The first ferment I ever made was sauerkraut. This was rather funny at the time because no one, and I mean no one, in my house ate sauerkraut. Our only experience with kraut had been the nasty stuff that comes in a can from the store. As with any food, homemade, from scratch, is always better. Because this is SO much better, I can now say that I keep homemade kraut in the refrigerator at all times.
The recipe I am posting is for a basic sauerkraut. This can, and should be, adapted to your tastes. The fermentation times, herbs, ingredients, can be changed to whatever you prefer. Begin here and experiment!
1 medium head of cabbage
1 tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt (do not use table salt)
1 large jar with lid (I used a half gallon jar)
Begin by quartering and removing the core from the cabbage. Save the outer large leaves for later. Next, shred the cabbage. You can use a food processor, mandolin, or shred by hand, which is what I prefer.
Place the shredded cabbage into a large bowl. Add the salt and mix until it is evenly distributed throughout the cabbage. Cover the bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes. This will cause the cabbage to begin releasing its juice.
With your hands, begin mashing and crushing the cabbage. You can also pound the cabbage with a meat mallet. You want to work the cabbage to release as much liquid as possible, so whatever works for you is fine.
Pack the cabbage into the jar a little at a time (a large handful), pressing the cabbage to bring the liquid over the top of the cabbage. The first couple of layers will not release much juice but it will increase as you continue to fill the jar.
Once you have packed the jar with all the cabbage, pour the remaining liquid into the jar. The most important thing at this point is to ensure that liquid is completely covering the cabbage. Too little liquid will cause your ferment to mold…yuck! If the liquid is not covering the cabbage sufficiently, you will need to make a salt brine to add to the ferment. (1 tablespoon of salt dissolved into 1 quart of water.) The liquid should be 1/2 to 1 inch above the vegetables. A note here…the fresher the cabbage, the more liquid you will be able to exude.
Place the outer leaves of the cabbage you set aside over the cabbage and weigh it down to keep the shredded cabbage under the liquid. You can buy ferment weights or improvise like I did!
Yes, that is a toddler sippy cup! It fit perfectly into the jar with the amount of cabbage I had. I have also used zip lock bags filled with dried beans. Whatever you have or can think up will be fine. Just make sure it is very clean and sanitized before you place it into your ferments.
Place the jar on your counter for at least 3 days. At this point, you can begin tasting to see if it is what you like. We prefer ours at 7-10 days. It still has the crunch but is sour enough for our liking. When it reaches the taste and texture you like, refrigerate it to stop the fermentation.
How do you know if it is fermenting? See the bubbles around the top in the picture below? That is a sign of fermentation. In really warm weather, you will actually see the ferment bubbling as you watch it.
That picture is after one day of fermenting so I know it will be delicious!
A few thoughts about additions:
- Carraway seeds are a typical addition
- Shredded carrots, green onions, peppers are nice
- If you like spicy foods, red pepper flakes are wonderful
Use your imagination or scour the internet…the possibilities are endless now that you know the basic process.