Don’t eat your hot dog without it
Ah, America’s birthday. The one day a year when it’s okay to stuff yourself silly with hot dogs, neon color drinks and get burned by fireworks. Oh wait, no, that was just me this past Saturday as I hung out at Cabbagetown Park and one of the fireworks went rogue and hit the back of my leg (ouch!). I was still luckier than the guy that got hit in the eye; he was OK thankfully. Either way, I hope you got some well-deserved pool time this weekend.
Back to hot dogs! So, growing up in Panama I never quite experienced fermented foods. Kimchi and sauerkraut were not part of my regular diet like plantains and yellow rice were. It wasn’t until I moved here in my teens that I discovered how delicious sauerkraut is. I added it to my new Southern Belle diet that included pie, fried chicken, biscuits and so much more.
On Friday, I visited the new location of Doggy Dogg in Decatur, a small house with a small kitchen and many hot dog (regular, veggie + more) offerings. I’ve been a fan of their sauerkraut since they first started doing a food cart around town. While you can add it to sandwiches, I prefer to have my sauerkraut in a hot dog.
Sauerkraut is a great fermentation 101 project since you get to observe and taste the flavors in the cabbage the longer it ferments. It is fairly easy to make, but it just takes a bit of attention and time. Plus, if you make it yourself, it will be perfectly crunchy and sour unlike the supermarket kind that’s been sitting in a jar for weeks, if not months. Ew.
In fermentation, sugars turn into alcohol and acids. The same process is often used for kimchi, beer and many other food items. It’s how we make alcohol, bread, kombucha and pickles. The lacto-fermentation process is used to preserve vegetables and it’s been done for centuries. You can keep them in a dark cellar or in your fridge and they will last for months. For this batch, you’ll need a mason jar and about a week. That’s it! You could check the kraut around 3-4 days, but I promise it won’t be tasty enough yet. Wait about 5 days before you try it. You can refrigerate the sauerkraut, but don’t can it! If you do, you might kill all of the nutrients created by the fermentation process.
A head of green cabbage — about 3 lbs
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2-quart mason jar
Small jar or glass
Wash the mason jar with hot water to make sure to kill all of the unnecessary bacteria. Wash the cabbage and get rid of all the wilted leaves. After washing, go ahead and cut the cabbage into 8 small parts. Throw it in a large mixing bowl with the salt and start working those muscles by massaging the cabbage into the salt. Embrace your inner Morpheus and say come at me bro.
I know you’ll think it’s not enough salt, but it is. Keep massaging the cabbage and it will eventually become limp and slightly like coleslaw. Do it for about 10 minutes. It will release a ton of water. After the salt is incorporated, add the caraway seeds and spread them around for flavor. Now, grab the cabbage and pack it into the jar. If needed, push it down with your fist. Add the remaining liquid from the bowl into the jar. Make sure all of the cabbage is under the liquid.
Here’s the tricky part: Once you packed in all of the cabbage into the large mason jar, get a smaller jar or glass and stuff it inside the big jar. We want to make sure the cabbage has weight on it at all times so it releases more liquid. If the small jar won’t stay in there, add some rice or small stones to the jar to weigh it down. Then cover with a towel and wrap a rubber band around it to cover it. Ta-da! You’re done.
Now you wait. Every 24 hours, check on your sauerkraut to make sure the cabbage is still fully submerged in its liquids. Keep it in a dark, cool place while it ferments. I like to keep mine in our back bathroom, under the sink. Remember, you can start tasting it after about 3 days until you’re happy with the flavors. The sauerkraut will keep up to 3 months, especially if you refrigerate it.
- Bubbles, foam on the top, or white scum are totally normal. You can scrape these off if you’d like. They are all part of the fermentation process!
- If the liquid is not covering the cabbage for any reason, mix 1 cup of water with one teaspoon of salt and add it to the jar until the cabbage is fully submerged.
- If you see any mold, scrap it off ASAP. No worries though, the rest of your sauerkraut should be fine.
- If you have any questions, consult the National Center for Home Food Preservation.