Homemade sauerkraut is one of the easiest things to ferment. It is a wonderfully reliable ferment and doesn’t take any special skills or ingredients. Sauerkraut is a great source of probiotics. However, the main reason why you should make sauerkraut is that fermented sauerkraut is so much BETTER than the stuff you find in a jar at your local grocery store.
Sauerkraut is so easy to ferment
Sauerkraut is a good go-to ferment for any fermentation newbie because cabbage naturally has lactic bacteria on it. So all that you need to do to make sauerkraut is grate it! Luckily I have a pretty good mandolin and a food processor with a grating attachment. A box grater would work too, though it would take a lot of time to grate a head of cabbage by hand.
However, when I first started fermenting I used the low tech method for making sauerkraut. I packed my kraut into mason jars and kept the vegetables below the brine with a weight. Cabbage (especially if it’s organic) has such naturally good culture that I have only ever had one failure with the low tech method.
(I taught my daughter’s preschool class to make sauerkraut. They filled several jars, and one of them went off. I suspect that it was mostly due to the fact that the preschool class room was too warm and bright. They fermented it on a bookcase next to a window… which is less than ideal for sauerkraut.)
If this is your first time fermenting something I recommend reading the Basic Fermentation Rules. It goes into detail about about cleanliness, ideal temperature for fermentation and more.
- 1 head of cabbage (approx. 2 lbs.)
- 1-2 tsp pickling salt (to taste)
- flavours (see below)
- Grate the cabbage and any other vegetable or fruit additions.
- Toss it with spices and salt.
- Pack it into a wide mouth mason jar(s) leaving at least 2" of head room. Use a spoon to really pound all the cabbage into the jar. If you pack it down enough, liquid will be pressed out of the cabbage, and you want enough liquid to cover the cabbage. Also, it's important to fully pack the cabbage into the jar because air bubbles increase the risk of contamination. Don't worry if you don't have enough liquid right away, it should produce it within 24 hours. So you can to leave your cabbage to sweat a bit then pack it down again.
- Leave the jar to ferment at room temperature (around 18 C if possible) and out of the sun. The goal is to have the cabbage kept from the air (by weights, fido or airlock), but still allow for the release of CO2. Even if I am using a weight I keep my jars loosely covered to prevent bugs from getting in.
- The first three days the cabbage will bubble and liquid may over flow from the jar (so put a bowl underneath your jar to catch any liquid).
- Sauerkraut is ready when you decide it is done (anywhere between 5 days to 7 weeks, though I often just permanently leave my kraut in a cupboard since I'm short on space in my fridge).
- Store it in the fridge to stop the fermentation.
-There’s a whole science to how the “flora” in sauerkraut changes over time. However, it should never be moldy, yeasty or smelly. Keeping everything clean is necessary for a good ferment.
-Sauerkraut needs to ferment without exposure to air. Traditionally this was done with a crock and a weight. You could use a mason jar with a weight (small jam jars work well). However, if you plan on making sauerkraut regularly I recommend using a fido jar, or a mason jar with an airlock or pickle-nipple lid.
- Adding a cup of grated apple, fennel, cranberries or carrot will sweeten the kraut.
- Onion and garlic are savory additions.
- For a spicy kraut add in 1 hot pepper finely diced.
- My favourite spice combination is 1 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp mustard seed and 10 juniper berries.
- Another popular spice combo is 2 bay leaves and 5 black peppercorns.
- Make a curry flavoured kraut with 2 tsp of mixed Indian curry spices and some grated onion and carrot.
- If you want a dill pickle flavoured kraut add 1 tsp dill seed and 1 clove of garlic.