Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is sauerkraut. It can take six weeks or more for this shredded, salted cabbage dish to ferment and fully cure, depending on weather and other variables.
Ivan Christensen prepares his cabbage outdoors for easy clean-up. The ingredients needed are firm heads of cabbage and regular non-iodized salt. The Ball Blue Book suggests a ratio of 3/4 cup of salt to 20 pounds of cabbage, which would be about 10 heads.
1. Wash the cabbage and then soak it in water "so it's wet enough to get lots of juice out," Christensen said.
2. Cut the bottom core out of each cabbage and remove any outer, damaged leaves.
3. Use a big wooden slicer to shred the cabbage into a large crock. Christensen's wooden slicer, handed down from his mother, is like a large mandoline with steel blades. It takes a few minutes to shred each head of cabbage, taking care to avoid nicking a finger on the blades.
4. Christensen sprinkles about a tablespoon of salt over each head of cabbage after it's shredded into the crock.
5. After all the cabbage is in the crock and salted, Christensen vigorously pounds or presses down on it, using bare hands or a stomper stick (somewhat like a large baseball bat) until the juice foams up and covers the surface. If the cabbage isn't moist enough on its own, Christensen adds some water and keeps pressing on the cabbage until the cabbage is fully covered with the juice.
6. He then covers the mixture with a clean cloth and places a wooden cover on top of the cloth. Heavy clean rocks are used to weigh down the cover to keep the cabbage immersed under the liquid.
7. The crock is stored in a clean place, preferably well-ventilated to help the odor of the fermenting cabbage to dissipate. Each week he checks the crock to make sure the cabbage is still immersed so it doesn't start to spoil and to clean off any scum or mold. "It's like any other food if it spoils you can get really sick," Christensen said.
8. After about four weeks, Christensen checks to see how it tastes and may decide that it's done. The warmer the weather, the faster it cures, he said. And different palates may want more or less time. "Sauerkraut is a matter of taste, and different people may decide it's too salty or not salty enough," he said.
9. Then it's ready for Deonne Christensen to freeze or can it. For home-canning, she boils it a half-hour, then pours it in regular canning jars. For Utah's altitude, pints should be processed in a boiling-water bath for 25 minutes and quarts for 30 minutes.