The sauerkraut I always knew was the sauerkraut that came out of the can from the grocery store. The way it smelled, the way it looked, the way it cooked. I just never understood what everyone loved about it. I also didn't understand what it was. What the heck was it? I mean, I knew it was cabbage but what the heck made it so limp and awful?
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. You massage cabbage with salt so that the cabbage leaches out it's own water. Then you let the cabbage sit in the brine and work it's magic. When I started preserving my own food, I kept turning to the sauerkraut recipes. They looked so easy...but, I hated sauerkraut so I wasn't sure I wanted to try it.
Finally, I decided to jump in feet first and I'm glad I did. Turns out I don't really hate sauerkraut at all. In fact, I love it! The stuff I hated was the grocery store canned garbage. Homemade sauerkraut is completely different. It's tangy and crispy with layers of sweet and salty. It's wonderful!
Now I can say that I *used* to hate sauerkraut. Now I can say I love it! I really do. I'm a sauerkraut eating machine!
There are several steps in making sauerkraut and it may seem like a lot of work but it really isn't. Time does all the work for you.
Part 1 - The Fun Part: Thinly slice the cabbage and place in a large bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of kosher salt and a tablespoon (or so) of caraway seed. Now start massaging the salt into the cabbage. You want to massage the cabbage until it starts to leach out it's own liquid. You want to massage it for about 10 minutes, sometimes more. The easiest thing to do is to get one of your kids, or your neighbors kids to do this, what kid doesn't like playing with food?
Once the cabbage is finished being massaged, place it in a food grade bucket or in a mason jar. Fill a plastic bag with salt water and place it on top of the cabbage. let this sit on your counter for 24 hours. After 24 hours, check the level of the brine. The cabbage should have created enough of it's own brine to be completely submerged. If not, make a brine solution with water and kosher salt and pour it over the cabbage. Replace the baggy and let the cabbage sit on your counter.
Always place on a plate. Trust me on this. If your cabbage is really fresh,
you'll wake up with brine all over your counter if you don't...
Part 2 - Fermenting Time: It will take the sauerkraut at least 2 weeks to completely ferment. I usually let mine ferment for about a month before I can it. At first it will smell very strong and you will wonder what I talked you into. This is a good thing, this is the bacteria doing it's fermenting job. They are busy working away at turning cabbage into sauerkraut. Once the ferment starts to settle down, that's when it will start to smell sweet. At this point it is finished and you can taste the sauerkraut to see if it's at the flavor that you want.
Part 3 - Storage: At the point that the sauerkraut is finished, you can put it in the fridge and eat it within a couple months or you can it. I prefer to can it because it's more shelf stable to can and I don't want to take up any more room in my fridge than I have to.
The jar with the ring still on never sealed so that is going in my fridge!
Yield: 4 pints
Adapted from Well-Preserved and Canning for a New Generation
1.5 pounds cabbage (about 1 head)
3 Tablespoons kosher salt (plus more as needed)
1 teaspoon Caraway Seed
- Core and finely slice the cabbage. Combine cabbage and 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt in a deep non-reactive bowl. Start massaging the cabbage until it starts to leach out it's juices.
- Combine 1 quart water with remaining 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt in a 1 quart resealable plastic bag. Place the plastic bag over the cabbage to weight the cabbage down below the brine.
- Let the cabbage sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours, check the level of the brine. If the cabbage is not submerged in brine, make a brine mixture using 1 quart of water and 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Pour this over the cabbage until it covers the cabbage. Replace plastic bag filled with brine.
- Let the cabbage rest for a minimum of 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, check that the fermentation is over and that the sauerkraut is at the flavor you desire.
- Once the sauerkraut is at the flavor you desire, prepare BWB and 4 pint jars
- Boil the sauerkraut for about 10 minutes.
- Pack into scalded jars and cover with brine leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Process for 10 minutes.