Cabbage is a winter must-have for your garden, it withstands temperatures below zero as a champ and provides you with precious green leaves to pick throughout the cold season. I love to stir-fry them or add them to stews. Stews are always good. Now the days are rapidly growing longer and temperatures rise it’s time to swap the winter veggies for the summer ones. So the answer surges, what shall we do with all these cabbages? Sauerkraut is the answer! Jump straight to the recipe or read on.
Growing up in the Netherlands sauerkraut was just part of the winter menu. Mixed with mashed potatoes and topped with juicy smoked sausage, it was one of my favourite dishes. But, by just mentioning the word ‘sauerkraut’ in Spain I instantly get the most disgusting faces. Time for some sauerkraut love!
Packed with vitamin C and full of probiotics, sauerkraut is super healthy. Besides being healthy it’s also cheap, mostly locally grown and versatile. Add a bit to your (Asian) soups, liven up your salads now the days get warmer or treat yourself with a (vegan) burger. Sauerkraut will give you a nice bite, a little tang and a sour freshness to any kind of dish.
With this in mind, you can play around with the spices you add to your saurekraut, whether it be the classic combination of bay leaves & juniper berries, turmeric & black pepper for extra anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits or, my favourite so far, caraway & seaweed. Just make sure not to add too much as the lacto-fermentation will enhance the flavours, so use less than you would normally use to season your dish.
Before we continue with the recipe let me briefly explain the basics of lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is done by the lactobacillus. You don’t have to buy any starters, they are already everywhere. Create the ideal environment and they will happily eat and reproduce. Whilst they munch away on your vegetables they make them much more digestible and nutritious for us. Like all living beings that eat, they fart and excrete. It’s what makes fermented food sour and fizzy.
The ideal environment means your vegetables have to be submerged so there’s no oxygen. It also means it has to be salty as the bad guys don’t like salt, but to good ones do. In the case of sauerkraut, it means using 2% salt. More on this later.
There are several ways to keep your cabbage submerged in its brine. The oldest form is in a crock with a water lock, but they tend to be very big and pretty expensive. Alternatively, you can use any kind of jar and keep your cabbage submerged by covering it with an outer leave and weighing it down with a stone, a special fermentation glass or seal your jar with a plastic bag filled with water. I use a weck jar and a lid of a jar one size smaller. Works perfectly!
Different foods and different types of fermentation require different salt percentages. Since we are not adding any water to the recipe (it all comes from the cabbage itself!) the math is simple. Just weigh your cabbage, let’s say 1000 grams, and add 2% salt, so that would be 20 grams. Too little salt can be dangerous, too much salt will make it inedible. I use a 2,5% to be on the safe side and because I find it tastier.
Typically sauerkraut is only made with the nice, soft white heart of the cabbage. But, if you grow your own and have a lot of green outer leaves you can use them as well. The taste is rather strong though. It tastes a little ‘smokey’ and, euhm, very green. The best thing to do is to mix in a maximum 1 third of green leaves with 2 thirds of the white heart.
- Mandoline or a big sharp knife
- Clean jar
- Something to tightly pack your cabbage – I use a pestle
- A plate or dish
- Weigh your cabbage and calculate 2% salt. If you’re filling more than one jar it’s best to first fill your jar with cabbage so you can adjust the amount of salt specifically to the amount of cabbage in your jar.
- Cut the cabbage heart in quarters and finely chop or slice it using a mandoline or knife.
- Add your chopped cabbage, salt and spices into a bowl and start to massage and knead it.
- Keep working your sauerkraut to be until it’s reduced in size and releases enough water. Taste. If it’s too salty add some more cabbage.
- Fill your clean jar (hot water, soap & a good rinse will do) and make sure it’s very tightly packed
- Add your weight and make sure all ingredients are submerged
- Put your jar(s) on a plate or dish. And this is to avoid a mess
- Wait, marvel and observe. Depending on the room temperature your sauerkraut will be ready in about 5 days. You might perceive a change of smell, see some bubbles or have leaking jars. These are all good signs. But, be patient. When you think it’s ready, wait one day longer. If you open the jar before it’s sour enough there’s a small risk of spoiling your sauerkraut.
- Store your sauerkraut in a cool dark place like a root cellar or in your fridge
- Enjoy & be creative.
Spread the Sauerkraut love
I’m heading back to the garden now. I’ve just created two new veggie beds with the Ruth Stout method, perfect for growing potatoes which are perfect with sauerkraut. Nothing beats ‘stamppot zuurkool‘, but be creative and discover all the possibilities and spread the Saurekraut love!
‘Till then, lovelies!
2 thoughts on “How to make Sauerkraut”
My goodness, that is one heck of a cabbage! I never liked sauerkraut until we started making our own and then I became a complete convert, it’s so easy to make and completely delicious. In fact, I plant far too many cabbages on purpose these days . . . 😊
Funny, I was just thinking I should have mentioned the bih difference between the way too sour store bought and the rich homemade one.
As long you have space, never too many cabbages – some can get quite big 😇