How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut (The Best Sauerkraut Recipe for the Beginning Fermenter)
Want an easy and amazing raw, fermented sauerkraut recipe? Here you go! This homemade sauerkraut never fails to turn the most finicky person on to the tangy, slightly tart taste of fermented cabbage.
I could feel the drool pooling in my mouth as I looked at that sauerkraut slathered over the hot dog. I was a little girl, and even back then my body was called to the natural probiotics of homemade sauerkraut. My great grandpa used to keep a huge crock of kraut fermenting away in the basement, and it was SO good.
My sauerkraut memories are quite strong, as you can see. Being of German descent, the love of sauerkraut runs through my veins, and I eat it every chance I get.
This post is an easy recipe for the BEST sauerkraut EVER, and is perfect for the beginning fermenter. I like to call it a gateway fermentation recipe. You only need a few ingredients to make sauerkraut, and the tools you'll need are easy to find and inexpensive too! In fact, you probably have everything you need!
If you're worried about making your own fermented foods, you'll probably enjoy my article on Fermentation Myths! And, 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.
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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!
One of my husband’s friends dropped in one day. He had his teenage daughter in tow, and she was fascinated by all the jars of herbs everywhere. She looked like she was starving, so I pulled out the sauerkraut jar, which was a pint and nearly full.
She told me she didn’t like sauerkraut, but I urged her to give some a try anyway. How do you know if you like something if you won’t even try it, right?
Well, she dug right in, and I watched in glee as her eyes widened. She looked at me and said, “This is REALLY good!” I ended up letting her just eat it out of the jar, and she had it all gone (yes, a whole pint) within about 15 minutes.
I’ve seen this before, with people whose guts and micro-flora are imbalanced: They get a taste of real, raw fermented foods, and they just can’t stop eating it. It’s like their bodies are crying out for the nourishment!
Luckily, it’s so easy to keep your own stash of fermented family favorites in your fridge. And this sauerkraut should be part of your collection!
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 per quart jar
** minced garlic to taste (I use about a half tablespoon per quart)
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!
Adding this “starter” culture will help speed up the fermentation process, but it’s completely optional.
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
Chop your cabbage into small pieces, into approximate inch long strips or pieces, give or take.. I like smaller pieces, but not too tiny, or you’ll end up with mushy sauerkraut.
NOTE: 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.
Put the cabbage slices into a large bowl with the salt.
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.
Once the cabbage has released a good amount of liquid, 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.
Pack that cabbage down really well. You can use your kraut crusher to help you!
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.
Place your weight on top to hold everything down. Be sure all is under the liquid.
Place your airlock on or the lid. If you're using a regular lid, be sure to remember to "burp" it a couple times a day to release built up gases that form!
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 leave it alone to do its fermentation thing!
Taste test after about seven days. Leave it alone 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!
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 by itself, like my teenage friend. It's truly delicious.
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 Make Russian Tomatoes---And there's more on the website too!
Do you make your own sauerkraut? I'd love to hear your experiences! Leave a comment in the comment section below!
Hey, are you interested in learning more about fermentation? I’ve got a couple great course options for you. The Herbal Academy of New England has a wonderful course called The Art of Fermentation. I took it and learned SO much.
And my friend, Meghan, who is a fermentation expert, has created a course just for kombucha called The Scoop on Booch. If you’ve been buying your kombucha, STOP! You can make it easily, save money, and know what the ingredients are you’re getting. Win!
Hugs, Health, & Self-Reliance,
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