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

  • #ingredient#