For a couple of years in a row now, I’ve been making sauerkraut around this time of year. It doesn’t take much time to prepare – yet as it develops in the following weeks, it brings so much flavour and goodness to the winter months.
Fermenting your food is such a great thing to do as the health benefits are enormous. Most foods nowadays are ‘dead’: sterilised, pasteurised, ‘preserved’; leaving little room for any beneficial bacteria that we actually need for good health. While not too long ago all our food had to be preserved without the use of freezers, fridges and chemicals, most of us have never learned these techniques. And while fermenting can be tricky and takes some practice, there’s definitely something you can get started with.
Making sauerkraut is probably one of the easiest ferments you can do.
It’s so different from store bought sauerkraut which is often just pickled with vinegar, salt and sometimes even sugar. It has a far more interesting flavour and is bursting with good bacteria. You don’t need fancy equipment or dedicate lots of time to it. It takes about 45 minutes to prepare and then some patience to see the magic evolve.All you need for sauerkraut is cabbage and salt, which you need to ‘massage’ together to release some liquid. I like to use a mix of both white and red cabbage, for a vibrant coloured kraut. Then you pack it in a jar (which can be any big glass jar or a specific fermentation one) and leave on a countertop to ferment. It’s really important to work with clean equipment and clean hands and to sterilise your jar beforehand. Having something to keep the kraut submerged is very useful, like fermentation weights or a small plate/stone that will fit your jar.It takes a couple of weeks for this sauerkraut to get real good, but you can control how far you want to take it – the longer you leave it, the tangier the kraut gets. Once ready, it makes every sandwich sing, brightens up any salad and takes your (winter) food to another level.So let’s get fermenting!
HOW TO MAKE SAUERKRAUT
You will need:
- 1/2 red cabbage
- 1/2 white cabbage (about 1.1 kg or 2.5 pounds cabbage in total)
- 4 teaspoons sea salt
- A glass jar (about a quart or L), sterilised
- A large glass bowl, sterilised
- A wooden spoon, sterilised
- Start by sterilising any equipment you will use. You can do this by running it through the dishwasher, or by pouring hot water it (make sure any glass is already warm to avoid shattering).
- Finely slice or shred both cabbages using a grater or sharp knife.
- Add the cabbage and salt to a big bowl and massage with clean hands for a good couple of minutes until the cabbage releases its liquid and is reduced to about half.
- Pack the cabbage into the jar and press it down very tight. Leave for about 30 minutes and pack down even more (you can use a wooden spoon for this). It should release enough liquid to cover the top, if not, add a little bit of (filtered) water. Leave some space at the top of the jar for expansion.
- Add something to weigh the kraut down – you want to make sure all the cabbage is covered by the liquid. Now close the lid and leave on the countertop (out of direct sunlight).
- Check once a day to release any pressure and to make sure the kraut is still covered – if needed pack it down again with a wooden spoon.
- Leave for about 1 week to 1 month – depending on your own preference. Do a little taste test every few days to see how the flavour develops.
- When ready, keep in the fridge to slow down the fermentation. Here it can be kept for up to 3 months.
Always use properly cleaned utensils when tasting, serving etc to avoid contamination with bad bacteria.
If the kraut doesn’t stay submerged it is susceptible to being contaminated. It this happens, take out any bits that didn’t stay under the liquid and any foam that may have arisen. Never eat any kraut that smells off or has mould on it.
This recipe is adapted from the book Mastering Fermentation by Mary Karlin. If you’d like to learn more about fermenting, this book is a great place to start – it’s my favourite as it’s filled with simple and more advanced recipes & techniques.