A Homage to Poppa

We called my maternal grandfather “Poppa”. I don’t remember why.. I think because someone couldn’t say “Grampa” and I’m going to guess that someone was me.

I have a lot of memories of Poppa but the two that stick out the most are the time he taught me to “just cut that mold off the cheese.. it’s fine” and watching him bury his arms in a 30 gallon crock of home made sauerkraut.

Was it actually 30 gallons? I don’t know. I remember it being HUGE but keep in mind, I was a kid. I just remember thinking it was the size of a large garbage can.. so I’m going to call it a 30 gallon crock, okay?

Poppa at what I think is Blue Mountain Lake with my younger brother.

Poppa at what I think is Blue Mountain Lake with my younger brother.

It seemed like Poppa was always making sauerkraut and that crock had a permanent spot in the garage.  We kids weren’t allowed to touch it, but I remember him lifting up that wooden follower and stirring the kraut with his bare hands. I don’t remember the smell, but my mother tells me that the garage always stank of kraut.

A small head of cabbage for small batch kraut

A small head of cabbage for small batch kraut

I love the smell of kraut, so either I thought it was yummy smelling, or I just associated it with Poppa so of course I loved it. Or maybe my love for sour, salty, sharp, pungent smells has always been a part of me.. it’s hard to know.

As an aside, I also love the smell of car grease because Poppa was a mechanic and I used to love to go visit him at work.  You should see me when I’m getting my oil changed; I’m practically huffing that greasy oily smell.

Quite a while back, I saw a post on Ida’s website about making sauerkraut and she had these neat pictures of a Pickle Pro.

I was inspired.

I was going to make sauerkraut just like Poppa used to make.


I immediately bought three of these Pickle Pro thingies and if you’ve been paying attention, you will notice that there is one attached to the jar I made the kvass in.   This post is a bit late in the making because I’ve had a sort of had some success in making kraut and I’ve had some “omg.. pink and slimey is bad, right?” failures.

But I think I’ve got it under control now.

After a lot of reading and a lot of trial and error, I’ve tweaked my approach to kraut just a bit.  The basics are the same.

Slice, salt, smash, wait.

I like to use the CPR technique

I like to use the CPR technique

No really, that’s it.  In fact, when I called my Mom and asked how Poppa used to make sauerkraut, I was expected some complex recipe. Something that involved a variety of spices and exotic things and stuff.


Slice, salt, smash and wait.

One thing I kept running into was overflow. I keep my fermenting jars on top of a cabinet over my refrigerator so overflow is not immediately obvious.  Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve reached over head, taken down a jar and accidently given yourself a  kraut juice bath.


It also means that some of the cabbage peeked out from the brine and dried out and turned weird colors that you should not eat.  Not good.

My own Kraut Collar

My own Kraut Collar

I recently stumbled upon this post on WildFermentation.com which sounded like the solution to my problem. It’s basically a food safe plastic lid that has a slit cut in it so you can slide it into the jar and it expands to the sides. I used a very clean lid from my wonton soup container.  I didn’t add the shot glass to hold everything down because I was afraid it would interfere with the airlock but so far, it’s keeping the kraut under the brine.  It floats up a bit when the kraut bubbles from the fermentation process but nothing dries out.

11/19/2013 – EDIT: I have since found glass weights from Pickl-it. I like them better.. just saying.

I did have a little overflow but the cabbage stayed submerged. It was only a tiny bit of juice creeping out and not nearly enough to get a kraut shower. Maybe a tablespoon. If your cabbage stays submerged, it’s not going to turn pink and slimy.   It ferments beautifully and with the Pickle Pro your chances of mold are minimal.

So, now I feel very confident in my ability to make kraut.  And there are a million bazillion posts on how to make sauerkraut but several of my twitter followers over the past few months have expressed interest in how I make it so, I’m gonna share it here.  This is what works for me, but certainly not the only way to do it.

PS: I was really surprised that people want to hear my spin on it because the interwebs are full of info, but then I realized that you guys must feel like you know me.. or trust me.. or something.. so **shuffles feet**  Thanks so much for your confidence in me

Small Batch Sauerkraut
This small batch kraut recipe makes a half gallon of sauerkraut. Fresh, probiotic, crunchy sauerkraut
  • One small green cabbage (about 2.5 pounds)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of canning salt
  • 2% brine solution made with canning salt and water. (2 cups of water and 10 grams of salt)
  1. Peel a nice leaf off the cabbage head and set it aside.
  2. Slice your cabbage and put it in a non-reactive bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage and squeeze and smash it. At this point, you may also set the cabbage aside for an hour or so to let the salt pull some moisture out of the cabbage.
  4. Smash and crush the cabbage until a large amount of liquid is released.
  5. Put the cabbage and the liquid in a clean ½ gallon wide mouth mason jar.
  6. Don't smash it down. I have found that smashing it down results in a lot of overflow when the cabbage expands.
  7. Top the cabbage with the brine solution to within 1 inch of the top of the jar.
  8. Place the leaf over the top of the sliced cabbage.
  9. Add the "Kraut Collar" and push down until the brine comes up over the top of the collar.
  10. Top with the Pickle Pro lid and put in a cool place for a few weeks. Keep the temp below 75 degrees.
  11. Keep an eye on your kraut. Even with the space you've left for the kraut to expand, you may still have some overflow. If so, remove the Pickle Pro, push the kraut collar back down and scoop out some brine. Put the Pickle Pro back on.
  12. Taste your kraut in about three weeks to see if it's fermented to your liking. The longer you let it ferment, the tangier it will be.
I don't use any whey in any of my vegetable ferments. If you are wondering why, I suggest you read this post from Delicious Obsessions: By the Whey Side

About Pirate Jeni

Kitchen Witch, Eclectic Spiritualist, Psychic-Medium, Reiki Master, Conscientious Omnivore, Tarot Card Slinger, Singer of Songs, Player of Things with Four Strings.


  1. Perish the thought, but I’m out of sauerkraut! Got to get out my Pickle Pros

  2. The picture was from Rock Mountain in Schoharie County. Do you remember that trip?
    And it was a 30 gallon crock…and it did stink! hahahahha
    The Kraut was good though.

    Yes, you called him Poppa first…Gamba had you seated on the kitchen table, and was trying to get you to say Grandma…she would look at you and say “Say Grandma”.. and you would look her square in the eye, and say “POPPA!”.. you played this game many times, then one day you replied “GAMBA”…she said Yay.. I’ll take it!

    So you named them both…….your prerogative, of course…..you were number one grandchild…and remember, Poppa always told you you were “Top Shelf”.

  3. That’s a neat way to do it. I used the Wild Fermentation method of a bowl with a plate and a weight.. definitely krauty, but not nearly as runny/soft as I would like. I think I’ll give your method a try.

    • I actually prefer mine crunchy so I’m not sure how effective this method would be at getting it soft. Mine has been fermenting for about three weeks now and it seems to be holding it’s shape up pretty well.

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