How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut: Perfect Every Time (This is the Best Recipe for the Beginning Fermenter)
Mmmmm....Being of German descent, I guess the love of sauerkraut runs in my blood! But there are similar fermented cabbages in many cultures all over the world, and they are just as well-loved. One of these is Kimchi....But I digress.
This post is an easy recipe for the BEST sauerkraut EVER, and is perfect for the beginning fermenter. You only need a few ingredients to make sauerkraut, and the tools you'll need are easy to find and inexpensive too!
If you're worried about making your own fermented foods, you'll probably enjoy my article on Fermentation Myths! Also, if you are wondering about why on earth anyone would want to eat raw fermented foods containing millions of bacteria and yeast organisms (probiotics, folks!), then you'll enjoy this article: Fermentation: What is It and Why You Should Eat Fermented Foods Every Day.
Note: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I'll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for helping keep Healing Harvest blog going--Heidi
How to Make the BEST Sauerkraut EVER!
I'm being kind of braggy, here...because really I think almost every sauerkraut recipe can be claimed to be the best! But here is my version, and I'm proud to say that every single person who has tried it has fallen in love!
Ingredients for Fermented Sauerkraut
**1 large red cabbage (you can also use green cabbage, but I like red best)
**1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons finely ground Himalayan salt or Sea Salt
**minced garlic to taste (I use about a half tablespoon)
Optional: 1/8 to 1/4 cup whey or the liquid from a previous batch of raw fermented vegetables. If you use the liquid from a previously fermented batch, be sure the flavors match up with what you want your sauerkraut to taste like!
Tools You'll Need for Your Sauerkraut
** You'll need a container. For just one cabbage, I'd use a wide mouth quart size Mason jar
** A weight to hold the cabbage below the brine. You can use many different things as fermentation weights, but I love these heavy glass weights because they fit perfectly into the mouth of the jar.
If you don't want to use an airlock, then you can simply use the regular Mason jar lid. You'll just have to be sure to "burp" it a couple of times a day to allow the gases to release. If you use an airlock, the gases are released automatically without allowing any oxygen into the jar.
NOTE: If you want a perfect starter set up that turns any wide mouth Mason jar into a perfect fermenting crock for small batches, check out this one on Amazon.
** A kraut crusher (optional). You can also use something like a pestle or a large, heavy, blunt object. Before I got a "real" one, I used a wooden mallet used for pounding. I like the "real" one lots better, though.
Directions for Making Your Sauerkraut
Step 1) Chop your cabbage into small pieces, about an inch, give or take, long. I like a smaller piece, but not tiny.
**Save one of the larger leaves from the second layer and set it aside. You'll use it in a second. (I compost the top layer of leaves or feed them to my chickens...just because I want to be sure what I use is extra clean. I'm weird like that. I also use organic cabbage only.
Step 2) Put the cabbage slices into a large bowl with the salt.
Step 3) Pound the cabbage. Yep! Just like it sounds! You can release some aggression this way! :-) You'll want to pound it good, along with the salt. This releases the juices from the cabbage and get it ready to ferment. Cabbage is a very solid vegetable, that's why pounding works well for it. You would NOT want to do this with tomatoes, like in this Green & Red Tomato Salsa Recipe.
Step 4) Once you have some liquid released, go ahead and put your garlic into the Mason jar, followed by the cabbage and salt mixture. If you are using whey or the liquid from a previous batch of ferment, then you can add that now.
Why use whey or a starter culture liquid for your ferments?
Well, some people believe that using a starter will speed up the fermentation process. I happen to agree with this. There are other people who do not feel using whey or starter is a good idea. They have their reasons.
For me, I've done it both ways, and my sauerkraut has turned out great either way. The fermentation process IS a bit slower without the whey/starter, and you may have to add some additional salt without it, but it will work with just salt.
Step 5) Pack that cabbage down really well. You can use your kraut crusher to help you!
Step 6) You should have a good amount of liquid in your jar at this point. But you want all the cabbage under liquid, so add enough water to be sure it's covered. Here's where you'll use that extra cabbage leaf you saved earlier. I like to lay it across the top and tuck the edges down the sides. This makes sure there are no "floaties" that make it to the surface.
Step 7) Place your weight on top to hold everything down. Be sure all is under the liquid.
Step 8) Place your airlock on or the lid. If you're using a regular lid, be sure to remember to "burp" it!
Step 9) Set it in a quiet place on your counter. I usually put mine in the windowsill (it doesn't get a lot of sun--you don't want your ferment in direct sun). Now just let it go!
Step 10) Taste test after about seven days. Leave it if it doesn't taste "ready."
**The longer you ferment vegetables, the more you will gain an intuitive sense of when your ferment is ready to go. Honestly, ferments can be left a LOT longer than many people think. I have left my sauerkraut fermenting for over a month before putting it in the fridge. In fact the longer your vegetables ferment, the more complex and well-developed the flavors will be....and the more probiotics you'll have in them too!
Step 11) When you feel like it's good for you, then place a lid on top and put it in the fridge! It will last months in the refrigerator, but I think you'll love it so much it won't last that long!
Step 12) ENJOY! :-)
Final Thoughts on Making Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut
This is one of the best projects for a person new to fermentation! Cabbage is easy to work with, the sauerkraut is delicious, and you don't need a lot of supplies! Besides that, fermented cabbage is SO good for you.
Are you wondering how to use your sauerkraut?
Well, you can eat it all buy itself! It's truly delicious. I had a young visitor stop in one day, and I shared a jar with her. She couldn't stop eating it! That jar was practically gone within about 15 minutes! I think her body was probably craving the probiotics, personally---but that is how good it is!
Another way you can use it is as a side dish for red meats or pork. Yum! I like to add it to my scrambled eggs in the morning too. And of course, it's the perfect topping for a nice juicy hot dog or organic sausage or hamburger!
Sauerkraut is so useful, incredibly healthy and delicious! What a winner!
There are LOTS of other fermentation articles over on the website! You might like some specific recipes, like How to Ferment Eggplant, How to Make Pickled Zucchini, and How to Make Russian Tomatoes---And there's more! :-)
Do you make your own sauerkraut? I'd love to hear your experiences! Leave a comment in the comment section below!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,