Sauerkraut is an absolute classic of fermented food. Tangy and crunchy, it’s an essential part of a back yard barbecue, and in some regions, a New Year’s staple that ensures good luck. It’s also super simple to make! You can get far more technical than this recipe, but if you want to stick your toe in the wild waters of fermentation, this will get you there.
Basic Sauerkraut Recipe
- 1 medium-sized cabbage (green or red)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (non-iodized)
- Optional: Caraway seeds, juniper berries, sliced onions, garlic, fruit chunks, or whatever you like for flavor (as desired)
- Prepare the cabbage: Remove any outer leaves of the cabbage that appear damaged or wilted. Slice the cabbage into thin shreds or use a mandoline or food processor for quicker and more consistent results. Place the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl.
- Add salt and massage: Sprinkle the salt over the shredded cabbage. Massage and knead the cabbage with clean hands or a wooden spoon for about 5-10 minutes. This process helps release the cabbage’s natural juices and promotes fermentation.
- Optional: Add flavorings: If desired, add caraway seeds, juniper berries, or other spices to enhance the flavor of your sauerkraut. Sliced apples and even cranberries are common additions in parts of Europe. Mix your flavorings of choice in with the cabbage.
- Pack into a jar: Transfer the cabbage mixture to a clean glass jar. Pack it tightly, pressing down firmly with your hands or a wooden spoon. The cabbage should be submerged in its own liquid. If the liquid doesn’t cover the cabbage, you can add a little filtered water to ensure it’s fully submerged.
- Weigh it down: Place a fermentation weight or a clean, food-grade object on top of the cabbage to keep it submerged in the liquid. This helps prevent exposure to air and promotes proper fermentation. Ensure the jar is not filled to the top, as the cabbage will expand during fermentation.
- Fermentation: Cover the jar loosely with a lid so that gasses can escape, while keeping out dust and insects. Place the jar in a cool and dark spot, away from direct sunlight. The ideal temperature range for fermentation is around 65-75°F (18-24°C).
- Fermentation time: Let the sauerkraut ferment for at least two weeks. The exact fermentation time depends on personal preference and the desired level of sourness. Taste the sauerkraut periodically to determine your preferred level of tanginess.
- Storage: Once the sauerkraut reaches your desired taste, transfer it to a clean, airtight jar and store it in the refrigerator. Properly fermented sauerkraut can last many months when refrigerated.
Remember, during the fermentation process, it’s normal to see bubbles, foam, or smell a slight odor. However, if you notice any mold, foul smells, or other signs of spoilage, it’s best to discard and start again.
Enjoy your homemade sauerkraut as a side dish, topping for sandwiches, brats, or salads, or as an ingredient in various recipes.