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When Life Gives You Cabbage, Make Sauerkraut

Surprise you have cabbage

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This summer I sent my husband on an errand to buy a few more broccoli transplants for our broccoli loving three year old. Specifically, I asked for 6 plants. My husband came home with a whole flat of cabbage. That’s 36 cabbage transplants. They happened to be next to the broccoli so he simply grabbed the wrong one accidentally and didn’t notice. When I asked why he bought so many, he thought I meant 6 containers, each of which holds 6 plants. I simply wanted 6 plants, but 36 cabbage transplants sounds great. If you can read the sarcasm, you can probably imagine my face. It was a funny turn of events and I went with it, all the while thinking when life gives you cabbage, make sauerkraut. I managed to surprise friends by leaving some at their doorsteps but still planted 17 of them. That’s a lot of cabbage for a family of four that eats cabbage once or twice a year.

Brassicas, plants in the mustard family, such as cabbage and broccoli are susceptible to garden pests including cabbage loopers, cabbage webworms, diamondback moth worms and cross-striped cabbage worms. I grow a lot of broccoli and battle worms. I didn’t want to add more brassicas and perpetuate the problem. I decided to try growing cabbage in different environments since I had so many and nothing really to lose. I planted some directly in the ground, some in the ground and covered with a light garden fabric and a few in different sized pots. I wanted to see if the garden fabric would keep moths from laying eggs on the leaves. Spoiler alert, it didn’t.

Cabbage tunnels

The experiment was a good one though. All of the transplants were planted at the beginning of September, which is when the weather changes here in zone 7a. The moths started to die off and I had very few to contend with. I saw a lot of my friends lose cabbage to worms this year. It was too hot and there were just too many to keep up with. That’s why I didn’t want to use up garden space with cabbage. I was already picking worms off broccoli. As it turns out, September is a great time to plant cabbage.

The problem with planting cabbage in the fall however is that there is less and less light as the season continues. That means the plants grow slowly. There is far less light in my garden in the fall than in the spring and summer. The cabbage that I planted in the garden, both the ones covered with garden fabric and the ones without, are growing very slowly. The ones I put in pots in a completely different area that gets a full day of sun are huge. I’m still holding out hope for the ones in the garden, but it’s the ones in the containers that are going to be eaten first.

We generally eat cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and once in the fall. We grow so many other vegetables that store bought cabbage just isn’t on our minds often. The phrase when life gives you cabbage, make sauerkraut, has been playing in my mind since I planted the cabbage, so sauerkraut had to be something that I try this year. Have you made sauerkraut? It’s surprisingly easy. Here’s the quick and easy way I made sauerkraut. And yes, that phrase still runs through my mind every time I taste the sauerkraut.

Cabbage in a container
How to make sauerkraut in a mason jar

I decided to make small batches of sauerkraut in mason jars instead of one big crock. We’re a small family and don’t really need to have a ton of sauerkraut open at once. I also thought jars of sauerkraut would make funny and unique gifts. Have you ever received sauerkraut as a gift? I didn’t think so, but I bet you’d smile and laugh a bit if you received it. With that in mind, here’s how to easily make sauerkraut in mason jars.

Supplies
  • 1 medium head of cabbage
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
  • A knife
  • A cutting board
  • A large bowl
  • 2 quart mason jars
  • Jelly jars
  • Something to use as weights such as marbles or stones
  • A cloth to cover the jars
Steps
  1. Wash the jars and cabbage.
  2. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges, discarding the core. Then break up into strips.
  3. Place the cabbage into a large bowl and add the salt. Use your hands to mix the two. After a few minutes, you’ll notice the cabbage begins to soften as water is released.
  4. Move the cabbage to the mason jars and press it down firmly.
  5. Add weights to the jelly jar and then place the jar into the opening of the larger mason jar that holds the cabbage. This will weigh it down so that the cabbage will submerge under the water it releases. You do not need to add water to the jars.
  6. Cover the jars with a cloth and leave them for 3 days or more. If you notice any of the cabbage not submerged, press the jelly jar down to force it under the surface.
  7. Taste the sauerkraut each day and when you love the taste, that’s when it’s time to put the lid on and move it to your fridge or cellar.

That’s it. Making sauerkraut is actually quite easy and you don’t even need any fancy tools.

homemade sauerkraut
Did you make sauerkraut in a mason jar? How did it turn out?

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