August 14, 2016
Sauerkraut is a form of fermented cabbage. It is a good source of fibre, vitamins A, C, K, and B, as well as iron, manganese, copper, and calcium. But in its raw, unpasteurized form, it is also full of beneficial probiotic bacteria and great for your gut. Buying unpasteurized kraut can be expensive; however, it is super easy to make at home. At a minimum, all you need is a jar, a head of cabbage and some salt.
I have been making my own sauerkraut for a couple of years. Generally, I buy one head of organic cabbage and it makes about 1 quart of kraut. When we have finished that jar, I buy another head. This summer, however, I have three beautiful heads of organic cabbage in my garden. I planted six cabbages – one died and two were eaten up by cabbage butterflies. That leaves three for kraut.
Traditional Ukrainian sauerkraut uses only cabbage and salt. However, I like to make mine a bit more kimchi-like. I add daikon radish, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic and hot chili flakes to mine. The recipe is pretty basic and the following is what I used for my last batch.
Darlene’s Sauer- Chi
- 3 medium heads green cabbage, shredded finely
- 1 daikon radish, peeled and shredded
- 3 carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1 onion, quartered and cut into thin slices
- 3 teaspoons chili flakes
- 3 tbsp shredded fresh ginger (peeled first)
- 9 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 teaspoons salt
Save a couple of outer large leaves of cabbage and set aside. Shred the rest finely, a mandolin works best if you have one. If not, traditional kimchi uses a coarser cut of cabbage anyway. Use the mandolin as well to slice your onion thin. Shred your carrots and radish (I used the large hole grater). Place all the veggies in a large bowl and add chili flakes, finely shredded ginger and minced garlic. Add salt. They generally recommend 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of veggies. Start with a smaller amount and then you can add more.
Using your hands, massage the veggies, salt and spices. As your work the mixture, liquid will release.
Keep massaging the mixture for about 5 to 10 minutes. The volume of veggies should reduce by about a half and there will be lots of liquid. Taste the mixture and adjust for more salt if needed.
Place the sauerkraut mixture, along with the liquid in a large jar or crock. I used a crock this time, as I was making a larger batch. However, if you are doing only 1 head of cabbage, a large jar works well. Be sure there is lots of room left in the jar after you put the cabbage and liquid in as it bubbles a bit while it ferments and can overflow the jar. Its a good idea to place the jar in a large plate or bowl to catch any drips.
The veggies tend to float to the top of the liquid, so place the reserved large leaves on top and press the kraut down so that it is all covered by liquid.
Place a weight over the large leaves to hold them down under the liquid. I used a small crock and placed a saucer on top with a large jar of beans as a weight.
Make sure the mixture is packed down well and remains covered by liquid.
Let the mixture sit at room temperature (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit), out of direct sunlight, undisturbed for about 1 week. If you are using a jar, either leave the lid off or open the jar daily to let the gases escape. If necessary, cover the jar or crock with a cloth or cheese cloth to keep out insects and dust.
Its also a good idea to put a container under your jar or crock to catch any excess liquid. As the kraut ferments it will produce more liquid. The weighted jar on top will sink further into the crock and the liquid will rise. On day 4 of my ferment, the liquid was within an inch of the top of the crock.
After the week is up, taste the kraut and see if it is to your liking. If not, let it sit for up to 2 more weeks, tasting periodically. The longer it sits, the more sour it will become. I generally leave mine 7 to 10 days. Once it is ready, pack into jars and place in the fridge.
Fermented cabbage products can be used as a side dish for any meal, just as you would serve pickles. They are also a great addition to a sandwich or wrap. I love sauerkraut on my burgers instead of pickles. In order to preserve the natural probiotics, do not heat the kraut, but serve at room temperature. If you find the kraut too sour, rinse the kraut in water and squeeze out the liquid before eating it.
Fermenting is a great way to preserve cabbage. I remember my mother, of Ukrainian ancestry, making a large 5 gallon crock of sauerkraut every summer when the cabbage was ready in the garden. We stored the crock in the cold room in the basement and enjoyed sauerkraut all winter. Unfortunately, we generally ate the kraut cooked, so missed out on the probiotic goodness.
For a more detailed explanation of the fermentation process and other alternatives for veggies and spice, Michael Pollen, the author of Cooked is a great resource.\
August 21, 2016 Update
Its now one week since I started the kraut, tasting time. It is incredibly good. Just the right amount of sourness for me. Its a bit on the spicy side but will make a great side to any meal. The three heads of cabbage made three quarts of finished kraut.
I packed the kraut into sterilized quart jars. Since I am not pasteurizing the kraut, it will need to be kept in the fridge.
Looks good, tastes great.