Learning how to make sauerkraut is much easier than you’d think. All you need is cabbage, salt, and a container to store it. Yes, that’s it! Sauerkraut is a great way to use up cabbage from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box or a head of cabbage you’ve found at your local farmers’ market. Plus, once you taste homemade sauerkraut, it’ll be hard to return to eating grocery store brands. Homemade sauerkraut is absolutely delicious!
What You Will Need
- 1 medium-sized head of green cabbage
- 1 to 2 tbsp. kosher or sea salt
- Cutting board
- Mixing bowl
- Crock or mason jar
Prep Your Cabbage
Select a fresh head of cabbage, remove outer leaves, and rinse. Then, quarter your cabbage. Remove the core in each quarter, and slice the cabbage into thin strips. Aim for strips that are about a quarter-inch thick. They don’t have to be perfect, but try to remain consistent in size.
Once you have your strips cut, put them in a large bowl.
Make the Brine
The brine is made with salt, which pulls the water out of your vegetables and creates a perfect environment for your sauerkraut to ferment.
Sprinkle the salt over your cabbage, then knead the cabbage with your hands. This gets the juices flowing. Some use a kitchen tool like a potato masher to pound the cabbage, too. Do this for 5 to 15 minutes until the brine is released.
Keep in mind that fresh cabbage has a higher moisture content. So, when you make your own sauerkraut, you’ll notice that fresher cabbage will likely create brine quicker than a cabbage that has been stored. Also, if you want to do less massaging, salt your cabbage and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes before you begin working the salt into the cabbage. If you do this, you’ll notice the brining process has already begun when you return to massage your cabbage.
You will need to store your sauerkraut in an air-free environment during the fermentation process, meaning the cabbage needs to stay underneath the brine. Good options for storage are a mason jar or a ceramic fermenting crock.
Put your briny cabbage mixture into your jar or crock. Pack it down so the cabbage is underneath the brine. If you’re using a mason jar, keep the cabbage under the brine by slipping a small jelly jar onto the cabbage to weigh it down. You could also take a leaf of clean cabbage that you removed in the beginning and push it down over mixture, keeping the strips of cabbage submerged. If you’re using a fermenting crock, it will have its own weights.
Now you’ll have to be patient and let your sauerkraut ferment. Let it stand at room temperature for about a week. After a few days you can sample it but it will likely need more time. After a week, move it your refrigerator and continue to test it every few days. Your sauerkraut will likely be the right texture and flavor after about two weeks, but the flavor will continue to blossom as it ages.
Fermented foods provide nutrients and can improve digestive health; however, you should prepare sauerkraut cautiously to avoid contamination. If you’re nervous about fermenting foods at home, consult a home food preservation guide for guidelines on room temperatures and fermentation times. When preparing any fermented food, make sure everything you’re using—your hands, kitchen, tools, and jars—are very clean. Keep the brine level an inch above sauerkraut to keep out air, preventing mold and any other bacteria growth.
Voilà! Now you know how to make sauerkraut. Have you made sauerkraut at home? Share your pictures with us on Twitter.
Image source: Mali Anderson
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Why It’s Good
Making your own sauerkraut is simple and good for you. Fermented foods provide nutrients and can improve digestive health. Plus, homemade sauerkraut can be made exactly how you like it, unlike the mass-produced sauerkraut you find at the store.