When life gives you excess cabbage, make kraut. This is what gardeners, homesteaders, and local foodies the world over do with this cruciferous giant. Cabbage is already one of the healthiest veggies you can eat, but when you turn it into sauerkraut through the process of fermentation, it becomes even healthier!
Kraut is rich in probiotics, which are wonderful for overall health. Many of us take antibiotics or have in the past, which deplete our bodies of beneficial bacteria that make our guts healthy. It’s crucial to replenish the body with probiotics found in real food, especially because the gut is said to be a second brain for our body and has been known to impact our moods in a big way (source).
Can it be said that sauerkraut will make you happy? I may just go ahead and say YES…because I know the joys of making + eating your own kraut! It is incredibly simple to make and is a great way to get the whole family involved.
1.) Start by removing any bad external cabbage leaves. Wash cabbage.
2.) Chop cabbage into thin strips, placing in a large bowl (or bowls!) as you go.
3.) After you have prepped all the cabbage, add salt to your cabbage bowl. A good rule of thumb for how much salt to add is about 2 tablespoons per 5 pounds cabbage. Pssssst..I usually just start by adding a bit of salt and then continuing to step 4 and add more salt if I need it.
4.) Now this is the fun part. If your kids (or you!) need to work off some energy, get them involved here. I have found that engaging young people in this process is not only fun and educational for them, but they can get that brine going much more than I can.
Using *clean* hands, begin working salt into cabbage. This will take some effort, so squeeze the cabbage with a good amount of pressure (don’t be shy!) and continue doing this throughout the entire bowl until you begin to see & feel liquid emerging from the cabbage. Work the cabbage for 10 minutes or so. And then, when you think you’re done, do it for another 10 minutes.
What we are doing here is creating enough brine so that when the cabbage is in its container for the fermentation process, it will be completely submerged beneath the brine.
5.) Once you have a juicy amount of brine, add cabbage to mason jar for fermentation process.
6.) Pack and press cabbage down until the brine rises over the top of the cabbage. I like to be sure the brine is at least an inch above my cabbage so that it is nicely covered.
7.) Let sit, covered, for 24 hours. Check your cabbage after 24 hours to make sure the brine is still fully covering the cabbage. If any of your cabbage is exposed to air at this point, pack the cabbage down until it is not. If you still can’t get the cabbage beneath the brine, add more water and salt until it is.
8.) Continue to check your cabbage daily to ensure your cabbage is fully submerged in the brine and thus not exposed to air. Air exposure will induce mold, which we obviously don’t want. Cover with a cloth rather than screwing a mason jar lid onto the jar.
10.) Once the fermentation process is complete and your kraut is how you want it, cover and store in refrigerator. That’s it!
I realize this process is foreign for many and can be stressful for some…so see below for some of my troubleshooting tips + hints.
My brine dried up/didn’t make enough
As I mentioned above, you can simply make your own brine by boiling water and adding it to salt with a ratio of 1 quart water to 1 1/2 tablespoon salt. Let mixture cool before adding to kraut.
This is a scary one, folks. Mold can sneak into your sauerkraut if there is any exposure to air – aka not enough brine. It can also happen if your brine doesn’t have a high enough salt content. If the top of your kraut begins to grow mold, you can scrape it off carefully and discard it. Be sure that there is no more mold anywhere else, and scrape extra off the top to ensure that you’ve removed all the mold. Then tamp your kraut down so it is fully submerged and add more brine if needed (you likely need to!). The kraut should be okay – as long as there is no other mold present.
My sauerkraut isn’t fermenting fast enough
Ferments slow down when the temperature is cooler. If you want your kraut to ferment quickly/at a decent pace, be sure that you have it at room temp – 70ish – and that it’s not hiding in some crevice that’s 50 degrees.
I get a really solid kraut after 4 weeks at 65-70°.
I need more help!
If you are looking to connect with fellow fermenters and discuss the many ups & downs of this rewarding process, I highly recommend engaging at the Wild Fermentation Forum. This forum is moderated by those involved with Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation, considered the bible in the fermenting world. There are many wonderful questions asked with even better answers provided. And if you still find that your question is unanswered after perusing the forum, well, you can simply ask!