A few months ago I went to the Maker Faire, a big festival where many creatives come together to show off stuff they make. I was hoping it would be a ton of artsy crafty maker booths, which there were some, but most of it was more mechanical mind oriented. They did however have a nice handful of food making companies, and my favorite thing I did was learn how to make sauerkraut from Happy Girl Kitchen Co. I had no idea it was THIS easy! It was really fun making it with others-and the instructor had such a great farm-boy energy.
I have never even really been in to sauerkraut before, I never had it growing up, and I still don’t even really know how to use it in cooking besides adding onto a sandwich or along side a dish. BUT-I do know it’s one of those healthy fermented foods that you can never really get enough of, so of course my interest is peaked.
So this week, I did all the steps to make my first batch on my own:
Ingredients (makes four 16oz jars):
- 1 large head of cabbage (green or purple, or both and mix it to make bright pink kraut!)
- 1.5 T Non-iodized salt (they say this is important, iodine will disrupt the fermentation process)
- Recycled glass jars with lids that can seal (I used 4 old Cultured sauerkraut containers)
- Any extra veggies or spices that you want to add to the kraut (beets, turnips, onion, garlic, bell pepper, cauliflower, leek, carrot, daikon, fennel, burdock, brussel sprouts, ginger, etc). You can also add fruit like apples, raisins.
- Large knife for cutting, and large mixing bowl
- Chop cabbage and other veggies finely into the big mixing bowl (the more finely you cut it, the more surface area the cabbage will have to soak in the salt and ferment, so it could ferment more quickly or more slowly depending on how finely you chop)
2. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage veggie mix.
3. Take your hands and start to mix and massage the mix, making a squeezing motion with each hand like you’re squeezing a stress ball, distributing the sprinkled salt evenly around the cabbage. Do this for several minutes until you start to notice the crunchy dry cabbage breaking down a bit from the salt and pressure of your hands, and transforming into softer and wet cabbage with a shimmer, getting more and more translucent. This means the salt is successfully pulling water out of the veggie mix and breaking down the fiber.
4. Once there is a healthy amount of brine (water salt mixture) at the bottom of the bowl (maybe at least a cup worth). Then you can start packing the kraut into the jars, but leave a half inch space from the top so the kraut can expand if needed. Pack tightly, and try to evenly distribute the brine at the bottom, ideally the brine will reach near the top of the jar, so that all the kraut will ferment evenly.
5. Put the lids on, but not air tight, because the pressure from fermentation will build and need to be released. You may also use a rag and rubber band to secure the top. Bottom line-this living kraut needs to breathe!
6. Wait a few hours, open up jar lids and push down the kraut with your hands to get the kraut submerged in the brine. If there’s not enough brine to do this after a few hours, make a salt solution (1 T salt to 1 c water) and fill jars the rest of the way up to the top (still leaving a half inch of space from the top to breathe).
7. After that, secure the lids gently, leaving some air space, label your jars with the date, and let fermentation happen!
8. Check back every few days if you want to make sure there is no mold or submersion issues with the kraut. Kraut should take 2-4 weeks at 70-75 degrees to fully ferment, and 5-6 weeks at 60 degrees(San Francisco).
9. Taste test it to see if it needs more time or not. If you think it’s ready, secure the lids tight and stick them in the fridge if you want fermentation to slow down-otherwise it will continue to ferment especially in warm climates.