Sauerkraut is probably the most well-known lacto-fermented vegetable. Like any traditionally homemade food, sauerkraut can be made in a number of ways. Even if each kraut-making method is different there are a few common basics to remember when fermenting sauerkraut at home.
TIPS FOR MAKING GOOD SAUERKRAUT
1. Use fresh cabbage. The better your ingredients, the better the finished product will be.
2. Use at least some salt. Salt is a traditional ingredient in sauerkraut because it increases shelf life, texture, and flavor. The amount of salt used can vary according to personal taste preference. We recommend 1 to 3 Tbsp. per quart of water.
3. Create an anaerobic environment. This is an absolute essential in the sauerkraut-making process. The cabbage must be completely submerged underneath a brine in order for the lactic acid bacteria to proliferate. This is important for protecting your ferment from unwanted bacteria (or mold). Fermentation weights can help keep your cabbage submerged.
4. Give it time. You can ferment sauerkraut for only a few days before moving to cold storage, but giving sauerkraut a lower temperature and longer fermentation time can develop the flavor and texture a little better. We suggest letting it ferment for 2 weeks, though experimenting with time and taste is the best way to determine what time frame works best for you.
SUPPLIES FOR MAKING SAUERKRAUT
When it comes to fermentation supplies, there are a lot of tools out there to choose from, each claiming to be the best solution for perfectly fermented kraut. This can be a bit overwhelming you're new to making fermented foods, and just trying to figure what you need to get started.
Our tutorial Fermentation Equipment: Choosing the Right Supplies goes into detail about different options, but the reality is having the basics like a good knife, container for fermenting, a fermentation weight, and some sort of lid with an airlock is all you need to get started.
METHODS FOR MAKING SAUERKRAUT
1. SLICING, POUNDING, AND KNEADING CABBAGE
Thinly slice cabbage, salt it, then pound it with a tool such as the Cabbage Crusher or Pickle Packer for about 10 minutes, or until enough juice is released to form a brine and completely cover the cabbage.
Move the cabbage and juice to fermentation containers, weight the cabbage down to keep it below the brine. Cover with tight-fitting lids, airlock lids, or a tight-weave cloth, secured with a rubber band.
2. WEIGHTING AND PRESSING KRAUT IN A CROCK
Place shredded cabbage and salt in a large fermentation crock or bowl. Instead of pounding, weigh the cabbage down with heavy bowls or stones. Press on the weights regularly to draw the natural juices out of the cabbage and submerge the cabbage slowly in the brine.
After a couple of days, with continued pressing, the cabbage will have accumulated a fair amount of liquid at the top, enough to cover the cabbage completely.
3. WHOLE CABBAGE HEADS WITH BRINE
In this method the cabbage is not shredded or sliced prior to fermenting. Since whole cabbage heads cannot form their own brine fast enough to protect them from mold and unwanted yeasts a brine is generally created then used for fermenting.
While this method is the least labor-intensive, it takes the longest. Four weeks or more are necessary before moving to cold storage because of the size of the cabbage heads.
Below you'll find our basic sauerkraut recipe. This recipe utilizes the pounding and kneading method. It is a great place to start for anyone just beginning to explore fermented vegetables.
HOMEMADE SAUERKRAUT RECIPE
• 1 Medium Head of Cabbage
• 1-3 Tbsp. sea salt
1. Chop or shred cabbage. Sprinkle with salt.
2. Knead the cabbage with clean hands, or pound with a potato masher or Cabbage Crusher about 10 minutes, until there is enough liquid to cover.
3. Stuff the cabbage into a quart jar, pressing the cabbage underneath the liquid. If necessary, add a bit of water to completely cover cabbage.
4. Cover the jar with a tight lid, airlock lid, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
5. Culture at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) for at least 2 weeks until desired flavor and texture are achieved. If using a tight lid, burp daily to release excess pressure.
6. Once the sauerkraut is finished, put a tight lid on the jar and move to cold storage. The sauerkraut's flavor will continue to develop as it ages.
For a more complex flavor add caraway seeds (to taste).
Prior to culturing, you can also mix 1 part other vegetables or ingredients (shredded carrots, apples, etc.) with 5 parts cabbage to vary the recipe.