Making your own sauerkraut may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually easy to prepare and just needs a little bit of babysitting as the fermentation process unfolds. The result is a most delicious science experiment.
This sauerkraut has all the flavor and probiotic benefits of a traditional fermented kraut but with less salt. The cabbage has a great crunch and tang along with the added flavor from the caraway seeds. This is a traditional sauerkraut, perfect for adding to hotdogs and sandwiches, as a side with sausages or pierogies, or just straight from the jar.
Here's what you need to know, followed by the recipe:
Start with the Basics
You don’t need any special tools to make sauerkraut—just cabbage, salt, a big jar, and your hands. But if you get serious about your "krautkraft," you might consider investing in some tools of the trade. Here are three handy tools, and their alternatives:
Fermenting Crock. This will seal the kraut, while still letting gasses from the fermentation escape—and let you avoid having to "burp" it every day. However, any big jar will work.
Wooden Vegetable Tamper. It can be handy, especially when making a big batch, to have something to press the cabbage with. But you can also use your hands or a wooden spoon.
Glass or ceramic weights. It's important that the cabbage doesn't rise above the liquid while fermenting. But you can use anything heavy as long as it's food safe and not likely to corrode (glass and ceramic are best)
This base recipe can easily be multiplied to make larger batches (an average crock can hold about 10 lbs of sliced cabbage). Be aware that the larger the batch the longer it will take to ferment. This recipe is written for a lower salt content than the average at-home sauerkraut, but you should feel free to experiment to find what suits your personal taste. In fact: you can make this recipe completely salt free! To do that, we recommend subbing in 1/2 teaspoon of celery seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and, because the cabbage won't release as much liquid, topping off the jar with filtered water.
Speaking of Taste
There's no need to stick solely to cabbage. Try using other vegetables in your kraut, such as carrots, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beets, or garlic, as well as other herbs and spices, such as dill seeds, celery seeds, curry powder, or red pepper flakes. Just be sure to taste the mixture as you’re making it (to make sure your flavors are what you want) and then every three days after the fermentation begins. This will help you judge when the kraut has reached the point of being “done.” Again, it’s based on your personal taste, but it’s worth it to continue to taste the kraut at different times to know what you like the best.
The warmer the temperature (70 degrees and above), the quicker the kraut will ferment, but it can result in a softer, less textured product. The cooler the temp (anything above freezing), the more time it will take the kraut to ferment, but the result will be a crunchier texture. The sauerkraut will keep for an extremely long time in the refrigerator after fermenting (Some people keep kraut up to a year in the refrigerator.) No need to can or “process” the mixture—the high temperature needed for canning will kill all the good bacteria.
And here’s the most important thing to remember—sauerkraut is best served in its cold state. If you warm it up or cook it, you’ll kill all the good bacteria and lose all the awesome probiotic potential.
1 3/4 pounds shredded green cabbage (from 1 head cabbage)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 to 2 leaves of cabbage
Added sugars 0g
Calcium 20% DV
Potassium 84% DV
How to Make It
Combine cabbage, salt, and caraway seeds in a large non-metal bowl, squeeze and stir together, massaging cabbage with hands until cabbage softens and wilts, and has noticeably released liquid, about 5 minutes.
Using a wooden rolling pin, wooden spoon handle, or fist, pack cabbage mixture, a little at a time, into a wide-mouth quart jar or fermenting crock. Add any remaining liquid in bowl to the jar or crock, leaving at least 2 inches of space at top of vessel.
Place outer leaves of cabbage on top of cabbage mixture. This will help keep mixture submerged, and out of contact with open air. Weigh cabbage down with glass weights, marbles, or another sanitized heavy object. Cover jar lid with cheesecloth or a coffee filter fitted with a rubber band. If using a jar lid, twist until just barely tight.
Over the next 24 hours, continue to press down on cabbage to help release liquid. The cabbage must be completely submerged underneath brine. After the first 24 hours, if the liquid has not covered cabbage, add water to just cover.
Keep sauerkraut in a cool place (65°F to 75°F), away from sunlight. If using a jar with a lid, you’ll want to “burp” mixture each day. Unscrew lid slightly to release CO2 that has developed. After 3 days, you can taste sauerkraut mixture. As it continues to ferment, the flavor will evolve. When it has reached desired flavor, fasten with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate.
While cabbage is fermenting, you will notice foam and white scum. This is natural, and the sign of a healthy fermentation. If you notice white mold, scrape it off, and make sure cabbage is submerged in liquid. If at any time black mold begins to show, throw mixture away, and start again.
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