So you’ve heard about fermenting food and you’re keen to give it a try? Sauerkraut is the perfect way to begin! If you want a refresher, or still have questions about fermenting in general, we’ve got you covered in our article about the Basics of Fermenting. Once you’re primed and ready to go, here’s how to make your own delicious, gut-biome-improving sauerkraut!
In its ultimate form, sauerkraut is simply shredded/shaved cabbage with salt, massaged until it yields lots of liquid, then squished into a vessel and left alone for 3-5 days.
There are lots of variables when it comes to each batch – cabbage size; cabbage density; cabbage type; fermenting vessel size; supply requirements; fermenting location; seasonal/weather conditions – so it’s good to have an understanding of the basic principles rather than a specific recipe to refer to. This will allow you to adapt your skills so that you can confidently make sauerkraut in any situation.
We’ll give you a more specifics further down, but keep in your head that the general rule is:
Use what you have, and make it so you like the taste.
That translates to a basic process of:
- Shred as much cabbage as you have
- Add salt to cabbage 1/2tbsp at a time and massage for 5-10minutes
- Once the cabbage is translucent, wilty and there’s lots of liquid, shove it in a jar
- Stuff a folded up cabbage leaf inside the jar to keep the shredded stuff submerged.
- Cover with a cloth and leave in the pantry/on the bench for 3-5 days
The Urban Nanna’s Basic Sauerkraut Recipe
Makes roughly 1x 1L jar
1/2 a large cabbage
2-3tbsp pure salt (lake, rock, kosher, pickling, sea)* See notes on salt below
1tsp whole cumin (optional)
- Before shredding cabbage, remove and lightly wash 2-3 outer leaves and leave aside.
- Core, then shred cabbage finely. A mandolin or food processor is great for this, but a knife will do as well.
- Pop shredded cabbage in a glass, ceramic, enamel or plastic bowl (metal reacts with salt, so don’t use it for fermenting)
- Add your salt ½ a tablespoon at a time. This allows you to adjust the saltiness as needed.
- After adding each measure of salt, gently massage cabbage for 5-10 minutes. You can use a rolling pin to help with this if you find it hard on your hands.
- Before adding the next lot of salt, taste the mix. It’ll be ‘done’ when it tastes moderately salty, the cabbage is translucent and wilted, and you get a good stream of brine when you squish a handful of cabbage.
- Once it’s ‘done’, you can add spices like cumin, caraway, fennel or coriander if you like them. Add less than you think you’ll need, as they can become overpowering. Around 1tsp per half cabbage is a nice mix.
- You can also add chopped spring onion and a little bit of minced garlic if you like.
- Once ‘done’, shove the cabbage into a large jar or crock, pack it down firmly (a potato masher can be helpful), then cover with the brine liquid created by your massaging.
- Fold up one or two of the outer cabbage leaves you set aside earlier and use them to shove all the shredded cabbage under the brine. Really wedge it in so no little bits can float above and reach the surface.
- Use a teatowel to cover the jar to stop dust and/or bugs getting in. You can use the lid of the jar instead, but if you do, you’ll need to “burp” the jar daily to let the gasses formed by fermentation escape.
- Fermentation should take 2-3 days to get started. You’ll see bubbles starting to rise through the cabbage when it does.
- You may need to push the cabbage back under the brine a couple of times during the fermentation process (the gas bubbles can lift it up). Use clean implements to do so.
- Start tasting the shredded cabbage after 3 days. Once it tastes sour enough to your liking, put an airtight lid on it and store it in the fridge to stop active fermentation.
Side note – you can put ALL sorts of extra goodies into Kraut!! We usually add a few grated carrots to mine, and will often do a mixture of white and red cabbage. It’s also traditional to add a sprinkling of spices just before you stuff it into the jar. You can even add spring onions and garlic if you want extra oomph (and vitamins)
You can add things like:
– shredded broccoli
– grated beetroot
– shredded kale
– shredded wombok
– grated swede
Spices to experiment with include:
- Make sure you have a nice big jar to put your kraut in. The large Moccona coffee jars and Ikea Korken jars generally hold ½ a medium seized cabbage worth of kraut. Use glass or ceramic, not metal.
- When you massage it, the cabbage will shrink in volume by about half.
- Use pure salt with no preservatives in it. Preservatives can negatively affect both the flavor, texture and appearance of ferments. Use lake, sea, rock, river, ‘pickling’ or kosher salt.
- Make sure your salt is finely ground so it distributes evenly. This also affects your measurements (rock, flake and ground salt fill a tablespoon differently, so you might not get enough salt if you use 1tbsp of rock etc).
- Aim for between 2-4tbsp salt per batch.
- The final amount of salt will depend on how big your ‘batch’ is.
- In summer, you may need to add more salt to slow fermentation (it goes faster in warmer weather, and bad bacteria/yeasts can kick off in these circumstances).
- Often, it’ll end up being around 2tbsp for 1/2 a small cabbage, and 4tbsp for a whole large cabbage.
- This website has an excellent calculating tool for working out how to get exact salinity/brine concentrations, so if you’re into being a bit more precise, take a look.
- It doesn’t matter if bits of the folded cabbage leaves you use to submerge the kraut poke above the brine.
- Fermentation will happen quicker in warmer weather, and slower in winter.
- Kraut will keep in the fridge for absolutely ages (like, over a year!) as long as it doesn’t dry out.
- If kraut dries up, mix brine (1tbsp pure salt in 500ml cool boiled water) and top it up
- You can use julienned/grated turnips instead of cabbage and follow the same basic procedure – which is delicious with cumin, and is known as Saueruben
Right! So, that’s pretty much all the advice we have for creating regular cabbage sauerkraut. Once you’ve got this down pat, have an explore online for some different recipes, as you can make all sorts of amazing combinations based on this recipe – beetroot, carrots, turnips, swede, broccoli, brussels sprouts… the list goes on.
Hopefully you feel encouraged to give it a go, as it really is simple once you give it a try, and the results are truly delicious.
Here are a whole lot of fermenting recipes for you to try