Step 1: Tools and Materials
- fresh cabbage,
- a way to shred it finely
(a food processor, or a hand-crank cone shredder of good quality, are both easy and quick), - salt
[so far as I can tell, it doesn't much matter what kind you use. That's a personal taste issue. It all makes kraut, because the purpose is allow fermentation by lactic acid-producing bacteria rather than spoilage by other bacteria, and all salt will do this]
The proportion of salt to cabbage I follow is roughly
3 TBSP salt to every 5 lbs cabbage.
I know that Kosher salt will measure differently than standard table salt, but Kraut is so forgiving, it really doesn't seem to matter. Let taste be your guide, and use less than the full amount, then taste, and add the rest if it seems desirable.
-a place to store it.
I use a glass gallon pickle jar, and it holds 4-5 heads of cabbage. Others may use a food-grade plastic bucket (but is there *really* such a thing as a food-safe plastic? Inquiring minds wander...er, wonder.) or if you are lucky, you have a stoneware or wooden crock specially made for pickling and fermenting. You will need something to weight the kraut down with, but more on that later.
It needs to be at a cool temperature, ideally in the 60-degree range, but can tolerate anything except "wam" and "cold" at which point, it will either spoil because it's warm enough that other microbes take over, or it will cease fermenting properly because it's too cold. That's why kraut was traditionally made in the fall. I keep my jar in the northeast corner of the basement. If you are unsure of the temperature you are keeping it at, a cheap weather thermometer helps. Just set it by the jar. Over about 75 or under about 60 degrees F may yield poor results.
Step 2: Shred Your Cabbage
I can't imagine how much work this would be, trying to slice the cabbage by hand. A mandoline might also work well for this though not as fast.
Step 3: Add Salt and Seeds (if You Like Seeds)
Step 4: Mix It Up
Step 5: Pack It, Punch It, and Weight It Down (oh Nooo...)
Then place something on top to keep the cabbage submerged under the liquid, such as a clean smooth stone, a plate with a weight on it if you are using a bucket, or a smaller jar full of the same liquid (in case a spill happens) as I have shown here.
Then cover against flies and dust, with cloth or loosely placed lid.
Step 6: Find a Cool Spot
Depending on whether it ferments at the warmer or cooler range, and how much salt was in it, it may be ready in little more than a week, or it may take a month or longer. Taste it, smell it. If it smells and tastes like yummy kraut to you, it's ready. I noticed the color change to yellowish as it matured.
At that point, I transferred the contents to quart jars to cap and keep in the fridge, but you can also keep the remainder in the jar in the cool spot to continue developing. Since all fermentation is essentially going bad in a way we find good, use your own senses to judge what is ready.
This stuff is great in sandwiches, as a condiment, alone, in soups, and as a gift. Don't forget to save some juice to speed up the next batch!