Our weekly box of vegetables from the farm is quite well stocked this time of year, and one common item right now is cabbage. Last week I got a beautiful head of white cabbage, and decided to make some sauerkraut. I headed to my recipe box for my favorite sauerkraut recipe.
That is one of my favorite things to do this time of year. Not only do I enjoy the taste of the finished product, I love the health benefits of eating such a delicious fermented food and I truly enjoy the process of making the sauerkraut.
In his book, Wild Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz highlights the following as some of the benefits of eating fermented foods in addition to having great recipes such as a great sauerkraut recipe:
- Nutrient preservation (cabbage can be stored much longer as sauerkraut)
- Makes foods more easily digested by breaking down complex proteins or components like lactose that can be difficult to digest
- Creates new nutrients, especially B vitamins
- Some fermented foods function as antioxidants
- Some toxins are removed from foods through the fermentation process
And, finally, the benefit that I think of the most is that eating live, fermented foods supplies our digestive tracts with “living cultures essential to breaking down food and assimilating nutrients.”
Our favorite sauerkraut recipe
What you will need for this sauerkraut recipe is a large bowl or plastic bucket, a glass jar or crock, some kind of pounder, a wood or plastic follower (a plastic lid that fits inside your crock or jar), a weight (could simply be a jar of water or rocks), cabbage, and kosher salt.
Sandor Katz recommends 3 tablespoons of salt for 5 pounds of cabbage, but also says that he uses more salt in the summer and less in the winter. So, look at the 3 tablespoons as a place to start experimenting.
To start this sauerkraut recipe, remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and set aside.
Cut the head(s) into quarters and remove the cores. Then, slice the cabbage thinly (about the thickness of a dime).
Place the cut cabbage in the bowl or bucket, adding salt as you go so that the salt is layered with the cabbage.
Pound the cabbage with a your pounder (I used the plunger for my Vitamix – be creative here, a clean baseball bat can work…) to bruise the cabbage and draw out the juice. This is a great step to involve kids. Rowan always enjoys pounding the cabbage. Pound the cabbage until it becomes somewhat translucent and there is plenty of cabbage juice at the bottom of the bowl. Kids have loads of fun making this sauerkraut recipe.
I added salt as I pounded, continually tasting the cabbage until it tasted strongly of salt, perhaps adding 6 teaspoons for my one head of cabbage.
Place the cabbage into a glass jar or crock and put the outer cabbage leaves on top. Now place your follower on top of that and a weight on top of it all. I used a plastic lid as a follower, and a jar with some rocks in it for a weight. Just use what you can find.
Your jar may not look full of liquid like the jar below. That’s ok. There are directions below about ading brine after 24 hours.
Cover the jar or crock with a dishtowel and let it sit at room temperature for a day.
After 24 hours, if there is not enough brine to cover the cabbage by 1 inch (this will protect the kraut from airborne bacteria), then make a brine solution by dissolving 1 tablespoon of salt in 1 quart of boiling water and pour over the cabbage.
Replace the cabbage leaves, follower, weight and dishtowel and let sit another 2 to 6 days. Taste it every few days and refrigerate it when it is as sour as you like it. This will stop the fermentation process, and the sauerkraut will last for months in your refigerator.
I hope you have wonderful success with this sauerkraut recipe.