Gardening

Tending my sauerkraut

Sometimes it feels like I’m still gardening even though the growing season is over.

For example, I’ve been tending my batch of sauerkraut for nearly a month now. Every few days or so, I check it to make sure everything’s going OK. The anaerobic bacteria that ferment the cabbage can’t tolerate air so, I need to make sure all of the cabbage is covered completely with cabbage juice.

Mold likes to grow on the surfaces of the crock — or food-safe plastic pail — and the plates I use to cover the kraut. Mold has to be cleaned off as it appears. It’s sort of like removing weeds from a garden as they start to grow. The mold is not only unappetizing, but it can spoil the kraut too.

I used 12 heads of cabbage from my garden to make almost five gallons of sauerkraut.

Now that my kraut has fermented for a while, I’m able to harvest a small layer every time I check it. If a minuscule amount of mold or aerobic bacteria try to get started, it gets removed right along with the sauerkraut — of course I throw out any that looks spoiled.

So, I’m tending a garden that has billions and billions of probiotic bacteria and they need to be well cared for.

I made my first batch of sauerkraut way back in 1978. It was so successful that I’ve continued to make it ever since. It’s something I look forward to every fall.

I eat my sauerkraut raw, straight from the crock. It has a satisfying crunch and a tangy flavor that is different with each batch.  If I cooked it, I’d end up killing all of those probiotic bacteria I’ve been nurturing.

By the way in my Polish family, everyone calls it kapusta, not sauerkraut.

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.