A very interesting looking cabbage caught my eye a couple weeks ago at the Farmers’ Market, it was tall with a pointed head. I’d been wanting to make sauerkraut and it was fate. The rest is history.
Sauerkraut is a great beginning fermentation project, and the result is rewarding and nutritious. It is created through a process called lacto-fermentation. One of the beneficial bacteria found on the surface of cabbage (all fruits and veggies for that matter) and in yogurt and other cultured products is called Lactobacillus. This works under the salty brine to convert the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, which in turn inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and acts as a natural preservative. Not only is the product of this transformation tasty, it also contains healthy probiotics that act as a great digestive tonic.
What do you need to make sauerkraut?
- glass or ceramic container for fermentation (a large Mason jar is perfect)
- plastic bag that will hold water (or other weighted device will fit snugly into container)
- cloth to cover (towel or pillowcase will work)
- rubber band to secure
Here’s the step-by-step process:
Of course, start with clean tools and ingredients.
- Chop or shred your cabbage while layering in a large bowl, salting each layer as you go. A good ratio is about 1 1/2 T salt per head of cabbage.
- When you have finished layering and salting, massage the salt into the cabbage for a few minutes, until it becomes limp and watery. This forms the brine you need for fermentation.
- At this time, you can add other vegetables, fruits, herbs or spices, or you can keep it simple and opt not to.
- Pack the cabbage into your fermentation container, tamping it down well as you go.
- Fill your plastic bag with enough water that it will fit inside your fermentation container and cover the entire surface of the cabbage while weighting it down into the brine. Tie it securely so that water will not leak out.
- Place it into container, making sure all the cabbage is under the brine. If you need more liquid, add salt water to cover the cabbage. 1 t salt per cup of water is a good ratio.
- Cover the top with your cloth and secure with a rubber band. This will allow the kraut to breathe while keeping dust and bugs out.
- Let it do its thing! Since it’s winter, you can put it in a cool and shady corner of the kitchen.
- Check it every day or so to see how it’s doing and press it down each time. Bubbles coming up or white froth are signs of healthy fermentation. If mold forms it should be removed, just skim it off and always make sure you clean the bottom of your cover. The anaerobic brine will protect the kraut.
- It will start to get tangy after a few days, then you can keep tasting it periodically and decide when you want to eat it. Mine is two weeks old and I think it’s about perfect, but it depends on the size of your batch and your taste.
- Eat, store and repeat. You can keep what you want to eat in a jar in the fridge for two months or longer because it’s fermented.
Yep folks, it’s that simple. Check out Sandor Katz’s website Wild Fermentation to learn from the kraut guru who has earned the affectionate nickname Sandorkraut. I also found this post from The Kitchn to be helpful.
A good idea from Sandorkraut: keep a bit of your kraut and brine out to jump-start a new batch with active culture.