You Should Be Eating Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a super food, full stop. Sauerkraut is delicious, healthy, and cheap to make. It is a superb digestive and helps fight cancer, The benefits are almost limitless. Read: Interesting sauerkraut facts. Read: History of sauerkraut.
Be kind to your body. Make and eat sauerkraut on the regular!
Tools & Ingredients
- Cabbage – for this recipe I used two heads.
- 1 & 1/2 Tbsp Salt – regular old Morton’s salt will do (I buy mine in bulk). You can get fancy shmancy and use sea salt if you desire.
- Knife – a good knife that holds its edge is a must in the kitchen. My favorite knife is the Messermeister Meridian — although not cheap, it is has been my workhorse for years. A great cheap alternative is the Victorinox Fibrox Pro — it’s light, has a super sharp blade, and is a great bang for buck option.
- Cutting board – any ole cutting board will do. I prefer and recommend wood. I’ve had a cheap bamboo set for years.
- Large bowl – a stainless steel mixing bowl set is another kitchen staple.
- Fermenting vessel – you could use a mason jar if you want but I prefer to use a jar with a blow-off valve.
- Optional: Pounder – this will make it easier to force down the cabbage in the fermentation vessel.
- Optional: Fermentation weights – these will keep the cabbage down beneath the brine during fermentation.
- Optional: Gloves – I use nitrile gloves when I’m working with any kind of ferment just to be safe. I’m always concerned soap residue from my hands will get into the food.
Step 1: Break Down The Cabbage!
Shout out to Kelly McVicker for her awesome book Essential Vegetable Fermentation. Kelly presents fermentation in an easy to read and approachable way. I’ve derived a lot of my vegetable fermentation knowledge from her literature and I owe her big time! Go buy her book.
Start by removing the first few leaves of your cabbage. Save a few leaves for later.
Cut the cabbage into quarters
Remove the cores. If you do not have fermentation weights then also keep the cores. We’ll use them to help weigh down the cabbage inside the fermentation vessel during the fermentation process.
Shred or thinly slice the cabbage and put it into a bowl
Step 2: Get your hands dirty, then wait
Evenly sprinkle 1Tbsp of that salt all over the cabbage
Massage the salt into the cabbage for about 2-3 minutes. You will feel the cabbage getting wet and a little soft. Liquid will begin to pool at the bottom of the bowl.
Set a timer for 20 minutes, sprinkle 1/2Tbsp of salt over the top, and let the cabbage rest. Put a towel over the top of the bowl to protect it from bugs or, if you have a cat like me, curious investigators!
Step 3: Pack & Wait!
After 20 minutes it is time to pack the cabbage into the fermentation vessel. If there is any liquid in the bowl add that too. Every time you add a handful of cabbage make sure you pack it tightly into the vessel/jar. Make sure all the cabbage is beneath the liquid.
Put a clean cabbage leaf on top of the soon-to-be sauerkraut and add the fermentation weights. If you do not have weights add the left over cores.
Install the airlock (if you have it) and put the jar in a cool, dark place. Optimally you want the temperature to be below 80F/~26C and above 60F/16C. I have a space in my home office where I do all my fermentation. If you do not have an airlock you can use cheesecloth or loosely screw on a lid (to permit gases out).
Now we wait! Give it about a week and give it a sniff. If it has not gone to rot, taste it. Even if you are unfamiliar with sauerkraut and what it should smell like you will know if it has gone off. The smell of rotting food is fairly similar with any veg. If you need a basis for comparison just head out to the supermarket and pick up a bag or a jar. My favorite is Silver Floss. A can of sauerkraut typically costs less than a dollar.
If the sauerkraut smells and tastes salty and tangy then the lacto-fermentation processis “lacto-fermenting” the cabbage. To put it simply, lacto-fermentation means the Lactobacillus bacteria is eating the sugars in the cabbage, turning it into lactic acid, and preserving your cabbage.
Step 4: Keep Waiting, Consume
Give it another week and do another sniff/taste test. If you like the taste then go ahead and cap it and put it in the fridge. It’ll last for ~8 months to a year and get more sour over time. I usually take out the sauerkraut, put it in a mason jar, and then start a new batch of lacto-fermented veg.
Note that this recipe is not Bavarian style sauerkraut (which we may do in the future). The above recipe is the most basic sauerkraut recipe out there. Using the above as a base definitely consider experimenting with adding different flavors such as coriander or chopped spicy peppers!