It seems everywhere you turn these days, you hear the things related to gut health, probiotics, & the microbiome….or, is it just where I turn?? Don’t leave me hanging….I’m not the only one fascinated with learning more & more about these topics, right?! In this article I will show you just how incredibly easy it is to make fermented sauerkraut at home! This requires so little effort, just some patience to let the fermentation do its thing. Fermenting sauerkraut is just about the easiest ‘super food’ you can make. There are lots of nutritional benefits of fermented sauerkraut. Don’t get me wrong, I love my homemade bone broth, but this is just too easy to not do!
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How I got started eating Sauerkraut
Well…for me, my adventures with fermented kraut began when I was pregnant with my firstborn. I had been reading about things related to gut health and fortunately ended up chatting with a family member who, to my surprise was equally fascinated with gut health. The book “Fermented Vegetables” is a great & beautiful book to learn about fermenting foods. And…the best part….he already was making his own ferments and shared a batch of his kraut with me.
I quickly became kind of addicted to it, it is amazing how refreshing it tastes…my thoughts are your body knows what’s good & let’s you know what makes it happy. (Of course, ice cream also makes me feel this way, too….so, maybe this isn’t a full proof method for wellness…) I was eating a spoonful or two most days, until sadly I ran out of the kraut. I started looking for places I could buy some fermented kraut and realized it was not easy to find & when I did find it, it was very expensive. (Fermented sauerkraut is not what you generally will find in the grocery store….you’ll know if you find it…$$.)
When I finally made my first kraut
Time went by & unfortunately I didn’t often have any kraut in my diet. It took me awhile….actually until my 2nd born was nearly a year old…until I started finally making my own kraut. That brings me here to want to share with as many of you as I can to don’t be intimidated by giving it a try, it really is easy to make!!! Now, I make batches regularly & we eat our kraut almost daily, usually a spoonful as a side with our lunches…& by we, I include my kids, 1 and 2 years old….they absolutely LOVE it. My youngest squeals when she sees me get it out of the fridge & always eats it all first no matter what else is on her tray!! Again, I take that as a sign that our bodies know it is good for us!
I hope you will find this helpful to give you the boost to start making kraut for your family, too! ENJOY!!
Yes, that is all you need!!! Regarding salt…you don’t have to be too picky, but be sure to not use regular table/iodized salt. That will kill the bacteria you are trying to nourish. I have been using this pink sea salt from HimalaSalt & I have been really happy with my krauts. It’s not the cheapest, but I have read that a good salt like this can serve to enhance the minerals available in your final product. And, since you only need 1 Tbsp. per head of cabbage, it’s been economical in my book.
To start, wash your cabbage & remove outer leaves, discard…actually, don’t discard…compost them. If you don’t compost yet, please check out our COMPOSTING – KEEPING IT SIMPLE article. We break it down and show you just how easy it really is. Cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the core. Slice the quarters into very thin slices. I slice by hand and that works well for me. I have found the best results from taking my time and making my slices as thin and uniform as possible.
Place sliced cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. of salt to the bowl. Massage the cabbage for 10 minutes. This will start to breakdown the cabbage and release the water to make the brine. That is really all there is to it. Some recipes will have you make a brine to add, but I have not found that necessary. The key is that you need to make sure all the cabbage is under the brine when you put into the jars. This will keep any possible issues of mold growth from happening.
Add the cabbage and the the liquid brine from the bowl into your mason jars. Do not overfill your jars. I have found it best to leave some room in the jar, this will reduce loss of brine during the fermentation process. I have not used fermentation weights, but these are a great option that are designed to use with mason jars. They can help make sure your cabbage stays below the level of the brine. Place the lids on the jars, screw them on, but you do not want to over tighten them.
Store in a cool & dark environment for 1 week. I recommend placing the jars in a tray in case during the fermenting process any brine overflows out of the jars. Also, cover the jars. I use a kitchen towel to help make sure it stays dark during the fermenting process. Happy bacteria make happy sauerkraut. Taste the cabbage at one week. If you like the taste, move your jars to store in your fridge. Sometimes, I have found a personal preference to leave my cabbage ferment a day or two longer before moving to the fridge. As you make a few batches, you will fine tune and find what you like best.
There should never be any mold in your sauerkraut. The main issue that could cause mold to develop during your fermenting would be having cabbage exposed above the level of the brine. So, even after the kraut is moved to the fridge, I recommend always pushing the cabbage down under the brine as you scoop out kraut to eat before returning it to your fridge.
I did a little experiment, so to speak, with my more recent batch of kraut. As I have stressed, one of the main keys to a good batch of kraut is keeping the cabbage under the brine. Well, the lastest cabbage I used was on the dry side apparently. There just was not enough brine to cover the cabbage, so I thought this would be a good chance for me to see what would happen…I was curious if I would see mold grow. After a few days I went down to my basement and uncovered my kraut jars & saw that one of them had turned brown on top. I thought that one had gone bad and that I may see mold develop during the rest of the week while it was fermenting. So, I covered it back up and let it continue on its’ way. I left my jars go for a couple days longer than a week and then went down to see what I would find. I did not find any mold or anything else looking ‘off’ in the kraut, except that the top layer had turned brown. It appears this means it oxidized, since it was not covered. I put my jars in the fridge and when I am ready to eat, I will just toss out that top layer. It is likely fine to eat, but might not taste quite as good as the rest.
Enjoy & let us know how your krauts turn out! Happy fermenting!