SAUERKRAUT, AKA “SOUR CABBAGE”
Sauerkraut, which literally translates to “sour cabbage”, is a Germanic dish made of finely chopped cabbage that has gone through the lacto-fermentation process, the same process used to make Kimchi and Dill Pickles. That preserving process, which requires the help of unrefined mineral-rich salts, gives Sauerkraut its distinctive sour flavor and long shelf life. It also gives the original cabbage new health benefits thanks to probiotics from the lacto-fermentation process that improve digestive health, among other areas. And you can still make your Sauerkraut in the same traditional style that has been used for hundreds of years with ceramic fermentation crocks.
Sauerkraut is extremely easy to make and provides a flavorful kick to basic dishes. Traditionally, after undergoing the fermentation process, Sauerkraut is cooked and served warm. Some of our favorite ways to eat warm Sauerkraut are on sausages (like bratwursts or hot dogs) or mixed with mashed potatoes or potato dumplings. Try this simple recipe to make your own Sauerkraut and figure out what your favorite way to eat it is!
MIXING BOWL: You’ll want one large (4 or 5-quart) glass or stainless steel mixing bowl to combine the salt and cabbage before transferring to the fermentation crock. Stainless steel and glass are non-absorbent materials and will not impart any undesirable flavors into your cabbage like plastic. We like the largest bowls from this Pyrex set of bowls or this Cuisinart set of bowls. Both are great sets with lids that you will get a lot of general use out of in the kitchen for cooking, backing, and food storage!
FERMENTATION CROCK: We recommend that you use a traditional ceramic fermentation crock, like the SAUERKROCK by Humble House, instead of mason jars for all food fermentation recipes and we have documented the reasons for this in detail in this blog post. The main reason for this is that mason jars and other clear glass vessels allow light and UV rays in which can be harmful to the fermentation process cause damage to your fermenting food.
CABBAGE TAMPER: A sauerkraut pounder is truly an asset when it comes to making a successful batch of Sauerkraut because it increases the amount of brine extracted the cabbage. More brine means a better chance your fermenting cabbage is completely covered in liquid and less chance of mold or spoilage. You will want one long enough for use with a crock like the SAUERSTOMPER by Humble House which is specifically designed for people who ferment in a SAUERKROCK by Humble House, and store in mason jars.
STORAGE JARS: After the Sauerkraut has completed the lacto-fermentation process, you will need to transfer it over to mason jars for refrigerator storage. We’ve found that wide mouth mason jars make for the easiest transition and best storage solution and recommend either the quart-size like these ones or half-gallon size like these ones. The Sauerkraut produced by this recipe should fit in two quart-size jars or one half gallon-size jar.
PLASTIC GLOVES: Gloves are totally optional, but we recommend food grade disposable poly gloves like these ones if you don’t want your hands to sting from massaging the salt into the cabbage!
Makes approximately 2 quarts of Simple Sauerkraut
- 1 large (5 pounds) green or red cabbage
- 3 tablespoons mineral-rich dry salt*
*We do not recommend using standard table salts or kosher salts because they are refined and often contain additives. The best salts we’ve used for making Sauerkraut and other fermented foods are Real Salt brand sea salt and varieties of Pink Himalayan Salt. These salts are natural and unrefined, which means they contain no artificial ingredients and maintain all of their original minerals which add to the quality and flavor of your recipe.
PREPARE THE CABBAGE
Remove the wilted outer leaves of cabbage and discard. Cut the cabbage into quarters to expose the core, then trim out the core and discard. Very finely chop, or even grate, the remaining cabbage and move it into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to the mixing bowl then thoroughly massage the salt into the cabbage with your hands (wear gloves if desired) until it is noticeably softer to touch.
FERMENT THE CABBAGE
Transfer the softened cabbage into your fermentation crock in layers, packing it down with a sauerkraut pounder with each layer to maximize the amount of brine that is extracted from the cabbage. Make sure the Sauerkrock is filled no more than 3/4 full in order to leave room for the ceramic weights. Set the weights on top of the cabbage and push down lightly to ensure it stays submerged in the brine that develops during the lacto-fermentation process.
Place the lid on the Sauerkrock, fill the water channel water, then tuck the crock away in a low-traffic area (like the inside corner of a kitchen countertop) in order to avoid being disturbed while it ferments. Let the mixture sit in the Sauerkrock at room temperature for anywhere from 2 days to a whole week depending on how sour you like your Sauerkraut. Don’t forget to check the water channel regularly to ensure enough water remains after evaporation to keep a seal.
CAN, REFRIGERATE, AND ENJOY
When the Sauerkraut tastes good to you, move it into wide mouth mason jars after skimming off any surface mold that grew during fermentation and straining out the excess liquid. Next? Refrigerate and enjoy! Sauerkraut continues to develop its flavor even during refrigeration and can last for months thanks to the preserving power of lacto-fermentation.