How to Make Sauerkraut

As you know (since you know me!), fermented vegetables are essential for good health, and should be eaten morning, noon, and night. Here is a good place to go for detailed information on How to Make Sauerkraut.

This is a great review of various techniques for fermenting kraut, along with a report of which jars work best, and how to maximize your cultured veggies' probiotic content.

My basic recipe (makes about 3/4 gallon, to fit into a 1 gallon jar):

--5 lbs. cabbage (one huge, or two medium cabbages) (can use some carrots, beets, etc. instead of all cabbage) --2 1/2-3 tbsp. salt (never iodized) --Any remaining juice from your last batch of kraut, optional

Shred the cabbage (is easiest in a food processor) or thinly slice, reserving a few outer leaves.

Mix smaller amount of salt and cabbage together and kraut juice in a large bowl, mixing thoroughly; taste to see if you need more salt. (If you have chopped the cabbage into larger pieces, you can let the cabbage and salt sit out at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 4-6 hours, until the cabbage starts to give up its water.)

If you like, you can pound the cabbage with a wooden spoon, kraut pounder, or hardwood children's building block, to get juicier kraut. Sometimes I'll leave the bowl of kraut out for the afternoon, pounding a few times whenever I walk by.

Put cabbage mixture into a glass gallon jar, shoving it all tightly inside. The liquid will start to exude from the cabbage; keep shoving, so that you end up with all this juicy cabbage tightly packed into the bottom of the jar.

Carefully pack the whole outer cabbage leaves on top of the shredded stuff, rolling up one or two leaves to keep everything down. You want the kraut to be fully submerged in its exuded liquid while it ferments (unless you use Fido jars or similar airlock, in which case it doesn't matter. Fido jars make fermenting SO much more foolproof! I highly recommend checking out Lea's report at the Nourishing Treasures link above, and ordering some Fido jars--Crate and Barrel is the cheapest I've found).

Place the jar on a plate to ferment at room temperature. This goes quicker in warm weather (when I'm likely to use the full amount of salt, which slows fermentation), but I like to keep it going for at least two weeks, ideally 4-8.

I check the water level to make sure it hasn't evaporated too much, and I'll add more filtered water if necessary, but again, this isn't necessary when using Fido jars. The basic idea is that oxygen has to be mostly excluded from the ferment, either because the vegetables are covered with liquid, or because of an airlock-type lid, or similar tightly-fitting lid.

Four weeks or so later: enjoy!! :)


A NOTE CONCERNING CULTURING OTHER KINDS OF VEGETABLES:

Pickling is a variation on the kraut process, a technique used to ferment veggies (like carrots or beets or radishes or...) that do not exude as much liquid as cabbage does.

Basically, if a vegetable is less juicy, or you do not want to pound it (for example, to make carrot stick or radish slice pickles), you can wash, chop, and pack the veggies into jars, and add salt water (about 3-6 tbsp. of salt per gallon jar of veggies, with enough filtered water to cover all). Then, ferment in room temperature, as above.

Sometimes I will use half cabbage to inoculate the pickles with the Good Bugs found naturally in abundance on cabbage leaves.

If I want to make dilled carrots, or plain beets, or anything similarly cabbage-free, I use Caldwell's Cultured Vegetable Starter. This always prevents mold, in my experience, and the pickles come out fantastically.