- 1 bushel of red, green, or mixed cabbages (this will make a big batch of kraut . . . you might want to try making a few two- or three-head batches, perhaps with different herb and spice mixtures, before you go whole hog)
- Any spices, herbs, or vegetables you wish to add (peppers, cucumbers, beets, carrots, and cauliflower are popular choices)
- 1 five-gallon earthenware crock
- A plate or heavy pot lid that fits inside the crock
- A baseball bat
- Thoroughly clean the crock, plate, and bat, as well as the cabbage and other vegetables. Set aside some of the large outer cabbage leaves. (In the directions that follow, treat any additional vegetables in the same manner as the cabbage.)
- Cut or shred the cabbage into fine strips.
- Put about a two-inch layer of shredded cabbage in the crock, and pound and press it with the bat until the cabbage is covered by its own juice.
- Sprinkle your chosen herbs and spices over the cabbage, using a half teaspoon for each head. Dill, caraway seed, and thyme work well, and kelp or dulse, available in most natural foods stores, can be added to impart a salty taste.
- Add a second layer of cabbage and pound as before, then add seasonings again. Continue the process until the crock is about three-quarters full or until you run out of cabbage.
- Place a few of the whole outer cabbage leaves on top and cover them with the plate or lid, which should be weighted down with a well-washed rock.
- Cover the crock with a clean cloth and place it in a cool place (60 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). After a few days, a froth will appear on top of the liquid. Skim this off, remove the weight and lid, and wash them in hot water before replacing them. Repeat this step every few days.
- Depending upon your taste preference, it will take one to three weeks for the kraut to be ready. (Just try a sample each time you clean the lid and rock.) At that time, store the sauerkraut in sterile glass jars.
- Refrigerate the kraut. Without salt, fermentation will continue, so the sauerkraut will spoil if it's not refrigerated. It will, however, stay delicious under refrigeration for about three weeks.
NOTE: When testing Mike's recipe, we found that there's less risk of spoilage if the kraut is allowed to "work" in an area that maintains a temperature of no more than 65°F / 18.33°C