How to make Sauerkraut (aka Simple Cultured Cabbage) a delicious tangy addition to many dishes. A potent health tonic brimming with gut-healing probiotics. Easy to make at home with just two ingredients!
Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. – Melody Beattie
Cabbage and sea salt. Time does the magic here. Once you introduce cultured cabbage into your diet your body may just start asking for more. Eating cultured foods feels so clean and alive. It is one of the richest sources for live probiotics, a tablespoon or two provides more benefits than a probiotic pill or powder.
One thing I love about making my own ferments is that I can control the taste. My family prefers a “less sour” sauerkraut. Tasting it as it ferments lets you find your own perfect sweet spot of flavor and texture. People who say they don’t like sauerkraut often tolerate homemade and even start to acquire a taste for it. My son, who currently likes about 2 vegetables, will eat this at almost every meal- thank goodness!
8 Health Benefits of adding Fermented Foods to your meals
The probiotics in fermented foods have been associated with a variety of health benefits, including bolstering immunity, improving digestion,and even supporting weight loss! Here are 8 of the most noteworthy:
- Increases the nutritional content of the foods being fermented.
- Supports the intestinal tract.
- Provides enzymes that aid in digestion.
- Stimulates and supports the immune system.
- May inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
- Antioxidant, anti-microbial, and antifungal
- Helps with inflammation
- Culturing foods may increase the air quality in your home by introducing more healthy bacteria in your environment.
Using a good clean salt without additives is important. Refined salt (including iodized and kosher pickling salt) with added iodine could hinder the fermenting process and cause unpleasant discoloring and undesirable texture. A good mineral-rich salt works best for fermenting. Salts high in minerals usually have a pink hue.
Finely ground salt incorporates faster, helping the cabbage release juice more quickly which creates more brine and ensures a healthy ferment.
Salts have different densities and weights. Tasting as you go gives you the best control over the quantity of salt. It is the simplest way to ensure success. Begin massaging the cabbage with half of the amount of salt, you want to taste the salt but not be overwhelmed by it. Build up to the full amount of salt, you may not need the entire amount called for. If it starts to taste too salty add more cabbage.
Massaging the cabbage breaks down the cell walls, releasing the juices and getting the salt incorporated through the entire batch. If there is not a lot of brine let it sit for a half-hour and check it. Once you start packing the cabbage into the jars it should be quite juicy.
If your cabbage is dry without much brine you do not want to add water, as this can often affect the texture making it mushy. If you find it needs more liquid add a few tablespoons of citrus juice or leftover brine from another batch.
10 Expert Tips for successful sauerkraut
- Start with clean and sanitized tools, containers and work surfaces.
- Shred fresh cabbage with a sharp knife or mandolin.
- Massage cabbage with half of the salt in a bowl, tasting and adding more until you taste salt but not overwhelmingly salty. Fermenting is very forgiving so don’t stress about getting it perfect. You’ll quickly get a good feel for the right ratio.
- Let sit 30 minutes, if needed to extract more juices.
- Transfer to a sterilized fermenting vessel (I like mason jars) and pack tightly with a tamper or your fist.
- Leave 3 inches of space between brine level and top of jar. Top with one or two cabbage leaves to keep shreds from floating above the brine.
- Keep cabbage below the brine, using a weight. This is an important key to good kraut health! This is your mantra “under the brine everything is fine.”
- Let ferment out of direct sunlight and ideally where room temperature is 55-75 degrees. A dark corner on your kitchen counter is good.
- Check progress daily making sure cabbage is still submerged and taste for doneness starting day 3. It all depends on the climate, humidity and how sour you prefer the finished kraut to taste. 3-7 days seems to be where I get the results I like. Closer to 3 days in the summer, and more like 5- 7 days in the winter. For really sour tasting kraut 2-3 weeks. The larger your vessel, the longer the ferment.
- Once cured, store in the refrigerator, with a sealed lid where it will still slowly ferment. I think it tastes best after a week or two in the fridge.
Benefits of using Airlocks
An airlock (below, left) is a device used in fermenting that allows carbon dioxide to escape the jar, while preventing air to enter the jar, thus avoiding oxidation.
I have fermented for many years without using airlocks. It is super easy yet I can’t say all my ferments have been successful. Since I decided to give airlocks a try, fermenting has become more foolproof with even less hands-on time.
Our goal is to cultivate friendly bacteria which thrive best in anaerobic environments. As the sugars and starches in the cabbage (or other fermenting specimens) begin to break down, an airlock allows the carbon dioxide to escape and flow out of the ferment but not back in. Keeping oxygen out means less contaminates and less potential for unwanted bacteria.
I have had great success with this Fermentation Kit that has crystal weights that fit perfectly in a wide-mouth mason jar. It is so convenient for small batch ferments. This fermentation kit includes the jars which is a great option too!
How do I know when the sauerkraut is fermented?
- looks lighter and more yellow in color and slightly translucent, similar to a cooked vegetable
- smells pleasantly sour
- the texture will be firm, crunchy and not slimy
- the taste will have a pickled flavor
How to store sauerkraut:
Once fermented, store the sauerkraut in the refrigerator, with a sealed lid where it will continue to slowly ferment. If kept below the brine, it will keep indefinitely.
This sauerkraut makes it to our dinner table most nights, giving a delicious tang and crunch to many dishes. Try a dollop in soups, stews, salads, sandwiches, tacos, buddha bowls, and more! It truly elevates the meal with the added benefit of many amazing nutrients. Give it try and let us know what you think!
More Fermentation Recipes you may like:
- Curtido- Cultured Salvadoran Slaw
- How to Make Kimchi!
- Beet and Cabbage Sauerkraut
- How to make Turmeric Sauerkraut
- Fermented Hot Sauce -Simple and Delicious!
- How to make Fermented Pickles!