Okay! Last post I told you all about how great sauerkraut is for the skin and clearing up acne – now it’s time to show you how to make your very own, homemade sauerkraut! GET EXCITED! 😀
Now – I’ll admit. Fermenting things can be somewhat intimidating at first. You need to leave your food out at room temperature over the course of anywhere from three days to a month, and then just hope you don’t keel over dead when you eat it.
But it’s okay… really. You can do it! I’ve been eating mine all week and I’m still kickin. I feel good too!
Here’s the things that you will need:
- Approximately three or four 1 litre wide-mouth canning jars. You can usually find these at thrift stores, or packs of 12 at a grocery store.
- Sea salt (table salt has additives that mess everything up…. so don’t go there! )
- 2 large cabbages – green, purple, whatever you fancy
- Optional: Carrots, dill, and caraway seeds, or any other veggies and spices you want to throw in there. Kraut can be creative!
- A large pot or bowl to mix it in
- Some kind of weight – a jar full of water that fits inside the mouth of your canning jar , or a scrubbed and boiled rock
- A tea towel, paper towels, or paper lunch bags
- A few elastic bands
Step 1: Get your cabbages, and remove the very outer leaf, and throw it away. Then rinse your cabbage under some cool water, shake it out, and then take off 3 or 4 more of the large outer leafs and put them aside for later.
Step 2: Start chopping your cabbage. Because the lactobacillus bacteria needed for fermenting are found inside of the leaves, you want to chop it as finely as possible in order to get the most surface area. Put your chopped cabbage in a large bowl or pot. I know that after two cabbages, it seems like an absolutely ridiculous amount, but trust me – the volume goes way, way down.
Step 3: Chop up anything else you want to put in the kraut. I grated 2 or 3 large carrots, and chopped up two bunches of fresh dill, and added a couple tablespoons of caraway seeds. The dill and caraway seeds were on the recommendation of my friend Alissa Evelyn, and it was a great addition. … so thanks Alissa!
Step 4: Add your sea salt to the mix. Salt does two things – draws the juice out of the cabbage, and also inhibits unfriendly microbes from growing in your ferment. The rule is 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage. So… maybe weigh your cabbage at the store before you buy it and find out exactly how much they weigh? I estimate that two large cabbages is approximately 5 or 6 pounds, so start with 3 tablespoons.
Taste a little bit of it to make sure that it’s a bit salty, but not … like…. disgusting salty. You have to eat this, remember.
I’d like to warn you that I was totally frivolous with my salting, and completely overdid it. I actually had to go on an adventure to the store to get more cabbage to dilute it. In the end that worked out great though – I only started with one cabbage and I’m pleased that I have more kraut now than I would have. After adding the second cabbage, it was still a little on the salty side, but once it was all said and done and fermented, the salty taste went down quite a lot and it tastes perfect. You don’t want to underdo the salt either, because like I said, it inhibits baddies from growing.
Step 5: This is the fun part! Wash your hands really well, and get down and dirty! Stick your hands in your huge pot of cabbage and squish and mash the scheisse out of it! The aim for this squishing and mashing stuff is to work the salt throughout and get the cabbage to release it’s magical juices. Keep doing it for 15 minutes at least, until there’s a decent amount of brine.
Step 6: Wash your hands and kraut vessels really well and then begin stuffing your cabbage into them, stopping a couple inches before the top of the jar. You really want to make sure you pack the cabbage as tight as possible as to get all air pockets out of it. Hopefully the brine has now risen above the cabbage… if not, that is okay, because the salt will continue to draw out more juice.
Step 7: Take the large cabbage leaves that you had put aside and fold them up and place them into the top of the jars, as sort of a blankety cover for the shredded kraut. You may need to break it apart to get it in there, just as long as it sort of covers everything.
Step 8: If you are using a jar with water as your weight, take off any labels that might be on it and wash it really well with soap. If you are using rocks, it probably has some weird stuff from outside on it, so wash and boil it for ten minutes to sanitize it. Place your weights into the jars over the large cabbage leaf covers and press and squish everything down until the brine rises well above the cabbage. If it hasn’t yet, it will, so don’t worry.
The purpose of the weight is to make sure that the cabbage stays packed and is not exposed to the air. You see, the awesome lacto-fermentation process that is happening to transform your salty cabbage into probiotic magic takes place in an anaerobic environment – one without oxygen. Bad microbes and bacteria that will spoil your food can only grow in an aerobic environment – in other words, in the presence of oxygen.
So if your cabbage is weighted down and safely submerged under the brine, it’s safe and can’t go bad. This is why you also want to make sure you packed your cabbage in there really good to get rid of any air pockets in which bad microbes could grow.
Step 9: Cover the whole thing with something that can let air flow, but protects it from bugs and the like. Because of the odd shape of mine, putting a paper towel around them with elastic bands to secure it worked. Paper bags probably would have been better, but I didn’t have any.
Step 10: Put them in a dark place like a cupboard. As fermentation begins, a by product is that the bacteria create carbon dioxide bubbles – help them release them by pushing down on the weight. A layer of scum, or sometimes even mold, may appear on the surface of the brine each day…. don’t squirm…it’s cool – it’s actually normal. Don’t worry! Your kraut is protected underneath! Just remove the weight, get a spoon and spoon it out. Rinse or wash your weight and replace it, pushing it down.
Step 11: After 3 or 4 days, start tasting the kraut. It should taste kind of alive and tangy – something more than just salty cabbage. The taste will continue to improve and get stronger as time goes on, but you can tell how you like it and when you think it’s done. Don’t forget that every time you take kraut out of the jar to pack your kraut back down to get any air bubbles out.
When you have it tasting good, you can move it into the fridge to slow the fermentation way down. I moved mine in after 5 days, but fermentation is fairly dependent on the room temperature. It’s nice and pleasantly warm here, so it fermented fast. If your house is a bit colder, it might take longer. Probably a week to a week and a half. When you move it to the fridge, the brine will probably go way down, but you can top it up with a little salty water. It will keep in the fridge for at least a few months!
Step 12: ENJOY!!! YUM! It’s ideal to have a big spoonful with each meal if you can. I’ve really been enjoying mixing it with all my meals…. makes each one new and interesting!
Here is a token healthy recipe with sauerkraut:
*3 boiled eggs… or poached eggs… or whatever you want to do
*A large handful of sauteed green beans
*2 big spoonfuls of sauerkraut
*1 tbsp tahini
*Dash ‘o’ sea salt
Mix it all together and chow down! Happy digesting!
Oh yes, one last note: Don’t ever heat your sauerkraut up. You have to eat it raw or you’ll kill all the bacteria and you won’t get the benefits!
Now who’s gonna go out and make themselves some sauerkraut? 😀