A friend of mine made some cheese the other week and had a great deal of whey left over. So I, being the crazy person I am, decided to make something with it. And so: Sauerkraut.
This post is a little less academic than some of the ones I’ve been doing because it was a spur of the moment project.
So for more background I’ll recommend you go take a look at Stefan’s Florilegium. What they have discussed there is that we have lots of references to Sauerkraut from the 16th century in Germany: Ein New Kochbook has some recipes that call for it and Baecker, Brot und Getreide in Augsburg references it being sold at the market; in addition Scappi mentions salted or brined cabbage being exported from Germany. Finally, as early as 1485 Kuchenmeysterey apparently mentions sauerkraut in passing.
Now you can make sauerkraut with just cabbage and salt, and likely that was done in period a lot since it’s easy to just mash shredded cabbage with salt, pack it in a crock with some weights and let it ferment for a few days. But I wanted to try adding whey to increase the amount of lactic acid and speed the fermentation process. Now there’s no proof that the Germans used whey when making sauerkraut, but it would have been a fairly common waste product and it does make making sauerkraut easier so I’ll call it’s use plausible but unknown.
That brings us to Iceland. Now we know that they used whey to preserve foods in Iceland frequently and that whey was kept in large vats for later use. We also know that they ate a great deal of kale (a relative of cabbage) and likely preserved it similar to sauerkraut but made with whey and kale instead of cabbage and salt. So bringing that together with sauerkraut I’m going to make some sauerkraut with whey.
- 1/2 head of cabbage (I was using the other half for dinner)
- 1/2 cup whey
- 1 tbsp salt
- clean and shred cabbage into a non-reactive bowl (food processor time)
- sprinkle with salt and whey and mix
- mash with a potato masher until the cabbage starts breaking down
- put into clean jar, tamp down
- pour about an inch of whey on top
- put a large Ziploc bag into the bag and fill 1/4 full of water
- press around the inside of the bag to make sure it seals the cabbage away from damaging oxygen
- add more water to the bag till the jar is full
- seal up the bag and the jar
- put it on your counter for a week
- enjoy (and refrigerate)