The easy foolproof way to make your own probiotic fermented Sauerkraut

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.

FinalFermentHere are some facts about sauerkraut:

  • 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

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  • 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

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Basic steps in the fermentation process:

  1. Cut cabbage
  2. Add salt: 1/2 tablespoon per pound.
  3. Let the cabbage sit with the salt for 3-5 hours.
  4. Pack cabbage in container tightly
  5. Provide some kind of way to keep the air out
  6. Let sit for 3 weeks for full fermentation
  7. Enjoy

Several variations:

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.

Additional Ingredients

The variations here are limitless.  Add carrots, apples, cranberries, juniper berries, dill, peppers or whatever your heart fancies.

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Airlock

There are two variations:

  1. Fancy Airlock
    I now use a fancy airlock that I made myself as I can use it for various other ferments.
  2. 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.

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What is needed?

  • Cabbage
  • Knife
  • 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

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Helpful Hints

  • 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.

cabbage leaves1) Save the top two leaves to put on the shredded cabbage later.

CutCabbage2) Time to shred the cabbage.

CutCabbageinBowl

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.

putcabbageinglass4) 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.

FinalFerment5) Finally it is time to seal it off.  There are two versions.

  • 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.

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Here is the video to explained the process:

3 thoughts on “The easy foolproof way to make your own probiotic fermented Sauerkraut

  1. If the water runs low and you too off with tap water (after a week), does it kill all the bacteria or us that no big deal? Also, when it’s done, do you drain and rinse it or leave it in the water it fermented in?

    • I actually never run dry and never have to add anything. Seems the airlock regulates everything very well. If you do add water, I would suggest filtered to get the chlorine out.

  2. Mine finished fermenting today and it’s in good shape even with a small tap water addition. In the future, I’ll be more careful with the water levels and keep some non-chlorinated water on hand, just in case. If anyone else runs into this issue, however, just know that a little tap water did no harm.

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