October 2, 2011

Project #1 Revealed!

Remember this clue regarding an upcoming project?

Well, it was a glass jar.  Specifically a one gallon glass jar with a plastic lid that I was able to pick up at the Brewer Supply Store for $6.  I picked it up with some airlocks (75 cents each) with the expressed intent of making Sauerkraut.

Yes, my first project is food related.

Old fashioned airlock
7/16" ID 3/4" OD Grommets
As with most projects, I didn't have everything I needed to start.  There was a missing gasket that I had to figure out and probably a way to install the gasket.  Luckily I have a gauge for measuring bolts and it told me that my airlock was just under 1/2" in diameter.  I was pretty sure it came in at about 7/16", but my gauge couldn't help me out that far.  The part that is pushed into the hole is tapered a bit, so 7/16" will do.  After stopping by a couple places I managed to find some rubber grommets that were 7/16" inside diameter and 3/4" outside diameter.  Without measuring I was guessing that they would fit nicely inside a 1/2" hole.  I picked up a set of grommets and a new 1/2" drill bit.

Grommet installed
Jar with airlock
I was careful with the drill so as to not enlarge the hole beyond the 1/2" and used a knife to scrape off any plastic that melted to the edge.  I was prepared to have to fiddle with the grommet quite a bit, but was pleasantly surprised that it fit in quite easily.  All that would be left was to stick the airlock in a freshly cleaned jar and add some water.

Aside from the running around for the parts, this was far easier than expected.  That doesn't happen often enough.

The next day I was set to start me some Sauerkraut!

Tool layout
I got the kitchen prepped, which meant I got out everything I needed, cleaned the counter tops, got some music going, made sure I had something to drink (non-alcoholic), and most importantly: made sure I had a paper and pen handy.  I'm finding it useful to keep a scratchpad available to write notes on things as I go along and if needed, sketch something out or do some math.  Today I mostly needed to do some math.

Work in progress
There were five heads of cabbage in the fridge and I wasn't too keen on doing all that cutting by hand, so I enlisted the help of my food processor.  It's not a bad machine, it's just not something I used very often, but when I do it is a Godsend.  Last time I recall using it was making large batches of mustard last year.

One gallon done
After quartering and coring the cabbages, I rough chopped them enough to fit in the processor's mouth.  After a while I got into a bit of a rhythm and figured out things worked best 1/2 head at a time.  A lot of recipes call for a specific amount of non-iodized salt for a number of heads.  The last resource I was looking at suggested a 2% salt to cabbage ratio by weight, so I weighed everything.  The notepad came in real handy keeping track of measurements and figuring out the 2%.  When I had a whole head shredded then I layered it with the salt in the small 2 gallon bucket and let it rest for 15 minutes while I either started on another head or simply did something else.

Once the salted cabbage had rested I began the mashing.  At first I put the cabbage in the gallon jar and used my masher, but I found that I was hitting my hand too often against the lip of the jar.  I could simply press the masher hard against the cabbage, but eventually I found it easier to just slow everything down and just mash/hard press it in the bucket and then transfer to the jar.  Then my only issue was being too enthusiastic and having cabbage juice make its way out of the bucket and onto the counter top or my shirt.

Two heads before
Two heads after
The gallon jar took three heads of cabbage to fill up.  This stuff really compact down between the natural wilting/sweating from the salt and the pounding.  I put two more heads into the bucket and went to town on them.  I fitted the bucket with an airlock too, but I wasn't keen on using up a mostly empty bucket.  I quickly fitted a grommet to an old 80 oz pickle jar I had and wouldn't you know it the amount fit the jar exactly.  The metal jar didn't create as clean of a hole for the grommet, but it seemed to fit in just as well.

Re-purposed pickle jar
Not even 1/2 full
I added water to the airlocks, placed the jars in a tray and set them aside.  My reading had led me to expect that there would be some expansion in the jar that would force brine out of the airlock and make a bit of a mess.  I'm glad they mentioned this and I was able to make sure I had some protection for my counter and the floor.  So far quite a bit of brine has been forced out of the jars.

It's been almost a week and the kraut has lightened in color quite a bit.  Allegedly I could eat some as early as Tuesday, but I'd rather wait a couple more weeks before seeing how good it turned out.

There was a bit of a mess to clean up, but I had company, as always when I'm in the kitchen.

Are we done yet?  Can we go to the park?
Frugal by Choice, Cheap By Necessity
2012.06.25 Edit: Two things....one, I made a slight change to the procedure which I've blogged about here, and I've shared this post on a link exchange for some like-minded (at least on this post) individuals, which you can find using this button:


Sarah said...

I'm not a fan of the kraut, but I applaud your super crazy handy skills! I've been meaning to make some kraut for my dad, and I think you've inspired me.

Thanks for linking up!

Christopher Stogdill said...

Like many things, homemade Sauerkraut is nothing like the stuff you get from the store. My wife doesn't care for the kraut either, but she'll eat my homemade stuff without reservation.