Sauerkraut was something I was not crazy about growing up, but I've grown to love it as an adult. Not only is it super delicious, raw sauerkraut is also probiotic. Yay for health benefits! Plus, this sauerkraut is some of the best I've ever had. Hands down. I love it!
I started making my own sauerkraut when I found this great article on making small batches of sauerkraut on the kitchn. I don't think I'll ever go back to buying it.
Buying sauerkraut can get pretty expensive when you go through as much of it as we do at my house, but making it at home is cheap and easy! All you really need is cabbage, salt, and time. And perhaps a sense of adventure, because making good sauerkraut at home is all about tasting, and you never know how it's going to taste from day to day. ;)
Step 1: Tools + Ingredients
- cutting board + knife
- large mixing bowl
- 64 oz wide mouth glass jar - these work great! (You may be able to get it into a 32 oz jar, though.)
- a smaller jar or glass that will fit into the mouth of the larger jar
- beans or something similar for weighing the sauerkraut down
- cheesecloth or open weave fabric
Make absolutely sure your jars, tools, and hands are very, very clean before you begin. Rinse them extremely well to make sure that no soap lingers, too - you don't want to harm any of the bacteria that will involved in the fermenting process.
- a head of green cabbage
- water (optional - we'll get to this later)
Step 2: Prep the Cabbage
Peel the outer leaves off the cabbage - remove any that are wilted, dark green, or bruised.
Then cut the cabbage into eighths and cut the core from each piece. Slice each section into nice thin ribbons.
Step 3: Mix It With Salt
Place the sliced cabbage into a large bowl and add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt over the top.
Go wash your hands REALLY well.
Now, we knead the salt into the cabbage.
This part is pretty fun - just massage the cabbage in your hands for 5-10 minutes, until it's wilted, reduced in size, and has begun to lose liquid. It will become slightly darker during this time, too.
Step 4: Pack the Cabbage Into the Jar
Once the cabbage is nice and wilted, pack it into the canning jar. Press it down after every handful.
Pour any liquid leftover in the bottom of the bowl over the cabbage.
Step 5: Weigh It Down and Cover It
Now you'll want to use a spoon or spatula to scrape down the sides of the large jar and make sure you don't have any rogue cabbage clinging to the sides.
Insert the smaller glass or jar down into the larger jar and add something to weight it down - I'm using some old dried chickpeas I found in the back of my cabinets.
Once the weight is in, place an piece of cheesecloth or fabric over the top. You want the sauerkraut to be able to breathe, but you don't want dust/hair/other contaminants getting in. :)
Step 6: The Fermenting Process
The fermentation process will vary in duration, but will typically take around 10 days. the kitchn recipe states that the sauerkraut could be done in as few as three days, but it's never tasted sour enough for me at that point. You can even let it go for more than 10 days - but that's normally right where I like it. :)
Keep in mind that you should be fermenting the sauerkraut out of direct sunlight and in a warm but not hot area. 75 degrees F and up is not good - it can lead to mold growing and mushy sauerkraut.
During the first 24 hours, try to press the sauerkraut whenever you think about it. This is important because it allows the cabbage to release liquid. After 24 hours, if it doesn't have enough liquid to come above the top of the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water and pour it over.
After the first day, check the sauerkraut once a day to press it down and make sure all the cabbage is under liquid. After day three, begin to taste it when you check it.
Keep in mind that bubbles and foam are normal and a good thing to see! Don't be alarmed about that. Do check daily for mold - if you see any remove it immediately. The rest of the sauerkraut will be okay - I promise! You can't really do much to mess up sauerkraut.
As soon as the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the cloth and weight, close up the jar, and put it into the fridge for storage. The flavor will mature more in the fridge - it will become sharper and more sour.
Step 7: Storing Your Sauerkraut
Store your sauerkraut in the fridge. It will honestly keep well for months! A batch never lasts long enough around here for me to test it out, though.
However, the basic rule of sauerkraut is: if it looks normal, and tastes and smells good enough to eat, it is!