Taking the plunge into sauerkraut

Chop the cabbage finely with a processor, mandolin or knife. Photo: Hilary Rowley
Chop the cabbage finely with a processor, mandolin or knife. Photo: Hilary Rowley
Because I can’t bear to buy something I can make at home, I have been experimenting (again). My attempts at making sauerkraut were pretty dismal failures, until I learned that once the fermentation process is complete, the kraut needs to be stored in a sealed container in the fridge. I don’t know about anyone else but there is no way that there is room in our fridge to store great big stoneware crocks full of sauerkraut. The solution is coffee plungers. They don’t hold much, but cabbage grows all year round here, so we only need to make small batches. They are clear glass, so they are easy to clean and it is easy see what is going on inside. The plunger part has a mesh screen so insects can’t get it, and the plunger allows you to squash the cabbage down and keep it submerged. Another plus is that plunger coffee is out of fashion so there are a lot of the plungers to be found in op shops.

Small batch sauerkraut

Clean a coffee plunger thoroughly in really hot water.

Pick a really small drumhead cabbage from your garden. When making sauerkraut, organic is best because of the healthy microbiota on the plant.

Take off the outer leaves and pick out any slugs.

Finely slice the cabbage (I use the attachment on my food processor, but you can use a mandolin or a knife).

Use 1 tablespoon of salt per coffee plunger of cabbage.

Pack in the cabbage, layering it with salt, using the plunger to pack it down between layers. A clean bottle is good to use as a tamper. As you layer the cabbage and salt in you can add flavourings. Fennel seeds, caraway seeds, pepper, juniper berries, finely sliced shallots and bay leaves are examples of potential flavours.

When your plunger is full leave it out in the kitchen so every time you walk past you push the plunger down. It should have enough juice to cover the plunger part with liquid within a day. You will see bubbles rising as it ferments. When it stops fermenting, pack the sauerkraut into a clean container and put it in your fridge. Eat some every day and drink the juice.

Quick cider vinegar 

You don’t need to peel or core the apples. Photo: Getty Images
You don’t need to peel or core the apples. Photo: Getty Images
Chop up a couple of unsprayed apples, don’t bother coring or skinning, in fact you can make the vinegar from cores and skins if you have an excess. Place the apples in a sterilised coffee plunger.

There is no need to squash your apples — just cover them with water and leave the plunger sitting on your kitchen bench. It will start fermenting by itself, but to be really sure you can start it with a splash of cider vinegar. When it finishes bubbling and tastes nice and vinegary, you can strain the liquid into a bottle and it is ready to use.

Add more apple pieces to your container, cover with water and it will start the next batch.

It is just so easy to make, and the coffee plunger makes it easy to pour off the finished vinegar into a bottle.

Note though that this vinegar is no good for pickling. It is not concentrated enough. It is good for cooking, dressings, and drinking.

 - Hilary Rowley 

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