ALEXIS ANNIS (originally published January 16, 2013)
Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
This week, we found a Sauerkraut Masher!
Just in time for cabbage and cold season, this stomper can be used to make homemade sauerkraut, a lacto-fermented food known to aid digestion, replenish internal flora, boost the immune system with its high vitamin C content and is even said to contain substances to improve sleep, lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart. Lacto-fermentation is the process of converting the starches and sugars contained in vegetables and fruits to a lactic acid.
Though often associated with German food, sauerkraut with its distinctive sour taste, arrived in Europe from Asia where cabbage has been pickled for thousand of years. It was often taken aboard traveling ships as a means to fight scurvy. Today it is most popular in Russia, France and ballparks around the United States. Texas has a strong German and Czech influence, and sauerkraut mashing has long been part of the culinary landscape there.
Sauerkraut is simple to make at home, even without a proper stomper, which can be replaced by a meat mallet, potato masher or even heavy plate. While specialized fermenting crocks are available, a plastic container or a jar will work well for small batches. After placing a couple of inches of shredded cabbage in the container begin pounding (or stomping) the cabbage in a circular motion to release the vegetable’s own juices. The more tightly packed the better, as the cabbage must be submerged under the liquid. Adding salt to the cabbage will help create the brine for the fermenting process and no additional water or vinegar is required. The next step is simply waiting, skimming off any mold that may develop on the surface (which is not harmful) and letting the fermenting process take place for three to six weeks until it passes a personal taste test.
The result is tastier and healthier than the pasteurized versions available in the grocery store.
Our Rating: A good conversation piece and hopeful motivation to make homemade sauerkraut!
Design: Fairly basic, though the wood design is pleasing, the wide base provides a large surface area for packing down layers of cabbage, and long handle provides leverage for ultimate stomping.
Originality: While not that different from a mallet in design, it is unique in it purpose to solely release the juices from cabbage.
Practicality: Very Good. Great for serving its purpose, but could also be used for churning butter or pounding meat.
The stomper can be seen in the Texas exhibit at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.