Great Sauerkraut Begins with the Cut

(Note of thanks: Sauerkraut artwork used with permission of the fabulous botanical artist: Susannah Blaxill; find her other artwork at: http://blaxill.com/)

Image Blaxill Cabbage Art When I first began making sauerkraut, I followed the advice of those promoting an easy-going, laissez faire approach: no special rules, and “anything goes – use whatever equipment works for you”.

Their intentions were good: encourage as many people as possible, back to the ancient paths of nutrient-dense, whole-food – especially, probiotic-rich lacto-fermented foods. I needed more concrete advice, beyond “whatever works for you”.

I was a child raised by Betty Crocker, Gedney, General Mills, Sarah Lee and Kraft, a generation removed from traditional food, like the sauerkraut made by my grandmother. While I didn’t learn how to make it from her, like she’d learned from her mother and grandmother, I did have a good memory of its taste and texture.

My grandfather called the flavor, “tastes like home”. According to him, the sauerkraut my grandmother made was identical to the sauerkraut his mother and grandmother had made. The secret, he said, was in the “how” it was made, and not “where” it was made. They were an ocean and decades removed from their childhood home, but no matter the span of distance or time, every time they ate their traditional food, they were “home”.

Researching, I discovered several European blogs, which confirmed my memories of Grandma’s sauerkraut having a very fine, thread-like texture –

“…sauerkraut’s taste is hidden in the type of cut”…“make sure the cabbage is no thicker than a coin”…. “only proper sauerkraut is made from a proper thread cut.”

The Great Equipment Experiment

I put all my kitchen implements to the “thread”-making test – a food processor with several discs, a variety of box graters, a rotary slicer, several mandolins, as well as, a wide-range of knives – slicing, grating, shredding, chopping.

No matter the tool, I ended up with a huge range of textures and sizes – too thick, too thin, too square, too chunky, too tiny. The final fermented product was often a strange combination of “too mushy” with “too crunchy”.

Every once in awhile, I’d get lucky, and the family said, “This one is pretty good! Can you do that again?” Mostly, they spent their time culling kraut, shifting the too-large, still-crunchy, tastes-raw to one side of their plate, and the lovely, tasty “threads” to the other side.

Finally! I stumbled on a method which was so simple, it not only made my sauerkraut better-tasting, but easier to make!

For directions on how to cut your own wispy, uniform cabbage threads, resulting in a “tastes like home” sauerkraut, see Thread Cuts Explained.