Looking to create your own probiotic boost? Cabbage is one of the simplest foods to ferment and can be transformed into a delicious, nutritious side dish!
Sauerkraut is ideal for those who are new to fermentation. The process is simple and yields a probiotic food that boosts digestion and overall health. If you’re daunted by leaving food on the counter, remember that fermentation offers far more leeway than conventional canning. Improper canning can lead to serious food poisoning, while fermentation leaves room for variations in time, temperature and ingredient ratios.
Apple is optional but I find it adds to the versatility of the flavor.
The best way to ensure success with your sauerkraut is to invest in one of the following:
I have all three types of jar, and have found that all work well. (I have also successfully made sauerkraut with a regular mason jar and lid.)
Green or red cabbage will work for either recipe. I have found that fresh, organic green cabbage releases its juices more readily. I often use a combination of the two as you see in the photo above.
How to Make Sauerkraut
- 1 medium cabbage
- 1 tbsp. sea salt
- 1 tbsp. caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 small sour apple (optional)
- starter from previous batch (optional)
Clean the cabbage. Save a few leaves as you will use them as a top layer for the kraut. Shred cabbage on a coarse grater or with the shredding blade in a food processor. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. You can pound this mixture to release juices or walk away and leave it for an hour or two. The salt will slowly work its magic without pounding.
Add any optional items and stir.
Transfer to jar and pack tightly. Repeat until the pot is 80% full. Cover the final layer with a few large leaves.
As you pack the cabbage you will continue to see the release of juices. This is the brine. You want the liquid to cover the packed cabbage to insure an anaerobic environment for the kraut, which allows the beneficial bacteria to multiply. Place weights on the leaves if needed to keep the kraut below the brine. Seal with an air lock or airtight lid.
Keep container out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 3-5 days. The fermentation activity will be evident. You may see the brine bubble out of the container, so keep a towel close by.
If you see black growth of any sort it is best to toss the batch and start again. This has never happened to me as the airlock or airtight lid ensures that oxygen does not get into the jar.
Optional Next Step
After 3-5 days you can refrigerate immediately or you can follow a longer protocol by moving the sauerkraut to a cooler location, but not as cool as a regular refrigerator.
The optimal temperature is approximately 59 degrees F. I use a small refrigerator dialed to its warmest setting to accomplish this. This step helps the best beneficial microbes grow, creating an even healthier food.
Klaus Kaugmann and Annelies Schoneck, in their book Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home, recommend putting the pot in a cool place for 2-3 weeks at 59 degrees in order for slow fermentation to take place.
Move to your regular refrigerator after this 2-3 week period. The sauerkraut can be eaten after 4 weeks, but will be better if left for 6 weeks (or even longer!).
Many recipes call for a shorter fermentation time. It is still a beneficial food after the 3-5 day window!
The following video is part of the momsAWARE Natural Year Challenge. If you’re a visual learner you’ll enjoy seeing the preparation process.
If you’re daunted by the process, go ahead and jump in anyway. You’ll be an expert “fermenter” before you know it, enjoying the many health benefits of naturally fermented foods!
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