Introduction: How to Make Sauerkraut

Kraut, Sauerkraut (cabbage) or other veggies, preserved and enhanced the natural way.

It's the traditional way to have vitamin C in abundance during the cold months in climatic zones like central Europe and large parts of the U.S or in Canada.
Sauerkraut was also used to prevent scurvy, because of it's keeping quality at sea and it's high vitamin C content.
In short, it's a fermentation of sugars contained in vegetables by a lactobazillus strain. The lactobazillus ferments the sugars into lactic acid. The acidity keeps unwanted bacteria and molds from taking over.
And as a "green" treat, you don't need external energy like in a freezer. Normal cellar temperatures are ok.
And of course the taste of a selfmade kraut beats every industrially fast produced product. It has even found it's way into the "haute cuisine". Have you ever tried a Champagnekraut with a nice fish? You will certainly be delighted.

Step 1: Ingredients

The main ingredient is of course the cabbage / kraut. This may seem easy, but there are many variants of this vegetable or salad around.
If you can't find exactly the same sort that we use, never mind and be creative. Try different sorts in small quantities to find out, which one you like the most.
What we use is a certain type of cabbage, typically grown on the "Fildern", which is southeast of Stuttgart.
It's called "Spitzkohl" or "Spitzkabis" pointed cabbage. They look like the Coneheads in the movie.
We were lucky to find them at a local organic farm.

For the most basic way to make Kraut, you only need two ingredients:
Cabbage and salt.

But traditionally, caraway seeds and juniper berries are added in addition.

We started with a more sophisticated recipe and enhanced it over the years.
for 80kg / 176 lb of cabbage we used
2400g / 5.3 lb onions
1200g / 2.6 lb horse radish
2.1 liters / 76 fl oz of white wine (we took 3 bottles of Riesling)

1500g / 53 oz   of salt (1.5-2% of the cabbage weight) if possible, use kosher or non iodized salt
120g / 4.25 oz  dried juniper berries
100g / 3.5 oz    dried caraway seeds
80g   / 2.8 oz    dried yellow mustard seeds
30g   / 1 oz        dried garden dill / aneto

In addition, you can add freeze-dried lactic acid bacteria, to ensure a strong fermentation. We never did this and everything went well with the naturally present bacteria on the cabbage.

Step 2: Preparation

First we mix the salt and all the dried herbs and spices in a bowl.

Then we finely chop the onions and the horse radish into a clean bucket.

Step 3: Tools and Procedures

You can make very small quantities and put them into glass jars or small food grade plastic buckets. Especially if you want to try different recipes.

You should work as clean as possible, to eliminate the chance of unwanted bacteria growth.
Of course, your raw material (cabbage) should be free of mold or other unhealthy spots. Remove the outer leaves, just in case. Cut out any unhealthy spots after you removed the outer leaves.

To finely shred the cabbage, you can use a chefs knive, but it's much easier and faster to use a dedicated shredder like on the picture. Maybe you already have something similar in your kitchen.

Since we make a larger batch and have access to a electric shredder, we use it of course.
We shred a layer of cabbage, then we add some salt / spice mixture and some of. onion / horse radish. After a couple of layers, we add some wine and stamp it to extract the juice and further mix it.

Step 4: Filling Up the Container

After your container is full and stamped, the Kraut should be below the liquid level, when pressed down. This is important to insure a anaerobic fermentation. (absence of oxygen)

With commercially available fermentation pots, there are stones included to do this.
With our barrel, we use the wooden cover, then we put 2 heavy stones on top. We sanitize the cover, stones and a kitchen towel in boiling water, as you can see on the picture.

Step 5: Fermenting

After the containers are filled, they should be covered, but not closed. During fermentation, carbon dioxide is generated, besides lactic acid. But nothing should get in.(insects, dust...)
You should put the fermenting kraut into a draft free place at around 10-15 degrees Celsius / 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. It shouldn't be above 20 Celsius / 65 Fahrenheit.
It will take between 4 and 6 weeks to ferment. After 4 weeks, we try it every week.
As soon as it's to our liking, we portion it and put it into our walk in cooler at 3 Celsius / 37 Fahrenheit to stop or at least slow down further souring.

Step 6: Final Thoughts and Links

As said in the beginning, you can also sour turnip, radish, pumpkins and many more.
We will try a small amount of turnips, this or next week.

If there are any questions, just ask them.

Here some links:

this site is in german, but the video is in english