If your New Year’s resolutions involved phrases like ‘learn to make sauerkraut’ and ‘eat more fermented vegetables’ you have come to the right place. Seriously, you’re going to like it around here. Bookmark my blog and subscribe to my youtube channel. I’ll wait.
The other reason you’ve come to the right place is that I happen to be posting about making your own home fermented sauerkraut today. What a crazy, random happenstance, huh?
Sauerkraut is made out of cheap ingredients (cabbage and salt) and is really fairly simple to make. (There are a few pitfalls to avoid, which I’ll cover later, but the process is not overly complex.) It stimulates the production of stomach acid (which is often low in people with digestive problems, including acid reflux and ulcers–sufficient stomach acid actually helps *prevent* these problems, counter intuitive as it may seem) and provides needed probiotics.
The down side, of course, is that it’s sauerkraut, with the pungent intensity that we all know and many of us hate. I, myself, can enjoy sauerkraut just fine, as long as it’s used in small quantities on a food that needed some spicing up anyway. Even so, after doing the GAPS diet and ‘enjoying’ sauerkraut with almost every meal, I was burned out on sauerkraut for a while.
Even if you’re not so fond of store bought sauerkraut, I recommend trying to make your own and see how you like it. My husband can’t stand store bought sauerkraut but he tolerates and will sometimes intentionally eat homemade sauerkraut. He says it has a flavor other than ‘Pow, vinegar!’, which is all the store bought sauerkraut tastes like.
If you’re just trying out homemade sauerkraut for the first time, you probably don’t want to go buy one of those fancy fermenting crocks people are always recommending. On the other hand, I’ve heard some serious warnings about using old crocks that may leech lead into your ferments through tiny cracks in the finish. My solution was to go buy a $20, 1 gallon stoneware crock at Ace Hardware. It’s simple, not too expensive, and unrisky. (Don’t use anything metal for fermenting your sauerkraut in. In a pinch you can probably do a big batch in a five gallon food grade plastic bucket though.)
Whatever kind of crock you use, you need a way to keep the air away from your sauerkraut is it ferments. The good bacteria does not require oxygen to work, while stray bad bacteria that might take over your ferment does require oxygen, so creating an oxygen free environment for your ferment is ideal. In the recipe I explain how to use a ziploc bag to allow the gases from the fermenting cabbage to escape without allowing air in contact with the cabbage.
You may get a white film on top, which is probably harmless, though I recommend doing your own research to confirm what is growing on your sauerkraut. If you get anything fuzzy, brown, green or pink growing on your sauerkraut throw it out and start over.
Edited to add: Once you’ve made your sauerkraut you may be wondering what to eat it with. It goes well with most meats–hot dogs and sausages are obvious ones, but I often put it on hamburgers, and it can also work with pork or beef roasts as well. You can use it in place of pickles for a tang on any sandwich, and don’t forget Rueben sandwiches as a classic use for sauerkraut. (I requested Rueben sandwiches for my birthday meal several years running, and that was before I even made homemade sauerkraut.) If that’s not enough to get you started, you can can also find recipes for soups that use sauerkraut!
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
Cabbage and sea salt fermented to provide probiotics. Doesn’t get much healthier than that.
Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy
Okay, I admit it’s not that amazing as a flavor, but it is tolerable, and once you develop a taste for it you’ll miss it when you don’t have it.
1 head cabbage, about 2 pounds
1 TBSP sea salt
1-2 cups filtered water, if needed
Core and shred the cabbage. I find the easiest method is to slice it thinly, then cut across the slices in two or three places to keep the shreds from being unreasonably long. Put cabbage into a stoneware crock.
Sprinkle salt on the cabbage and let it sit for ten minutes or so, until the juices start to come out of the cabbage.
Begin to squeeze and knead the cabbage with your hands until the cabbage is softened and has released it’s juices. You may get enough liquid out of the cabbage to cover it, but I only ever get enough to just barely come up to the level of the cabbage. Press the cabbage down tightly into the bottomof the crock. Unless the cabbage juices completely submerge the cabbage, add filtered water until the level of the liquid is an inch or two above the level of the cabbage.
Remove any stray pieces of cabbage from the sides of the crock.
If you don’t have a special fermenting crock, fill a gallon sized ziploc bag halfway with water. (Tap water is fine for this part.) Squeeze out most of the air before closing it. Put the ziploc bag in the crock on top of the cabbage. This will form fit to the sides of the crock, holding the cabbage underwater. Some liquid, and probably a few shreds of cabbage, will rise around the sides of the bag, but that’s fine as long as most of the cabbage is secure at the bottom of the crock.
Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let sit at room temperature for anywhere from one week to a few months depending on how strong you like your sauerkraut and how forgetful you are. I generally transfer the sauerkraut to canning jars in the fridge after two to three weeks. (You may need to add water to the canning jars occasionally to continue to keep the sauerkraut submerged as you use it. There’s less danger of the ferment going wrong at this point, but it’s just kind of gross if it gets dried out.)