Sauerkraut is one of our super foods! Fermented foods contain beneficial probiotics which help with digestion, and overall immune support.
Unfortunately, you don’t get the same benefits from sauerkraut that you buy at the grocery store; it just doesn’t have time to ferment properly before being packaged and sold, and the fermenting process is what creates all those good-for-you probiotics!
Making sauerkraut is simple and easy and is one of the best recipes to start with if you are new to fermenting foods. I’ll tell you how I got started fermenting foods. Years ago, I read the book Nourishing Traditions and began learning about the health benefits of fermented foods. The first thing I tried to ferment was shredded carrots in a mason jar, covered with cheesecloth. I followed all the steps and watched my carrots religiously, however, nothing really seemed to happen. I tried making kimchi once after that and that, too, was a disappointment.
Fast forward a few years to the day I went to a fermenting class with a friend. It was an “aha!” moment for me when they showed us a tiny little gadget called an airlock. Where had this been al my life? This simple gadget is the key to making safe, delicious fermented foods.
You can purchase a pre-made five-gallon bucket (or larger!) that will come with the grommet and the airlock, or you can make your own. Simply drill a hole, place the grommet inside, but be certain it is tight-fitting, and insert the airlock. Voila’! You are ready to make sauerkraut.
Now it’s time to get to work. Gather the following items and sanitize everything before you begin:
- food-grade five-gallon bucket with lid, grommet and airlock
- about 5-7 pounds of shredded cabbage
- non-iodized salt (2 teaspoons per pound of veggies)
- spoon, stamper or something else to submerge the cabbage (or use your hands!)
Step 1. Shred your cabbage. Use green or red cabbage or a mixture of both, add shredded carrots, shredded apple, or whatever your heart desires. Toss in some aromatics like juniper berries, or even cranberries for the holidays. Mix it up. You can’t go wrong!
Step 2. Transfer cabbage (and other veggies or aromatics) into your bucket, add salt, add enough water to cover the vegetables and mix well. I put rubber gloves on and get right in there with my hands. It is very important to use non-iodized salt. sometimes known as “cheese salt”. Iodized salt does not allow fermentation to occur.
Step 3: Weight your veggies. I place a medium-sized ceramic bowl in a ziplock bag and place this over the vegetables to keep them submerged in the brine. You can also purchase weights for this purpose, but I have never found them necessary.
Step 4: Place the cover on the bucket and let the magic happen!
Check every other day or so to make sure your vegetables are submerged in the brine. Active fermentation will cause them to rise up. Be sure to check for mold. You cannot see or smell mold, but you will feel it, and it means that oxygen got in. If you feel a slimy film over your vegetables, throw it out. It is okay to see a film over your veggies, but that film should not be slimy! Remember: when in doubt, throw it out!
The longer your sauerkraut ferments, the stronger the flavor will be. Test it every day and remove it when it is perfect for you. We like our sauerkraut fairly mild, so we usually remove ours after about 7-10 days, but you can leave yours fermenting for up to 30 days.
After you transfer your sauerkraut to mason jars or containers, if you have leftover juice, be sure to save it! This juice is wonderful for gargling with if you have a sore throat.
Store your sauerkraut in the refrigerator or water-bath can, which is what we do!