Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Now what kind of German would I be if I didn't make sauerkraut? Many of you may know, but some don't, that I was born in Germany to an American Dad and German Mom, so my German roots run deep. I have grown up eating sauerkraut and loving it but had never actually made it mayself until a few years ago. It was so easy and tastes so good! So today I'm going to show you the process of making your own! You only need a few basic items: cabbage, a glass jar, salt, and water! Yes that's it! 4 basic ingredients. You can use store bought or homegrown cabbage it makes no difference. Now because we are fermenting it takes about 7-14 days to get your final result but it sure is worth the wait! Fermenting is an easy process that uses good bacteria along with salt to help preserve your food. The fermenting process uses the salt we add to kill off any bad bacteria that could be present in or on the food and lets good bacteria (lactobacillus) thrive instead. The lactobacillus bacteria is what you find in things like yogurt, pickles, and of course sauerkraut. The lactobacillus converts the sugars and and lactose present in and on food into lactic acid which creates the acidic environment that will help preserve your food for long periods of time. This acidic environment is what gives those food their tangy/sour flavor. Fermenting food is an ancient process and has been used for thousands of years to preserve harvests when refrigeration wasn't an option. So lets take a look at what it takes to make sauerkraut.
I head of cabbage
2 tbs sea salt
distilled water (chlorinated tap water will inhibit good bacteria growth)
large glass mason jar
large mixing bowl
lid for mason jar
Chop your cabbage into fine shreds, the thinner the better, discarding the core. You can use a food processor or just chop with a knife. Place your chopped cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt over cabbage. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Using your hands you're going to knead/massage the salt into the cabbage, its ok to crunch it between your fingers! Do this for several minutes, you will start to notice that the cabbage will give off water and start to become softer. At this point you want to start putting a small amounts into your mason jar and then taking a wooden spoon and mashing and breaking the cabbage down inside the jar. You want it to put off a lot of juice/water. Keep adding small amounts and continuing to mash with the wooden spoon until the jar is full and there is enough water to cover the top of the cabbage so it's completely submerged below the water. If your cabbage doesn't make enough water of its own then just top off the cabbage in the jar with a little distilled water.
This is very important because anything that is sticking above the salt water brine will get moldy. The salty water is what keeps away the bad bacteria and allows the cabbage to become sour and ferment. Now at this point I take a piece of discarded cabbage leaf and cut into a circle to cover the top of the sauerkraut to help keep it submerged below the water level. Then I add a weight on top to keep everything down. You can purchase commercial fermenting weights but you can also use a smaller mason jar, small saucer, or any item that will fit into your jar that will help weigh the contents down. Now loosely place the lid on the jar (fermenting causes bubbles and gases to be released so if you put the top on tight it could explode).
You should check the jar every day and make sure to release any air that has built up inside the jar. It will take about 7-14 days to get the final result. After the first few days you will start to notice that there are bubbles in the jar and this is totally normal. You should check on the ferment every few days to make sure no mold is growing on top. This usually only happens if your food item is not below the brine so just keep an eye on it. After day 7 you can begin to taste your sauerkraut to see if its sour enough for you. Please remember that the product will smell sour (like vinegar or acetone) but it shouldn't smell rotten or gross. If it smells rotten then discard in the trash and don't consume. If you see mold of any kind growing on your ferments then discard and don't consume. The longer it ferments the more sour it will become. I usually let mine go about 10 days and then when its the way I like it I put in the refrigerator where it can stay for up to a year. Once it is placed into the refrigerator then it stops the fermentation process. Your finished product will be loaded with beneficial bacteria and probiotics that are great for gut and immune health. You can warm up the sauerkraut if you prefer it hot but it will kill off some of those good bacteria so I usually just leave mine cold. I try to eat a few bites everyday of some type of fermented food in order to help with immunity and increase the gut microbiome.
And that's it my friends........ easy peasy. I hope that you take the time to try this recipe out and add a new skill to your homestead tool box.