I see sauerkraut all the time at the co-op in tiny plastic containers for upwards of $5. I’m here to tell you that making your own kraut is so easy and delicious, plus its WAY cheaper. I bought a head of organic, local cabbage at my farmers market this weekend for $2 and it make a quart of delicious kraut, no plastic needed. Plus, you can flavor it however you like! Here I went classic and plain, but you can add grated beet, all red cabbage or half green and half red for pink kraut, garlic, chiles, dill, whatever tickles your palate.
I know fermenting foods can seem a little scary if you’ve never made them before, since there’s a lot of misinformation out there. It’s really easy to tell if your batch has gone off- it will smell (and look) disgusting. I’ve never had this happen and I’ve made countless batches of this. One time I didn’t submerge the top cabbage leaf enough and it grew a bit of mold on the top. NO BIG DEAL- that’s why you have those leaves on the top. Just carefully discard the moldy leaf (in the compost please!) and everything underneath (submerged completely in the brine) will be perfectly good. OF COURSE PLEASE DO NOT EAT IT if if smells bad, looks bad, or generally seems “off”. Use your intuition but like I said, I’ve never had a problem before. The key is packing it really tightly and making sure its all submerged in its juice. If you use a larger jar, you can put a smaller glass jar (like a jelly jar) inside on top of the cabbage, then when you put the lid on the jelly jar will keep the cabbage submerged.
I posted a series on my IG stories while I was making a fresh batch and so many of you reached out to me asking for more info and a way to refer back to the videos. So here it is! At the end of the post I added a little compilation video of the IG stories so you can see the recipe in action, it’s super low tech but I thought it might be helpful. Here we go!
raw organic sauerkraut
3 pound head of red or green cabbage
1.5 tablespoons kosher salt (NOT granulated or iodized please)
any flavoring you like- caraway seeds, garlic, onion, ginger, chiles, turmeric etc
clean mason jar with a lid (I use a 2 quart size, in the photos I had doubled the recipe and used a 3 liter le parfait jar)
1 large bowl
bowl or baking dish to store the jars in while they ferment
Before you begin, make sure everything you will be working with is clean. So wash your jar, cutting board, knife, bowl counter, hands with hot soapy water and rinse + dry thoroughly.
Next, peel off the first 3 or 4 leaves of cabbage, reserving them for later. Cut your cabbage into half, then quarters. Cut the hard center core wedge out of each quarter. Cut each quarter in half to make 8 wedges.
Cut each wedge crosswise thinly (or use a mandolin if you prefer) and add it to your bowl as you go.
After you have sliced all of it into the bowl, sprinkle your salt over the top.
Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage for about 5-10 minutes or so until the cabbage is limp, softened, and releasing liquid. The volume should reduce a lot too, as you condense it with the massaging.
Next, add in any flavorings and mix thoroughly. Pack the cabbage mixture into your mason jar(s), pushing it down as you go. Packing it in as tightly as you can is key here. There should be a layer of juice at the top of the cabbage, pour in all the juice from the bowl too. You want to leave about 2 inches of empty space between the cabbage and the top of the jar otherwise things can run over quickly.
Wad up your reserved leaves up and stuff them into your jar tightly, one at a time, until all the shredded cabbage is held down and submerged in the liquid. This is really important- you don’t want ANY of the shredded cabbage exposed to air. Essentially you’re using the cabbage leaves as “weights” to keep the shredded cabbage pushed down, so pack it tightly.
You should have at least 1 inch of empty space between the leaves and the lid to allow for bubbling and expansion. You can further weight the cabbage down by inserting a CLEAN small glass jar on top of the cabbage (I do this).
Wipe the rims clean with a clean cloth and screw the lids loosely onto the jars. Do not screw them tightly or your jar may have a mini explosion! You want to allow the gases to escape as needed. Place the jars into a baking dish or pan- something with sides in case the jars run over so you don’t end up with a mess.
Place in a dark spot such as a oven, cupboard, pantry, or closet and let ferment 3-7 days, depending on how hot or cold it is in your house. When its hot, fermentation is quicker and vice versa. I’ve been keeping mine in the oven with the light on because it’s been cold in the house- I think you get better flavor with a faster ferment. Check in on your kraut daily, you may need to “burp” it- unscrewing the bands to release gases, then re-screwing them loosely back again. Look for bubbles to indicate fermentation. The longer you ferment the kraut, the stronger and tangier the flavor will be.
When it smells how you like it, you can take the top leaves out (and compost!) to leave just the shredded kraut behind. Taste to make sure its where you want it flavor-wise and then refrigerate. Stays good pretty indefinitely in the fridge but I doubt it will last long!
I hope you guys enjoy and share with me if you make it or send me a question @mamaeatsplants on Instagram xx