(Note: Day 1 is with green cabbage, and Day 3 is with Red. Take a look at how the cabbage “breaks down” – it’s the same amount in each container!)
Homemade sauerkraut is incredibly easy to make, is inexpensive compared to buying it in a store, and is great for you! All cruciferous vegetables (radishes, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, etc.) naturally contain the beneficial bacteria lactobacillus, which is also found in yogurt and other fermented and cultured foods. Sauerkraut is then made by a process appropriately called lacto-fermentation, where the cabbage is submerged in a salt water solution, called brine. Then, as the sauerkraut sits, the bacteria begins to convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, which is a natural preservative to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Over the course of a few days, the cabbage becomes less crunchy, and the probiotics start to flourish and multiply, thus creating an amazingly tasty fermented probiotic you can eat whenever your heart desires! Here’s my recipe:
- 1 small head of red or green cabbage, about 8 cups
- 1.5 Tablespoons of sea salt (Make sure to get sea salt and not iodized salt!)
- Between 2-3 cups of chemical free water (spring/distilled water should be ok) If you only have tap water, let it sit out in an open container for 6 hours, and the chlorine and other chemicals will escape. Then you can use it without any trouble!
- Large knife, long enough to cut through the entire head of cabbage
- Cutting Board
- Large pitcher
- Several smaller mason jars, or another similar glass container with a wide mouth
- Cheesecloth(s) or microfiber washcloth(s) that air can easily pass through, but bugs can’t
- Rubberband(s) or elastic(s) large enough to fit around the wide mouthed container(s)
- Cup, plate, or other object that fits inside the wide mouth container to use as a press (optional, but makes life easier)
1. Clean your cutting board, knife, and containers thoroughly, then wash your hands. It is very important to make sure that the lactobacillus bacteria have as clean of an environment as possible in which to grow. If there is a bit of bacteria on your hands when you prepare the sauerkraut, it is possible that the batch will be bad, or may even grow mold. Yuck! The salt does help prevent this, but why not give the cabbage a little boost?
2. Chop up the cabbage into pieces about as large as the nail on your pinky finger. If they’re a bit larger, that’s ok, it just helps get all of the pieces into your containers more easily. I recommend cutting the head of cabbage into four, starting with your first cut directly through the center of the stalk. Then cut those pieces in half, and then slice in small slivers until you get the size you need. This can get messy!
3. Place the cut up cabbage in a large bowl or pot, preferably not plastic. Add enough water to cover about half of the cabbage, then add the salt. Massage the cabbage with clean hands for 5-10 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the texture of the cabbage starts to change. This is to start the fermenting process, and to dissolve the salt, so it can start it’s job of preventing the bad bacteria from flourishing.
4. Place water and cabbage into the containers, and position your press so that it pushes down the sauerkraut, and the water completely covers it. This can be a little tricky, depending on what you’re using, and may take a bit of maneuvering at first. It is very important that the water be covering the cabbage during the entire process, or the cabbage starts to rot, and you will see a moldy film appear! If you choose to not use the press, proceed with the directions, but check the containers every few hours for the first day or so and make sure that no cabbage is poking out of the water.
5. Cover with the breathable fabric, and place the elastic around the mouth of the container. Set in a room temperature spot (65-75 degrees F) for three days, and check the taste. This is when the cabbage is considered sauerkraut, and this is when you can start to jar it and put it in the fridge. If it’s not sour enough to your liking, let it sit for up to 3 weeks, and taste test along the way.
When it comes to sauerkraut, I am super impatient and eat it on day three. Maybe I’ll get my assembly line going so I can try some that has fermented longer!
Overall, my batches of sauerkraut probably cost around $1 per jar. Compare that to the pasteurized jars in the grocery stores, that’s a 75% discount, not to mention the amazing probiotic benefits! Compare it to the completely raw stuff you’ll find at your local health food store, it’s a steal!
If you’re still not set on making sauerkraut, or just don’t like the taste, I understand. We just started making water kefir, another type of probiotic drink, and I’ll show you how to make kefir soda once I have mastered it myself!