Ask Chef Boy Ari

Chef Boy Ari
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Roughage Riders of the Purple Cabbage

My wife and I just got a basketball-sized head of purple cabbage from a local farm. We like fish tacos and coleslaw, but it would take us three cabbage-laden meals a week to finish all of it before it goes bad. I’m just not prepared for that kind of gastrointestinal assault. Do you have a good sauerkraut recipe, or some other advice for preserving our leafy lode?

—Cabbage Patch Kid

Dear Kid: My ancestors are from Russia, which means three cabbage-laden meals a week would have been nothing. So quit complaining and take it like a man.

Otherwise, your simplest course of action is to do nothing. Cabbage will keep almost as long as a Twinkie, if kept in a cool, dry place. As for sauerkraut … Yeah, I used to make it. I recall putting shredded cabbage and salt in a jar with the lid on loose and waiting a few weeks. But I sense you want more precision than that.

Here’s a recipe I found online, by Mabel Mertz of Southern Alberta:

For 5 pounds shredded cabbage (about 6 quarts, pressed), use 3 tablespoons salt. Shred cabbage finely into a clean 5-gallon bucket and use your hands to mix in the salt. Repeat until the bucket is nearly full. Cover with cloth, plate and clean rock or something heavy. During the curing process, kraut needs daily attention. Remove scum as it forms and wash and scald the cloth often to keep it free from scum and mold. At room temperature, fermentation will be complete in 10 to 12 days. Pack into jars, adding enough juice to fill them. Often there is not enough juice. If this happens, make a weak brine by dissolving 2 tablespoons of salt in a quart of water. Screw the bottle lids on tight and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. After the bottles are cool, be sure they’ve sealed before putting them away.

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