Sauerkraut is one of the easiest fermented foods to make at home. Along with Kefir, Sauerkraut is one of the “gateway drugs” into the wonderful world of fermentations. True fermented, artisanal Sauerkraut can be pricey. A trip to Whole Foods will show that these run upward of $10 for very little in quantity. The best time to make sauerkraut is in the fall/winder when temperatures are lower, but with the use of AC in our homes, it can be made all year nowadays.
- Dates back to ancient Rome
- Fermented by lactic acid bacteria
- Introduced to Europe by Ghengis Khan after he invited China
- Relabeled as Liberty Cabbage in the US during WWI
- The fermentation is divided into 3 stages:
- Initially anaerobic bacteria dominate forming an acidic environment
- Acid hardy bacteria take over in the 2nd phase
- Lactobacteria ferment any remaining sugar in the 3rd phase
- Good source of Vitamin B, C and K
- Unlike store bought canned sauerkraut, this contain live probiotic bacteria
- High in antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin
Basic steps in the fermentation process:
- Cut cabbage
- Add salt: 1/2 tablespoon per pound.
- Let the cabbage sit with the salt for 3-5 hours.
- Pack cabbage in container tightly
- Provide some kind of way to keep the air out
- Let sit for 3 weeks for full fermentation
Low Salt Version
It is possible to decrease the amount of salt by transferring some liquid from a previous batch to get the fermentation started faster. This only works with unpasteurized sauerkraut. Canned store bought sauerkraut will not work.
The variations here are limitless. Add carrots, apples, cranberries, juniper berries, dill, peppers or whatever your heart fancies.
There are two variations:
- Fancy Airlock
I now use a fancy airlock that I made myself as I can use it for various other ferments.
- Low Tech Airlock
You can make an airlock by simply filling a large ziploc bag with water. This is put on top of the cabbage and will seal the cabbage airtight in the fermenting container. CO2 will still be able to escape by pushing its way out along the side of the container. It is best to use salt water in case the bag leaks. In addition, put the ziploc bag with water into another ziploc bag for added precaution. I made my first few batches of sauerkraut this way and they turned out just fine.
What is needed?
- Any other spices or ingredients
- Container to let the cabbage and salt sit for 3-5 hours
- Salt (1/2 tablespoons per pound) or liquid from a prior batch
- Fermentation container, preferably glass, ceramics or food safe plastic
- Some utensil to pack the cabbage into the fermentation container
- 3 weeks of patience
- Keep the top two cabbage leaves. You can put them on the shredded cabbage to keep the cabbage submerged in its own juices.
- This fermentation is anerobic, which means, keep air out (via airlock or a water filled ziploc bag). In addition, keep the cabbage submerged under water.
Here are the steps in picture format.
3) Add 1/2 tablespoon of salt per pound of cabbage. Don’t know how heavy your cabbage is? Look at your store receipt, the store likely charged you per pound. Let the cabbage sit for 3-5 hours. This will draw the moisture out of the cabbage, which will make the packing easier later. For a low salt version, use less salt, but add some liquid from the previous Sauerkraut batch.
4) Finally, it’s packing time. Layer the cabbage into the container and push down the cabbage tightly – pack it. As you do this, the cabbage will release some fluids and will be submerged in its own liquids.
- My fancy version
Put the two saved cabbage leaves on top of the fermented cabbage and weigh down with some rocks. Seal with cover and airlock.
- Not so fancy version
Add the two saved cabbage leaves. Simply seal of with a ziploc bag containing water. This will create an automatic airlock that will still allow the CO2 to escape along the sides of the container.
Here is the video to explained the process: