Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Now, making sauerkraut for the very first time can seem scary... leaving chopped cabbage out of the fridge for weeks?! HOW CAN THIS BE SAFE!? Good question. If we just left a bowl of chopped cabbage on our kitchen counter after a few weeks you definitely wouldn't want to touch it, let alone eat it. But when we make kraut it all comes down to the conditions of the cabbage that we manipulate to select for 'good microbes' which we want to grow. These conditions being SALT, TEMPERATURE, TIME and OXYGEN.
By adding salt, making sure we leave our ferment at between 18-22°C (although your ferment will be safe a little cooler or hotter than this), leaving it for enough time for fermentation to progress and getting rid of us much air as possible you'll be sure to be the proud owner of a tasty, crisp and extremely safe homemade wild fermented kraut [phew, mouthful]. For a more detailed description of why we make sauerkraut the way we do, watch Arthur's handy video here!
Now putting these conditions into practical skills, we don't want to be forgetting the 4 rules to success: Shred, Salt, Pound, Pack!
Recipe - makes roughly 500g
Ingredients (for a basic kraut)
White cabbage x 1/2
Salt (to taste)
Extra goodies (for a wilder kraut)
Spices, e.g. mustard seeds, cloves, chilli flakes, turmeric etc
Herbs, e.g. dill, bay leaves, rosemary etc
The list really is endless!
Large mixing bowl
Wide-mouth glass jars (to fit roughly 500g)
1. Remove a couple of outer leaves from the cabbage, wash and leave to one side.
3. SHRED: finely shred the cabbage by cutting in half, carefully cutting out the core and chopping into fine strips or grating. You can do a chunkier ferment but you might have to sweat for longer (see step 4) to extract enough water from the veg.
4. SALT: now we didn't give an amount of salt because there isn't a magical amount you need. Start by adding a small amount (maybe a tsp), sprinkle the salt over all the cabbage and use your hands to ensure every last leaf is covered in salty goodness, then taste. If it's not salty enough for your taste then add more! You want to make a kraut that YOU enjoy eating. This step helps extract the water from the leaves – we like to call it making your cabbage sweat.
6. Grate or chop any other tasty fruit or veg you're using and mix thoroughly into the cabbage along with herbs and spices you might be using.
7. POUND: use them muscles to massage and squeeze the veggies until when you grab a handful water runs out of your fists (nb: this might take a wee while but it’s a great workout!). If you can't use your hands, the end of a rolling pin works well too!
8. PACK: place a handful of veggies into your clean jar at a time and push down so that they’re in there tight – this makes sure there’s no air bubbles as they need an oxygen free (anaerobic) environment to thrive. When you’re about 2 inches from the top stop. Pour any excess liquid in to cover the veg. Tear off a portion of the outer cabbage leaves you left to one side and push down on top of your ferment to act as an inner seal.
9. Cap your jars and leave on your counter top out of direct sunlight. After a couple of days you should notice the veg expanding (hence leaving some space at the top!) and even bubbling!
10. Some folks like to leave their veg for just a few days, some for longer (we like around 3 weeks). Either is fine, as long as when you taste it and like it you pop it in the fridge to slow fermentation right down.
To make sure you're caring for your kraut properly check out our video on kraut & kimchi TLC!