you don't have a mandolin slicer.

— Chris Copley, Lifestyle assistant editor



Sauerkraut

20 pounds fresh cabbage

1 box canning salt



Remove outer leaves of cabbage and any discolored or undesirable portion from firm mature heads of cabbage.

Wash and drain cabbage.

Cut each head into halves or quarters and remove the core.

Cut the cabbage into thin shreds about 1/16 inch thick. Make a half-inch-thick layer in a large bowl, then add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt to the layer of cabbage.

Continue shredding, layering, and salting until you are out of cabbage. With your hands, mix the cabbage and salt thoroughly.

Pack the cabbage tightly into a 3-gallon crock and cover with clean cheesecloth. Tuck the cheesecloth into the crock, and weigh down with a plate with two quart jars filled with water on top. Once this is packed into a crock, the salt and water from the cabbage will create a brine.

Place the crock in a cool, dry place. The fermentation process will take about 5 weeks. During this time, check on the status and remove any "blossoms" with a skimmer. "Blossoms" are a normal part of the fermentation process and will float on top of the brine.

When the cabbage is ready, you are ready to can it.

Boiling-water processing: Examine canning jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges that might prevent sealing or cause breakage. Examine canning lids to ensure they are free of dents and sealing compound is even. You must use a new lid each time you process. Rings may be reused.

Wash jars and two-piece caps in hot soapy water, and rinse well. Heat jars and lids in a saucepot of simmering, 180-degree water. Do not boil lids. Allow jars and lids to remain in hot water until ready for use.

Fill boiling-water canner half full with hot water. Elevate rack in canner. Put canner lid in place. Heat water just to a simmer. Keep water hot until used for processing.

In a large saucepot, bring sauerkraut to a simmer — 180 degrees on a candy thermometer. Do not boil.

Fill jars one at a time. Pack hot sauerkraut into hot jars leaving half-inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over sauerkraut, maintaining half-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles.

Wipe rim and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Remove lid from hot water using a lid wand. Place lid on jar, centering sealing compound on rim. Screw band down evenly and firmly, just until resistance is met — fingertip tight.

As each jar is filled set it into the elevated rack in the canner. After all jars are filled and placed onto the rack, lower rack into canner. Water level must cover the two-piece caps on the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water if necessary.

Put lid on canner. Bring water to boil. Start processing time after water comes to a rolling boil. Process pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes.

When processing time is complete, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Let canner cool 5 minutes before removing jars. Remove jars from canner and set them upright, 1 to 2 inches apart, on a dry towel to cool. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool 12 to 24 hours.

After jars have cooled, check the lids for a seal by pressing on the center of each lid. If the center is pulled down and does not flex, remove the band and gently try to lift the lid off with your fingertips. If the lid does not flex and you cannot lift it off, the lid has a good vacuum seal. Wipe lid and jar surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove food particles or residue.

Label jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Enjoy at Thanksgiving with your turkey.

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