DIY sauerkraut: giving love to our friendly bacteria

July 30 | Guest post by Emillie

DIY sauerkrautI'm on a fermentation kick lately, and sauerkraut is my favorite. I love it because it's easy to make and it tastes great on everything from hotdogs to soup. But mostly I love it because homemade sauerkraut is full of probiotics, and I've had enough rounds of antibiotics to need some help in that department.

Cabbage naturally has lactic bacteria, which is why it's so fermentable!

To make a single large Mason jar worth of sauerkraut, here's what you do:

  1. Grate one medium head of cabbage.
  2. Toss cabbage in 1 tsp of non-iodized salt. (You could use up to 2 tsp of salt. You could also use less salt, but it's not as much fun.)
  3. Toss in some other flavours at this point. (I've given some ideas below).
  4. Pack it into a Mason jar and beat it down with a spoon to squeeze as much into the jar as possible. Leave about 1" of head room.
  5. Top with something to keep the cabbage weighted down. (In the photo, I've used small jam jars on the purple kraut, and the core of the cabbage for the green kraut).
  6. Loosely cover the jars to keep out pests. (You could use cloths, but I just float the metal jar lid on top.)
  7. Store the jar in at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for at least three days, but up to seven weeks.
  8. For the first three days the kraut will bubble and form liquid. You will want to place your jars on a bowl or plate, to catch any juice that might bubble out of the jar. After the first day the cabbage should be completely submerged by it's own liquid. If it isn't, then you will need to top with water. But try tamping the cabbage down first as it shouldn't be necessary to add extra liquid.
  9. Keep checking your kraut every few days to make sure that the cabbage is fully submerged. After 3 days start tasting it with a clean fork. The kraut is finished when you like the flavour. Just pop it into the fridge to stop the fermentation process.

make your own sauerkraut

Flavour additions (live a little and be creative with your ferments):

  • 1 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp mustard seed and 10 juniper berries (my favourite flavour).
  • Adding a cup of grated apple, fennel, cranberries or carrot will sweeten the kraut.
  • Onion or garlic are a savory addition.
  • For a spicy kraut add hot pepper slices or chili flakes.
  • 2 bay leaves and 5 black peppercorns.
  • 2 tsp of mixed Indian curry spices
  • 1 tsp dill seed

Feel free to experiment and have fun fermenting!

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  1. This german girl LUVS kraut, and I've always wanted to try making it, but the recipes I've found always sound too complicated. This sounds super easy! Am trying one tonight. Thanks!

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  2. Does red cabbage sauerkraut always come out kind of sweet, or do you have to doctor it to get it that way? I've wondered this ever since I first tried a turkey reuben. :3

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    • The colour of cabbage won't make it sweeter. Try adding grated carrot or apple to make a sweeter kraut. A turkey ruben might taste good with a kraut made with cranberries!

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  3. This is amazing! I'm stunned by just how easy it looks.

    Does kimchi work the same way? I need more kimchi in my life.

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    • Kimchi is pretty similar in the basic process- cabbage plus add-ins, ferment for a bit, then stick in the fridge. Maangchi.com has a few recipes, though I think she tends to make things a bit more complicated than they need to be for beginners. I make a much simpler, though slightly less traditional, version. I've been meaning to make a batch soon; maybe I'll take some pictures and submit it.

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    • I've made kimchi as well. I also recommend Maangchi.com for great info, especially if you're after really authentic kimchi. When I make it I use an easier mason jar recipe similar to this kraut. I will eventually add it to my blog. I've got a bit of a stock pile of recipes to add to the blog… but I'll try to get to it next week. 🙂

  4. Wow, this recipe is so easy. No pickling brine to make or crazy concoction of pickling spices to blend.

    We've been trying to introduce more probiotics into our diets due to my daughter's digestion & health issues. I'm not a DIYer type, long ingredient lists or multi-step directions shut my brain down, but this looks totally doable. Now if anyone has a toddler approved sauerkraut meal please pass it on.

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    • I don't want to plug myself too much… but I have an 18month old and a 6 year old, and they both loved this sauerkraut soup recipe: http://www.fermentingforfoodies.com/archives/78 I also recommend kefir, if you can find the grains (check for a local fermenting group). I make it really mild and they don't notice the difference between it and milk on their cereal. I also use it to culture all sorts of things.

      I'm totally understand about kids and gut health issues. It's really why I got into fermenting. Both my kids have digestive issues… Here's hoping a healthy dose of probiotics helps them to grow out of their allergies!

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    • I wish this post had come out a few weeks ago when our CSA kept giving us cabbage! Alas, we haven't had any lately…Might have to go seeking some to try this out!

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    • According to the experts iodize salt can inhibit the bacteria. Regular iodized table salt also contains sugar and starch, both of which you don't want to add to your ferment.

      I'm guessing most grocery stores carry: kosher salt, pickling salt, and/or pure sea salt. Any of those three would work! Even the pink Himalayan salt is fine… just not regular table salt. If you're not planning on doing a lot of pickling, then I'd recommend just getting kosher or sea salt, which can both be used in regular cooking.

      • Holy wow, i had no idea regular iodized table salt had sugar in it!! I use iodized sea salt for my table shaker, it's just salt.

        Thinking I'll give this recipe a try. I'm so so on kraut, but caraway seeds sound amaaaazing.

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