Published on September 9th, 2013 | by Andrea Bertoli6
How to Make Sauerkraut
Are you scared of sauerkraut, like my dad? Sauerkraut should be crunchy, sweet and briny, filled with the tang of healthy fermentation. But faced with canned, overcooked, sour-smelling sauerkraut, my dad and I have stayed away from the fermented cabbage for a long time. But I am a convert now… and next time Dad comes to visit, I will sneak it in his food. And he will love it.
I love the idea of fermented foods, but I’ve not always loved the taste. But I keep trying! I made some homemade kim chi last year and liked it a lot, despite the garlic. And I’ve made homemade coconut yogurt, fermented cashew cheeze and even my own homemade water kefir. (And here’s a tutorial if you want to make your on homemade Kombucha from Eat. Drink… Better). But I’ve stayed away from the ‘kraut because I was scared that I wouldn’t love it. But it’s pretty amazing, you guys! Here’s a look at the first batch:
But best of all, sauerkraut is really easy to make. All you need is cabbage and salt. Some sites recommend using a vegetable starter or beginning with dairy whey, but veggies already have all the good bacterias they need to ferment on their own (it’s like magic). Stick to the simple stuff. Get a gorgeous 2-4 pound organic green or red cabbage and a handful of sea salt and you are good to go. You will also need a quart-sized ball jar (wide-mouth), and a smaller jar to fit inside, and something to cover it with (some fermenters use a pillow case or dishtowel.
1/2 head of cabbage (about 2 pounds cabbage per quart)
4 teaspoons sea salt
1-2 Tablespoons peppercorns (cute, but a bit hard to eat!)
1-2 Tablespoons caraway seeds or mustard seeds
1-2 Tablespoons fresh chopped ginger or turmeric
- Have sanitized jars and lids ready for use (at least one quart jar per 2lbs cabbage). (To Sanitize: cover jars in water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and keep it boiling for five minutes. Add lids in the last minute. Turn off heat, but leave jars in water until ready to use. Remove using tongs and place onto a dishrack to cool before putting food inside.)
- Remove outer leaves and set aside. Slice cabbage in half and remove the core.
- Slice cabbage according to your preference: you can slice into thin strips, chop into small bites, or shred in a food processor. Add cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with salt.
- Using your hands, massage cabbage to release liquids and soften slightly. You can also let the cabbage stand for 15 minutes to soften further. Drain and reserve any liquid that comes out of the cabbage. Stir in optional mix-ins, if using.
- Using non-metal utensils and/or your hands, pack cabbage into the jars, pressing as you go. Cabbage should be submerged in brine and there should be at least an inch of space at the top of your container. If there is not enough liquid, you can make more brine with salt and filtered water. Cover with reserved whole cabbage leaf to make a cover.
- Here is where methods differ: The instructions I followed said to put on lid, but do not tighten fully. Other methods use a smaller jar (filled with brine) to sit on top and weigh the cabbage down so that it’s always submerged in brine. I checked mine everyday and pressed it down using a clean wooden spoon; there was no mold or weirdness and it turned out fine. If you don’t have time to check it everyday, use the jar-on-top method to ensure that it’s submerged (the brine keeps out bad bacterias and keeps your kraut safe).
- Let jar(s) sit at room temperature for a few days, tasting after day three: it should taste slightly sour and have a pleasant smell. (Note: mine actually smelled like chlorine (!) at this time, but after a few more days of fermenting it smelled much better!). It’s ready to eat now, but you can also leave for a week (in warm climates) or longer (in cooler climates). The whole fermenting time here in super-warm Hawaii was six days.
- When the flavor is to your liking, move to refrigerator. It will keep for a long time! Enjoy with salads, sandwiches, and in wraps!
Yield: 1 mostly-full quart jar
Red and green cabbage image from Shutterstock; other images mine.