I’ve been wanting to make my own sauerkraut for quite some time now. It’s the perfect project for me: I love fermenting things, I love sauerkraut, Mark loves sauerkraut…really the question is why I haven’t been making sauerkraut for years. The following procedure makes about a gallon of sauerkraut and costs next to nothing.
How to Make Sauerkraut
2 heads of green cabbage, about 5 pounds total
kosher or other non-iodized salt
Can’t get simpler than that, no? You’ll also need a large (at least a gallon) jar or jug, which you’ll probably want to sanitize by running through the dishwasher just prior to using, or filling with boiling water for a few minutes.
Take each head of cabbage, wash it, and remove any yukky outer leaves.
Cut each cabbage into quarters.
Cut the core out of each quarter.
Grate each quarter. I found that a mandoline vastly expedited the grating process. Some of you may have grandparents with “kraut cutters”. It seems like a very grandparent thing to have. These are large mandoline-like apparatuses for grating cabbage for sauerkraut. Or you could try the far more modern approach of a food processor; I don’t have one so I can’t tell you how well they may grate cabbage.
Here is my grated cabbage:
You want to add non-iodized salt at the rate of 2% of the total cabbage weight. I was feeling rather metric the night I was making my sauerkraut – maybe I was feeling German – so you can see that I’ve measured 22 grams for half of my my 2,200 grams of cabbage (I only had a mixing bowl large enough to measure one head of the cabbage at a time). 2,200 grams of cabbage is just about 5 pounds for you Americans, and 22 grams of salt is about 3/4 of an ounce (so you’ll need 1.5 ounces of salt total). A lot of recipes I’ve seen online have called for between 2 and 4 Tbsp of salt for 5 pounds of cabbage, if you don’t have a scale. I’m so used to bread baking that I felt more comfortable weighing it. Salt is one of those things that varies drastically in weight from type to type and brand to brand.
Now in your clean jug or jar, add a layer of cabbage, then sprinkle some of the salt on it:
Continue adding layers in this manner:
Periodically tamp the cabbage down with a potato masher or similar implement.
You really want to press hard on the cabbage to it becomes quite compact …
… and begins to exude water:
Continue adding layers and periodically tamping until the cabbage and salt are all gone. Ideally you want the cabbage to be covered in its exuded water at the top. Place a plastic bag or other piece of plastic into the jar, entirely covering the cabbage (if you are using a wide-mouthed jug, you can use a plate or something instead). Then place a weight on top of the plastic. It’s not obvious from the photo, but on top of the plastic bag, there is a smaller, water-filled jar acting as my weight.
Place in a cool place for 3 weeks, checking periodically for any white scum that may form on the top and removing it if you see it. Apparently the white scum is harmless (just gross) and extremely common, however, I never saw any on my cabbage. I had made sure the cabbage was submerged in water and then completely covered by the plastic.
After three weeks, taste it. If it taste good and sour, it’s done. If not, let it sit a few more days and taste it again.
Here’s what it looked like when I opened it up:
Now a bonus recipe. This is how my mom prepares sauerkraut for holidays: To one pound of sauerkraut, add celery seed, butter, salt & pepper, and 2 slices of bacon cut into small pieces; cook for at least 30 minutes. I threw a very small dish of this together for tasting tonight, using Earth Balance and some vegan “bacon” bits (and microwaving for one minute).
Honestly, though, I didn’t like the bacon bits at all. Maybe it’s simply been too long since I’ve had it that way: at least 20 years now. And I don’t see any need for the Earth Balance. So I think I’ll just stick to the celery seed and salt & pepper. I also want to play around with other additions to the sauerkraut, both during the fermentation and afterwards. Stay tuned!