Sauerkraut Made Easy
Hello my people!
Has sauerkraut been intimidating you? No need. It, like most all vegetable ferments, is super easy to make once you understand the basic principles.
Why make it? Most importantly, it inoculates your gut with essential bacteria and, alongside a consumption of a range of other fermented foods (think sourdough, yogurt, kombucha etc) builds the diversity of your microbiome. Our bacterial partners are responsible for the synthesis of essential vitamins, generating our immune cells and regulating sleep, satiety & mood. Basically, we don't function well without them.
Sauerkraut is native to Eastern Europe, where it was depended on as a vital source of vitamin C during snowy, barren winters. It can be made with as little as cabbage and salt and can host a range of flavorful additions: apples, herbs of all kinds, garlic & onions, carrots, chilies and whatever else your tastebuds feel would suit.
Best of all, you make it with your hands by massaging salt into the cabbage until they release their juices! It then gets packed tightly into jars, always ensuring a 'liquid seal' to keep the vegetable submerged under the brine, and let to ferment for about 2 weeks.
The finished product can be stored in jars in the fridge for 1-2+ years. It is salivatingly good and keeps you coming back for more. Eat it mixed in salads, along side any dish like a pickle, inside omelettes or sandwiches.
Here is what you need to know:
The amount of salt you use is based on the weight of your vegetables. Use 2% the weight of your veggies (meaning just cabbage or cabbage + carrot, onion etc etc).
*YES, salt is recommended. It keeps away putrefying bacterias and gives the protective lactic acid bacteria a head start in proliferating throughout the jar. It also stops the pectin in the vegetable cell walls from getting fully digested, so the cabbage retains a delightful crunch instead of a sogginess. If you are avoiding salt in your diet for medical reasons, reduce the amount of salt by half.
You can chop up the cabbage however you like! Some want thin, delicate strips. Others want big crunchy bites. It is all perfect & it will all ferment.
Massage and massage and massage the salt into the veggies until it is dripping wet with its own liquid! You need enough liquid to ensure the veggies are submerged at all times (see below!)
You must ensure the LIQUID SEAL on top. This means all your chopped up vegetables are fully submerged below the liquid. As the veggies ferment, bacteria will produce CO2 gas and try to push the vegetables up to the surface. Some kind of a weight is needed to keep it all securely pressed under the liquid brine. Failure to do so will result in mold! I most often use a glass (broad, like a whiskey glasss) filled with water and set in the opening of my fermenting jar. To ensure bugs don't get in, I use a piece of fabric or an old plastic bag to cover it and put a rubber band around the neck.
Pack the veggies tightly into the jar! Really use your fist to press it down.
If you get some mold....don't immediately toss the whole batch. You will get mold on the surface because of a failure to keep the liquid seal in tact. If it is white and fuzzy, it is innocent. Carefully remove all of the mold to the best of your ability, then top up with a little drinking water and press down to ensure the liquid seal. Allow to keep fermenting and keep your eye on it. If it is multicolored rainbow mold THEN you have to toss the batch - it means the mold has sporulated and will be unhealthy to consume.
So let's get right to the making:
STEP 1: CHOP UP YOUR VEGGIES HOWEVER YOU LIKE. This can be just cabbage, or cabbage plus a mix of other fun things. One gorgeous combination is to use 3 parts green cabbage to 1 part red cabbage and the end result is a lovely pink kraut.
STEP 2: ADD SALT at 2% THE WEIGHT OF THE VEGETABLES. Yes, this means you have to weigh the vegetables! Do yourself a favor and buy a kitchen scale - it will be helpful all throughout your fermenting journey.
STEP 3: MASSAGE! GET YOUR HANDS INVOLVED! Express your love, your frustration, your joy, your ancestral memories, whateverrrr, through your hands! Enjoy this experience. You are done when your veggie mix is dripping wet and you can pick up a handful, give a little squeeze, and see it drip nicely. You can do this in a bowl, or even better, on a big clean stone countertop.
STEP 4: PACK IT INTO JARS/CROCKS TO FERMENT. You want the jar to be full to the top as to minimize possible contact with air. Contact with air = potential for mold. Pack it reaaaaallly tight and use your fist and fingers to press it all down. You will see liquid come up to the top. That is great! Then use some kind of creative way to ensure your LIQUID SEAL by weighing down the veggies. This can be a glass full of water, or a plastic bag full of water draped over the top, or a ceramic/glass fermenting weight, or a clean stone, or even the hearty middle part of the cabbage itself.
STEP 5: WAIT PATIENTLY for about 2 weeks. If you are new to this, check on it every 4-5 days or so and ensure there is enough liquid at the top (if not, just top up with drinking water) and that there is no mold. Taste it after 2 weeks. Is it soft, but crunchy? Tangy and delicious? It's done! Still too crunchy on the teeth? Let it keep fermenting and keep tasting until it is as you prefer.
STEP 6: MOVE INTO SMALLER JARS & PUT IN FRIDGE. I always make BIG batches of kraut at once, like 20 kgs of cabbage big, and ferment it in large crocks/glass jars. Once it is ready, working with clean hands, clean surfaces and clean jars, I pack it into small up-cycled glass jars (which I am always collecting) and store it in the fridge & gift to friends. Once in the fridge, it will keep for a long long long time from the amazing protective effects of our friends, lactic acid bacteria.
Happy fermenting friends! Feel free to put questions in the comment section.
ps. this is the color of a red & green cabbage combination kraut. Amazing huh!?