words by: Merissa A. Alink
Maybe it’s the german blood running through my veins, but I love sauerkraut. I’m not sure I truly appreciated it until I was an adult, but even so, I’m glad that it always has a place in my kitchen. I may have even eaten it for breakfast a time or two. (Or three, or a dozen, or all the time….)
Sauerkraut is a thinly sliced cabbage that has been fermented. In German, the word sauerkraut literally translates to “sour cabbage.” This recipe requires very few ingredients as the fermentation process happens naturally once the sugars in the cabbage begin to break down and produce lactic acid.
One more thing to note before you get started with making your kraut…do not use salt with any kind of additives. A pickling or kosher salt will work just fine for this recipe.
- 5 lbs. Cabbage
- 3 Tablespoons Salt
- Kraut Pounder (optional)
- Jars of Fermenting Containers
- Fermenting Lids
- Begin by rinsing your cabbage and remove the outer leaves that may have dents or abrasions.
- Starting at the bottom, cut each into 4 quarters. Continue to cut the cabbage in thin strips. Cut those strips in half as well. You want your cabbage to be shredded into nice thin shreds, not large chunks. You can use a food processor to do this if you prefer.
- Place the shredded cabbage into a large bowl and sprinkle the salt on top. Let it sit (covered with a cloth) for at least 30 minutes to get the juices flowing. (I stir mine around every 20 minutes or so to keep the salt moving around the cabbage.)
- Begin putting the cabbage into your jars and pounding it down as well as you can with a kraut pounder or your hand. You want this to be packed as tightly as it can be, and during this time you should see the juices coming up to the top.
- Be sure and leave 4-5 inches of headspace from the top of the cabbage to the top of the jar. Use as many containers/jars as needed.
- Place a weight on top of your cabbage, making sure that the cabbage juices cover the vegetables. If you do not have enough liquid to cover the cabbage, you can make a brine with 4 cups of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. It’s good to have at least 1-2 inches of liquid on top of your cabbage.
- The type of weight you use will depend on what you are using to ferment with. I use the “Perfect Pickler” lids so mine comes with a stainless steel “cup” to weight things down. A crock will have stone weights, and you can also get glass weights as well.
- How you top off your jar will also depend on the system you are using. Follow the instructions with your system or if you are using a crock, place a cloth over the top so that nothing can get in.
- Put the sauerkraut in a dark room with a temperature under 75 degrees Fahrenheit to ferment. It will take about 3-4 weeks to be completely fermented, and you will know when it’s ready by when it stops bubbling.
- Check on your kraut daily and if you ever see anything scummy on top, remove it gently. If the ferment smells bad or gets a significant amount of mold, throw it out.
- Once your sauerkraut is ready to use, you can place the jars in the fridge or in a root cellar and use it as needed. If you use a lot of sauerkraut, it might be worth it to set up a system of fermenting every couple of weeks so that you never run out!
- Making your own sauerkraut is so rewarding because the flavor and the tanginess is highly superior to that which you can buy at the store. I hope that the next time you find a great price on cabbage or when you have excess in your garden, you will enjoy utilizing this recipe.