Sauerkraut plays a vital role in the health of myself and my family. Chock full of health benefits, sauerkraut has a long history of use that dates back 2000 years! Loaded with vitamins, and numerous “healthy bacteria”, ‘kraut and other fermented vegetables are extremely nourishing to the digestive and immune system. To ensure we always have fermented foods on hand, I keep a continual crock of cabbage and several other vegetables fermenting throughout the year. What’s I love about sauerkraut is its bright, tangy flavor and its ability to work with so many different ingredients. It’s versatility makes it a great condiment. This summer I grew some really nice sized cabbages so I am looking forward to enjoying freshly made, homegrown kraut all winter long. Since I have a large root cellar, I can know properly store large quantities of fermented foods without having to take up space in my refrigerator.
How to Make Sauerkraut
All you really need here are 2 ingredients, cabbage and salt. Once you become more confident in your fermenting methods, you can add a variety of ingredients like seasonal greens, ginger, herbs, chili peppers and carrots.
Prepping your Cabbage
First remove the outer leaves and set aside. Use a sharp knife or food processor to shred your cabbage. I like to slice the cabbage as thin as possible so that the end product is soft in texture. Take note that the thinner the cut, the faster the ferment.
An exact recipe is not needed with sauerkraut nor for most lacto-fermentations.. A simple ratio is good to know and you can experiment with your own preferences once you became more confident with your ferments. To make a basic sauerkraut, simply use 3 Tablepsoons of sea salt per 5 lbs of cabbage. This is the ratio I have been following since my first batch and I have yet to have one fail me.
After slicing the cabbage, add it to a large bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Using your hands, and muscles, massage the salt into the cabbage until it begins to breakdown and release its liquid. Depending on the intensity, this may take upwards of 15-20 minutes. At that point, a squeeze of the cabbage should release a lot of water. Another way to do this is to massage for a few minutes, then allow it to sit for 30 minutes, before returning and finishing the process. Place all your prepped cabbage into a fermenting crock or sterilized glass jar. Add in all the liquid and using your fist or tamper, push all the cabbage below the liquid. Top the liquid with the reserved cabbage leaves. Use a weight to keep everything submerged below the liquid. Cover, date your jar and set in a warm, but dark space in your kitchen.
Because I am so eager to enjoy the bubbly goodness of the cabbage, I have found that waiting is the hardest part in the entire process. In general, I allow the cabbage to ferment for 2-3 weeks before harvesting. You can go as long as you wish, but I have found that after 3 weeks, the cabbage is usually soft enough to enjoy and the proliferation of healthy bacteria is at an ideal level.
Harvesting Your Kraut
Use your hands or wooden utensils to remove the cabbage from your crock. Save the juice and enjoy as a “immune boosting supplement” or use for added flavor in dressings and salads. Once removed from the crock, I store in the fridge or root cellar in glass Ball jars. Sauerkraut will last for months or even years if stored in the right environment so remember to keep it in cooler environments when not in use.
If you want a more detailed recipe, watch the video below.