Easy to Make Sauerkraut
Don’t be afraid, sauerkraut is easy to make and delicious
My uncle Bob and grandmother (bapci) made fermented sauerkraut and pickles all the time and I remember how delicious they were. Years ago I made some pickles with uncle Bob’s recipe but for some reason stopped doing this.
Now that we have the gardens at Clean Slate Farm and grow cabbage and cukes I decided to give the sauerkraut a try to see how it works.
First a word about safety. You’ll read a lot about fermenting and the potential problems and bacteria issues you’ll encounter when you decide to ferment. Obviously you need to be safe by working clean and paying attention to what you’re doing but this is really easy stuff. I’ll save my thoughts about the dangers of home preservation for another day. For now just work with clean equipment and use a little caution. Consider that my disclaimer.
We started with red cabbage grown in the garden for our sauerkraut. You can use green cabbage as well, or a mixture, or add some carrots. You can also add some caraway seeds for another flavor. The recipe is simple and the process even easier. We have a video at our Youtube channel so you can see how we made ours. Some of the steps in the video can be shortened to make this a little faster. And let’s make this easy so you can start enjoying sauerkraut right away…use a quart canning jar and skip the crock you may read about elsewhere. Canning jars are much more available and much less expensive.
What you will need:
- A one quart canning jar with lid and screw ring
- A smaller jar or something that will fit in the opening of the quart jar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt (not table salt with iodine)
- A large glass or stainless steel bowl to mix the cabbage and salt
- A three pound (average size) cabbage shredded or chopped
Our cabbage was about 3 pounds, just what the recipe called for. I quartered it and then sliced it into 1/8 to 1/4 inch ribbons. The next step is to mix it in the bowl with salt so the cabbage releases water, which will become the brine that assists the fermentation process. Brine helps eliminate the bad bacteria and provides an environment for good bacteria…lactobacillus in particular. The stuff that makes sauerkraut and pickles so tasty and adds probiotics.
The recipe calls for you to mix the shredded cabbage and salt for 15 minutes, which I did for this batch. However, after making the recipe I believe the cabbage and salt are mixed way before 15 minutes. Five minutes is more than enough to make sure the salt is well distributed and the water begins to release.
When this occurs you’re ready to pack it in the jar so it can begin fermenting. The most critical step in this process is making sure the cabbage is completely covered in brine. If there is not enough brine add 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water, mix well, and pour over the top of the cabbage and press the cabbage down. Done. Ours was packed into a quart canning jar using a smaller jar to push the cabbage down into the brine and didn’t need the extra brine.
You may have to press the smaller jar down every few hours to keep the cabbage submerged. Cover the jar with a canning lid and screw it into place. Unless you cover the jar with cheese cloth, which is an option, you’ll need to unscrew the lid every day to release the gases the fermentation produces. I did the lid thing and was amazed at how the ferment produces gas. It’s almost like champagne bubbles.
Now the hard part about sauerkraut. Waiting. Set the jar in a warm place, between 65 and 75 degrees, and taste it after about three days. A longer fermentation produces a stronger flavor so it’s really up to what you want the sauerkraut to taste like. To slow the fermentation put the jar in the refrigerator.
It’s that simple to make fermented sauerkraut at home for a taste that is hard to beat. Plus you get good probiotic bacteria for your health as well if you are into that.
Here are two authors that have more recipes for fermented and preserved food I find useful. Enjoy!