Saurkraut is an old and classic lacto-fermented recipe. Traditionally made with thinly sliced cabbage and salt, this recipe is easy and a great way to preserve all that cabbage you have growing in your garden. In just a few simple steps, you can make your own sauerkraut and enjoy the many benefits of fermented vegetables.
Tips for Making Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a great place to start if you are new to fermenting. There are many different variations to the recipe. However, on the most basic level, sauerkraut is only cabbage and salt. I’ve worked with Truleaf Market and using their Fermentation Kit, to bring you this delicious recipe that is sure to help you get started fermenting vegetables.
The Benefits of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut, and most other fermented foods, are incredibly healthy and a great addition to any well-rounded diet. Fermented foods contain probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins B and C, helping to aid in digestion and just a great all around food for gut health.
Making sauerkraut is also budget friendly. Once you have the equipment to ferment foods, cabbage and salt are cheap and easy-to-find options at any grocery store.
Basic Fermentation Rules
There are many vegetables that can be fermented, and tons of awesome recipes out there. However, when fermenting vegetables, there are 3 rules you must always follow:
- Keep Salt Levels High – The acidity needs to be high enough for the fermentation to take place (2-2.5%).
- Keep The Vegetables Under the Brine – To prevent the mold and spoiling of your vegetables, you must be sure to keep the vegetables under the brine. This is something that needs to be checked daily.
- Pay Attention to Temperature – The ideal temperature for fermentation needs to be on the cooler side (60-70 Degrees Fahrenheit)
Additional Tips for Success
Use the best raw vegetables! Fresh organic cabbage will offer the best results. Pesticides used in traditional farming can harm the fermentation process. Be sure to use organic or locally grown produce, grown without harsh chemicals or pesticides.
In order to ferment, the vegetables need an anaerobic environment. By keeping your cabbage below the brine, and using an airtight top, you can prevent mold growth and allow the fermentation process to succeed.
The salt you use is extremely important for the fermentation process. Do not use table salt or iodized salt as they can kill the bacteria. Options for salt include: sea salt, kosher salt, pickling salt, Himalayan salt, or Celtic sea salt.
Don’t Be Afraid!
Just like learning how to water-bath can, fermenting can be a little scary. However, if you follow the three basic rules, there is really not much you can do to screw it up! The first few times you attempt to make sauerkraut, it may end up being much more flavorful and delicious than you expect.
Equipment For Making Sauerkraut
Not much is needed for making sauerkraut, here is a list of what you’ll require:
- Cutting Board
- Large Mixing Bowl
- 1-Quart Size Wide Mouth Mason Jars
- TruLeaf Market Fermentation Kit
Why Use TruLeaf Market’s Fermentation Kit?
Although you can use other options than TruLeaf Market’s Fermentation Kit, this kit is cost-effective, high quality, and a great way to ferment all vegetables.
Truleaf Market’s Fermentation kit includes a large spring that will gently press the vegetable down under, to ensure quality fermented foods.
The screw-top fits on wide mouth mason jars and has small holes on top, to allow air to leave as the pressure builds, but with plastic coverings to keep an airlocked environment. This prevents you from having to “burp” the fermenting food daily.
This fermentation kit includes 3 tops and springs, and they are built well, so these should last for years to come.
- 1 1/2- 2 Pounds cabbage (1 head of cabbage)
- 2 tbsp Salt (non-iodized salt)
Preparing Your Sauerkraut
- Begin by rinsing your cabbage heads and removing any blemished or coarse leaves from the outside. Cut your cabbage into quarters and remove the core of the cabbage head.
- Thinly slice your cabbage into evenly sliced pieces. This will ensure that all the cabbage ferments at the same pace, creating better consistency and flavor in your sauerkraut. You can use a knife, or slice with a box grater.
- Place all your cabbage in a bowl and pour 2 tbsp of salt over the cabbage. Using your hands, or even a potato masher or cabbage crusher, knead the cabbage until the cabbage begins to sweat and create its own brine. The brine will begin to pool at the bottom of the bowl. When you squeeze the cabbage and liquid runs freely, you are ready. If it seems to take too long, you may have to allow the cabbage to sit for 15 or 30 minutes to allow to salt to do its work.
- Place cabbage in 1 quart mason jars until 75% full. Be sure to pack the cabbage down so that you can squeeze as much in there as possible. The brine should cover the cabbage. You will need to have 2 inches of headspace. With one head of cabbage, I was able to fill two 1 quart-sized mason jars of sauerkraut.
- Use the Truleaf Market’s Fermentation kit to push the cabbage below the brine and secure the top. Place the sauerkraut in a cool (60-70 degrees), dark location. Check on the ferment daily to be sure that the cabbage is under the brine.
- If you notice air pockets or floating cabbage pieces, carefully remove the lid and spring, and push the cabbage down to remove air bubbles. Carefully fish out any floating cabbage so that it does not mold. Be sure to wash your hands before placing them in a jar, to prevent introducing bacteria to the fermentation process.
- You can taste your sauerkraut on Day 4 and decide how long you want to ferment it. I usually don’t stop fermenting for at least 14 days, although my husband likes it fermented for much longer. There are some who say that sauerkraut should be fermented for at least 6 months.
Once your sauerkraut is done fermenting and is the flavor you desire, remove the fermentation lid and spring and also any buildup that has happened on the top of the sauerkraut. However, leave the brine as the sauerkraut will need to stay under the brine.
Move the jars to cold storage (like the refrigerator). The sauerkraut will continue to ferment slowly, but the flavors will stay pretty much the same once chilled. Sauerkraut doesn’t really go bad once it has been refrigerated.
Enjoy Your Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a great option on top of bratwurst or other cured meats. Many people will eat it in fork fulls by itself. Enjoy your sauerkraut in whatever way you like best and try fermenting other vegetables as well!
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