Thursday, April 18, 2013

Basic Sauerkraut - How it all began

The first food I purposely fermented was a plain sauerkraut. Just cabbage and salt. I didn't like it at first, but my 1.5 and 6 year old boys were big fans. Then either my taste matured or the kraut matured after another month in my fridge, and suddenly I couldn't get enough!

I apologize if you can’t run across the street to the local veggie stand/quickie mart and pick up a cabbage for about 50 US cents a pound. I know; we’re blessed. In your case, buying the cabbage might be the hardest part of the recipe. Honest, the rest is that easy.

picture taken from my window
You will need:

  • ceramic crock or jar(s)
  • cabbage
  • non-iodized salt
  • any other fruits, veggies, seaweed, or spices you want to add like:
    onions, apples, carrots, juniper berries, wakame, ginger, garlic...

  1. Rinse off dirt from your cabbage, remove outer leaves and set aside.
  2. Shred or chop up cabbage. Optional - add other vegetables or spices at this point.
  3. Lightly salt, maybe 1 tablespoon for your average head of cabbage. Mix well. Optional - add some bottled probiotics to get things started; 1-2 capsules  I don't do this anymore, but I sometimes use some juice from a previous batch. 
  4. Massage cabbage and squeeze out as much juice as possible. I like to mix the cabbage for a couple minutes, walk away for 5-10 minutes, and then massage and squeeze it for another 5 minutes or more.
  5. Pack all the cabbage into your containers so the cabbage is under it's own juices. If you don't have enough juice you can add filtered/bottled water or salt water (not chlorinated). But if you've done enough squeezing, that shouldn't be necessary. 
  6. Use the outer leaves from the cabbage to pack all the shredded goodness under the water. Use another weight (small plate, jar, or bag of salt water) if necessary. Everything MUST stay submerged.
  7. Walk away for AT LEAST 4-5 days. You can leave the kraut to get extra ripe for a couple weeks, or move it to the fridge at any point to slow down the fermentation.
I find that my fermented stuff starts out smelling/tasting like fresh salty veggies, then goes through a 'funky phase,' before having a cleaner vinegar or wine-like fragrance. Don't be scared of funky smells, bubbles, or white foam or scum on the surface. Just make sure everything stays under liquid and keep out any bugs or other critters.

You should check on your sauerkraut every couple days to make sure everything is fully submerged and clean off any "bloom" - white scum on the surface. I've had significant bloom on my other veggies, especially the cucumber pickles, and sweets and beets. So far all four different sauerkraut mixes I've made have been bloom-free, and not needed much attention. I just like to squeeze all the air out and make sure everything is packed down under the liquid.

See also:
Video of other fermented vegetables
Dairy Kefir
Water Kefir - Tibicos (Next week)


  1. This post has been included in me-ander: Kosher Cooking Carnival, Sivan 5773.  Thanks for your participation. Please visit, comment and share, thanks.

  2. I've been making fermented sauerkraut for two years - mine is just red cabbage and salt (sometimes I use a bit of green if low on red). My kids actually like it, too!

    Fun to read someone else's method. Mine comes out a bit different each time.



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