Here's my step-by-step guide to making
glorious gut-loving sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut is a traditional probiotic food made from the fermentation of cabbage. The process is known as lacto-fermentation, as the main bacteria species responsible are lactobacilli, which exist on cabbage leaves. For the fermentation geeks, the actual species in sauerkraut are Leuconostoc citreum, Leuconostoc argentinum, Lactobacillus paraplantarum, Lactobacillus coryniformis, Weissella and Leuconostoc fallax. It’s basically a microscopic zoo, which you eat. .. ok?
Done properly, this process of fermentation increases the bioavailable levels of proteins, vitamins and fatty acids but most importantly, it makes boring cabbage taste wow. Or, as research tells us:
Below is a short video I made on how to make sauerkraut using a food processor for the chopping part. For those that don’t watch videos, or can’t because you are supposed to be working, this post is a step-by-step visual.
Now please go find yourself a cabbage. This glorious specimen below was gifted to me. It was about the size of a basketball and made six average-sized jars (whoooo!).
Remove any discoloured outer leaves, reserving a few for stopping the jars later. If the cabbage is a bit rough you might want to pull off the leaves and wash them before proceeding. Mine was a very clean cabbage, so I just cut out the hefty core and proceeded to finely slice it. The finer the better. The reason I didn’t use the processor this time is that I can slice more finely than it can, and most of these jars will be xmas gifts, so of course, the pressure is on for a high standard.
Once you’ve reached your limit for cabbage slicing make a rough estimate of the amount you have and add salt accordingly. The correct ratio of salt to cabbage is crucial for ensuring the growth of the right bacteria and for preservation.
For every 400g of chopped cabbage (approx. five loose cups) add of salt
In the example, I’ve used kelp salt. Disperse the salt through the cabbage and let it sit for about 10 minutes. By a process of magic (osmosis) the salt will draw water from the cabbage.
Then begin the main event: cabbage squeezing (you can see this in the video at 2.34). Pick up, squeeze and drop handfuls of the cabbage until it is soft, almost like cooked cabbage, and there is a significant pool of brine.
At this point, before bottling, you may wish to add some spices. Grated turmeric root and/or carraway seeds are very popular additives.
Take some clean, sterilised glass jars (a quick hot wash in the dishwasher works for me) and start packing the cabbage into a jar. I use a stone pestle to pack the cabbage down. The main thing is that you don’t want any air in there. Top up with brine so that no cabbage is showing over the top of it.
Take a clean cabbage leaf and use it to hold the chopped cabbage under the brine. I forgot to take a photo of this, so here’s a still from the video.
After this lid the jar and let it sit in a warm place for 1-3 weeks. The jars may fizz and leak a bit and I usually sit them on a tea towel to mop that up. After a week you can start checking the taste. A properly fermented sauerkraut has a definite tang, but there should be no ‘bad smell’ or mould. A bad sauerkraut can make you really sick. I had one that turned inexplicably pink and smelled ‘different’. That one was not eaten.
After three weeks the fermentation is done and you can transfer them to the fridge or coolstore. Unopened sauerkraut can be good for months (after all that was the original purpose of fermentation, to preserve fruits and veges over the cold months), but I’d recommend you eat an opened one within 10 days. This has never proven difficult in our house!
Please let me know in the comments if you’ve made some sauerkraut, or if you have any secret tips to make it even better, and in the meantime, happy eating!