Making your own naturally fermented sauerkraut yields a tasty product rich in enzymes, micronutrients and probiotics. Made from the simplest of ingredients --cabbage and salt-- traditional sauerkraut recipes and processing techniques abound. Some call for shredded vegetables, raisins, caraway, juniper, or other flavorful additions. Still others call for hours of pounding or many months of fermentation. Discovering your favorite recipe can be an exciting odyssey. Creating your own can begin a new tradition.
The following is the simplest recipe which can stand alone or serve as a base for any adventurous augmentations you wish to try. I often double or triple it and generally use half red, half green organic cabbage which creates a lovely lavender, crisp textured kraut. As seen above, using purple cabbage produces a fiercely fuchsia kraut that adds a bright splash of colorful nutrition to any meal.
Prep time:30 minutes hands on time
Soak time:3-7 days fermentation time
- 5 pounds organic cabbage
- 3-4 tablespoons unrefined sea salt
- Boiling water for sterilization
- Kitchen scale, optional
- Large mixing bowl
- Potato masher or other blunt object for packing the cabbage
- A large crock, earthenware or glass container for fermenting
- Plate (or other flat object that fits within the rim of your fermentation vessel)
- Tea towel or other clean cloth for covering
1. Sterilize equipment
Cleanliness is always important in the kitchen, but even more so during food preservation activities such as canning and fermenting. I wash all necessary utensils, bowls, plate, weight, and my #2 pickle crock thoroughly. Then, I rinse each item with boiling water and dry well with a very clean tea towel. I make sure all kitchen surfaces are clean and dry as well.
2. Shred the cabbage
Wash the cabbage and peel off any dirty or damaged outer leaves. Quarter the cabbage and cut out the dense, bitter core. Shred cabbage with knife, mandolin or food processor. I weigh the shredded cabbage with a kitchen scale to more easily attain the cabbage to salt ratio.
3. Mix cabbage and salt
Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl and toss to mix thoroughly with the salt. Mix until the cabbage starts to release a small amount of juice and begins to change slightly in color.
4. Pack into the crock
Spoon the cabbage into the crock and press out all of the air with a potato masher or other blunt object.
The goal is not to mash the cabbage, but to pack into a dense, compact layer. Packing the cabbage removes air and creates an anaerobic environment for fermentation.
Using a damp paper towel, wipe off any splatters or stray pieces of cabbage from the interior walls of the crock or bowl.
4. Ferment the kraut
Set the plate on top of the packed cabbage and set a sterilized weight on top of it. Juice should run out and cover the plate creating a lid of fluid sealing across the surface of the cabbage. If not enough fluid emerges to accomplish this, add some water. I use a gallon jar full of salt or beans as my weight. Cover with a tea towel and set in an out-of-the-way place.
Check on the kraut every few days. Smell the kraut and look for changes at surface of the liquid. After after a day or so, it should begin to smell sour and small bubbles should be visible on the surface as pictured below.
If at any point the liquid level exposes the cabbage, add filtered water to cover. If mold or strange scum forms, remove the weight and plate, scrape it off and discard. Wash and sterilize the plate and weight, then return to the crock, again making sure the liquid level is high enough.
When the bubbles at the surface have become more of a foam or froth and it has filled my home with a krauty aroma that shocks visitors, I deem it done. You can choose to ferment longer if you like a more sour kraut, or less if you prefer a milder version.
Spoon the finished product into clean, sterilized glass jars and tamp the kraut down to remove air. Store the lidded jars in the refrigerator.
Sauerkraut keeps for an reasonably long time. However, you can further extend this time if you re-pack the kraut down in the storage jar each time you remove some. Also, only use clean utensils to remove kraut from the jar, being careful not to contaminate with other food material.