Making sauerkraut at home doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. It’s actually very easy to make small batches, requiring only a few minutes of prep time. Then stand by and watch as nature takes its course. This old way of preserving food is a fun process to learn. This recipe is just lightly fermented, resulting in a kraut that is fresh, crunchy and not overly salty –making it a perfect side “salad” to any meal. Inspired by my friend Tonia, who first introduced me to style of kraut over the summer, I’ve been making this slightly fermented kind of kraut in small batches ever since.
In this recipe I use purple cabbage and grated beets, which gives it this beautiful vibrant color. But feel free to use just cabbage if you prefer. The refreshing bite is such a welcome accompaniment to dinner, especially with heavier meals, providing good contrast in texture and flavor. It’s also delicious on sandwiches, in tacos, wraps or have a bowl of it on its own. And you really don’t need any special equipment to make this…. a mason jar works just as well as a crock.
The main reason I am in love with homemade kraut is this— it’s incredibly good for our bodies. The simple fermentation process, an ancient way of preserving food, has amazing cancer fighting and immunity building properties, similar to the healthy probiotics in yogurt, but without the diary and fat. As cabbage ferments, it produces live bacteria. These bacteria, or “probiotics” replenish the good bacteria in our bodies and help stop the growth of bad bacteria, boosting our whole immune system. But if you eat sauerkraut that has been pasteurized (usually the store bought kind) the heat in the pasteurization process actually kills these good live bacteria, and so we won’t benefit from the probiotics…and that’s why I like to make it at home. Plus it’s SO easy, and you can flavor it however you like.
Learning the old ways of preserving food, is such a fun and rewarding experience.
Finely slice and grate cabbage and beets. Or use just cabbage…up to you. You need about 4 cups total. I add a ⅛ to ¼ cup of sliced onion, and sometimes minced garlic. This is optional. It will make the smell slightly off putting as it ferments, but once it’s refrigerated, its adds a really delicious flavor.
Place in a bowl and massage with 1 teaspoon salt. Let it sit in the bowl on the counter, mixing occasionally for a couple hours. Add caraway seeds if you like, or a little grated ginger.
Place the cabbage mixture along with all its juices in a mason jar, and pack it down with a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon. Cover it with a cabbage leaf. Pack it down once more. Cover it with a cloth, or just partially close with a lid – you want it to be able to breath a bit. Let it sit on the kitchen counter for 24 hours, in a warm spot, occasionally pressing down on the cabbage, compressing. After 24 hours, if there is not enough liquid to cover the cabbage –in a separate cup, mix 1 teaspoon salt with 1 cup water, and ONLY add enough of the salt water to bring the water level to top of the cabbage (while pressing down on the cabbage). You may not need to use the whole cup of water.
Then leave it on the counter for 3-7 days, or longer if you prefer a really fermented flavor, occasionally pressing down on the cabbage. My personal preference is 4 days for a refreshing and crunchy version.
After 3-7 days, close it with a lid and put it in the fridge…and don’t worry, it will smell better once it is chilled. Once it chilled, it’s ready to eat. As it rests in the fridge, it will continue to ferment but at a much slower rate. It will taste better and better.
Place in a bowl and massage with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Let sit on the counter, mixing occasionally for 1-2 hours, until cabbage has wilted and released a little water.
Place cabbage beet mixture and all the juices in a very clean mason jar, pack it down with a muddler, or the end of a wooden spoon. Cover with a cabbage leaf. Pack it down once more. Cover it with a cloth, or the lid with a little opening – you want it to able to breath a bit.
Let it sit on the counter for 24 hours, lightly covered, occasionally pressing down on the cabbage, compressing. After 24 hours, if there is not enough liquid to cover the cabbage, mix 1 teaspoon salt with 1 cup water, and ONLY add enough of this brine to bring the water level to top of the cabbage. ( you may not need to use the whole cup of salt water).
Then leave on the counter for 3-4 days, occasionally pressing down on the cabbage and please don’t let the smell scare you.
Close with a lid and place it in the fridge. Once its chilled the smell will surprisingly mellow out and it will actually seem edible.
So let it chill overnight, then give it a taste.