Making sauerkraut is my all time food preservation favorite! It's quick, easy, delicious to me, and it's naturally occurring probiotics are so good for the ol' gut! That's a lot of benefit from a bit of elbow grease and a couple of humble veggies!
Step 1: Safe Home Lacto-Fermenting
This recipe is a project that I made to go with my Instructables Canning & Preserving Class. I will not be going over all the safety ins and outs of preserving foods with lacto-fermentation in this instructable, so I highly recommend that you read through Lessons 1 & 4 of my class before you dive in!
Step 2: Tools & Equipment
- cutting board
- chef's knife
- large bowl
- measuring spoons
- (x1) wide mouth quart jar w/ plastic lid*
- (x1) 4oz jam jar without lid*
*It's not necessary to sterilize the jars. Washing and drying them is enough as the low pH environment that the good bacteria and lactic acid create, is inhospitable to bad bacteria.
Step 3: Recipe
- 1 medium head of fresh green cabbage
- 2 carrots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
Step 4: Let's Get to Making!
The best way to ensure success your first time out of the sauerkraut gate is to measure the ingredients. The general rule of thumb is 1 3/4 lbs of veggies for each quart jar. Today, we'll just be making one quart of kraut, so we want to end up with 1 3/4 lbs of ingredients.
Before you begin, zero out your manual scale or find the tare weight of the bowl you'll be using to weigh the kraut ingredients. The weight of my bowl was: 2 lbs 13 oz (rounded up).
Next, peel and grate the two carrots.
Remove the skins from the 2 garlic cloves and finely chop them.
Add the carrot and garlic to the bowl.
Weigh your cabbage so you have an idea of how much of it you'll have to use. I ended up using almost 3/4 of mine, minus the core.
Before you start cutting up your cabbage, remove one of the large outer leaves and set it aside. We'll be using this later to help hold down the grated ingredients in the brine.
Quarter your cabbage. Then thinly slice two of the quarters, not including the core. Chop those slices into smaller slices still.
NOTE: The thinner you cut the cabbage, the softer the sauerkraut will be. If you like crispier kraut, cut your slices a bit thicker.
For those of us with digital scales, it's time to do a bit of math. Add 1 3/4 lbs (= 1 lb 12 oz) to the tare weight of your bowl. You want to add chopped cabbage to the bowl on the scale until you reach that total (in my case 4 lbs 9 oz). That means you'll end up with 1 3/4 lbs of ingredients!
Step 5: Brine Making Time!
Measure out 1 tablespoon of kosher salt (3 teaspoons) and sprinkle it on the ingredients in the bowl.
Using clean hands, you're going to 'massage' the cabbage for 4-6 minutes to start the process of bringing the brine out of the veggies*. If working with your hands is difficult, it's also ok to just stir the salt into the veggies, cover the bowl with a clean dish towel, and leave it to sit for a couple of hours. The salt + time will do the work for you.
*NOTE: This isn't necessary (or possible) to do when leaving veggies whole, because they wouldn't sweat enough moisture out through their whole uncut skins to create enough brine. That's why we have to help them out by adding some. (See my instructable on making Lacto-Fermented Green Beans for a brine making how-to.)
As you message the ingredients, more and more brine will emerge. You want to end up with about the same amount of brine as in the above photo.
Step 6: Making a Natural 'Kraut Herder
Use the plastic jar lid as a 'cookie cutter' to cut out a circle from the large cabbage leaf we set aside earlier. We are going to use this in a minute.
Step 7: Filling the Jar
Now it's time to fill the jar!
Here's a side view update. :)
Now it comes time for the little cabbage circle to shine.
Place it in the jar so that it completely covers the veggies and prevents them from sneaking up the sides of the jar.
Step 8: Pressing & Prepping for Fermentation
Next up, is the 4 oz jam jar. This little guy is clutch for keeping all the goodie bits down in the brine where they belong.
Place the small jar into the opening of the quart jar, so that the bottom rests on the cabbage circle we just added.
Gently press the 4oz jar down into the quart jar with the plastic lid and screw the lid lightly into place. Be careful not to tighten the lid all the way, because the brine displaced by the gasses created during the lacto-fermentation process need a way to escape the jar – and they won't be able to do that if the lid is tightened all the way.
Step 9: Let the Fermentation Begin!
Place the jar on a small plate (to catch the displaced brine) and move it to a dark and cool spot in your kitchen that's at room temperature and out of the way. Leave it out for 3-7 days before transferring it to the fridge for long term storage.
NOTE: Make sure to tighten the jar lids before placing it in them the fridge for storage.
And don't forget to label it so you can accurately keep track of its progress!