Fermenting foods can be a bit intimidating. We have been saturated with the sanitize it, pasteurize it, bacteria-is-the-enemy mentality! But what we are finding out is that all this bacteria killing is making our immune system weaker and the bad bacteria stronger. One of the best ways we can support healthy gut bacteria is by consuming fermented food, a natural (and cheaper) probiotic!
Sauerkraut has to be the easiest fermentation out there. In fact it is unbelievably easy. Just check out the step-by-step instructions below. The process of lactic acid fermentation transforms salt and cabbage into sauerkraut!
Want to learn more? Join us at our upcoming Fermentation Workshop where you will make sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, sourdough bread, and keffir sour ‘cream’!
- 1 head of cabbage, cored and finely chopped. Can be green or red cabbage or a mix.
- Miscellaneous vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery (optional). About 1/2 cup.
- Sliced apple (optional)
- 1 tbsp or so of fine salt (sea salt is best) (DO NOT use Iodized Salt – aka: table salt)
- 1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds (optional)
- Put the sliced cabbage, other veggies, and apple into a bowl, add salt and seeds. The salt will stop ‘bad’ bacteria forming on the sauerkraut allowing enough time for the ‘good’ bacteria to form.
- Bang the kraut around with a potato masher, or meat tenderizer, or, my favourite method, squeeze it with your hands! The mixture will start to soften and get moist (the salt is drawing the moisture out of the veggies). Keep massaging until it is fairly soft – about 2 minutes.
- Pack the mixture into a clean jar or crock pot, using the end of a wooden spoon to really force it down. Pour any brine into the jar. The brine (the mixture of water and salt) should rise above the cabbage mixture.
- If it doesn’t top it off with just enough water to cover. A few small pieces may float, don’t worry about it.
- Use cabbage leaves to cover the kraut.
- Add a weight to the top, I usually just insert a smaller glass jar to press things down, but you can use a plate or some other item.
- Put the jar or crock in a warm, dry place and cover the top with a clean cloth to keep flies out. Make sure the jar can ‘breath’.
- Let it mellow for a week or so. Just be warned, it will be stinky. Check your kraut every day or so and taste after a few days. It will start to get tangy, and you can begin to gauge just how pungent you want it. The taste will get stronger as time increases. If you find it too salty, after the first couple of days have passed, you can drain out some of the water and add fresh, unsalted water.
- Once you decide it is at a tanginess you like, place it in the fridge. It will keep for months.
- Enjoy cold, room temperature, or infuse your stew or soup with tons of flavor! Every time you eat some, make sure you pack the rest of it in just like before: tightly packed, submerged. Though sauerkraut is usually ready to eat in a week or so, if it’s cool sauerkraut can ferment for months.
You may see some mold and get freaked out!! Don’t worry it is only surface mold. Just scrape it off and throw into the composter.
Can I get botulism or food poisoning? With fermenting food, you are actually cultivating good bacteria. Acidifying bacteria grow, creating an environment that is inhospitable to botulism and other food poisoning organisms. Fermented foods have been used for centuries to preserve food and there is no cases of people getting botulism from fermentation. Have no fear!
Need a little more help? Check out this video by fermentation master Sandor Katz.