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 wide-mouth jars and lids ready for use (at least one quart jar per 2lbs cabbage; see How to Sanitize Jars for Fermentation projects here).
- Remove outer leaves and set aside. Slice cabbage in half and remove the core.
- Slice cabbage according to your preference: slice into thin strips, chop into small bits, 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. Stir in optional mix-ins.
- Using utensils and/or your hands, pack cabbage into the jars tightly, pressing down firmly as you go. Water will release from the cabbage as you pack it in; cabbage should be submerged in the liquid (brine) and there should be at least an inch of space at the top of your container.
- If there is not enough brine to cover the cabbage, make more brine with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ cup filtered water.
- Top cabbage with smaller(sanitized) jars or weights, and cover loosely with a towel. An average fermentation time is about seven days in a warm climate. Check sauerkraut everyday to ensure that the brine is covering the vegetables. If it has evaporated, add more brine using the measurements above to ensure cabbage stays covered. If the sauerkraut becomes rotten smelling or moldy, it should not be eaten.
- Refrigerate after fermentation is finished. Sauerkraut keeps for a very long time in the fridge, and will improve with age. Enjoy with salads, sandwiches, and in wraps.
Yield: 1 mostly-full quart jar
Red and green cabbage image from Shutterstock; other images mine.