It’s easy to learn the centuries-old practice of fermenting vegetables. Kraut is the first ferment I’d recommend to a DIY-er because it’s simple: cabbage, salt, garlic (optional), jar.
As one man said after a recent class I taught — our consciousness as a society is rising; we don’t just look at calories and sugar content on the nutrition labels — we also read the ingredients list. We know that, when it comes to what’s in our food, we should be able to pronounce it! So when it comes to sauerkraut, making it at home is a no-brainer. Not only do you save money (we’re talking about $7 per pint at the store, when it costs about 50 cents to make a pint at home!), but you also know what’s in it.
Money-savings aside, we’re (re)learning that fermented foods are a great source of probiotics — which help to heal our gut. You can read more about gut health on my functional medicine website, www.fma.life. If you need me to help personally with healing your gut, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lacto-fermentation process essentially turns a fruit or vegetable’s sugars into lactic acid: a natural preservative with health benefits similar to that of a good yogurt — but without the dairy!
How To Make Homemade Sauerkraut
1 medium head green cabbage (about 3 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped (optional, for flavor and to prevent molding)
2-quart wide-mouth canning jar (or two-quart mason jars)
Canning funnel (optional)
- Sanitize everything: Dishes, hands, countertops. You want to start with a clean surface, because bad bacteria will multiply just like the good ones will!
- Slice the cabbage: Peel off the outer leaves of cabbage, and cut off the stem (discard). Trim out the core (save it!). Slice the cabbage head into thin ribbons. You can also use a mandolin to shave into thin slices, but be sure to wear a protective glove as those are VERY sharp!
- Combine the cabbage and salt: Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first it might not seem like enough salt, but gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. Mix in garlic.
- Pack the cabbage into the jar: If you have a canning funnel, this will make it easier. Tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your fingers. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar. Cut the cabbage core into cubes and use to press down the contents of the jar so that they’re completely submerged.
- Cover the jar: Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a lid. Open daily (or “burp”) to release gas.
- For the next 3 days, make sure cabbage is submerged: If at any point the liquid is not above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.
- Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: Store in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. Check it daily. Small batches of kraut fill ferment faster. After three days, begin taste-testing. When you love the taste, put the jar in the fridge to slow the fermentation.
- Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product, so as long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be!
~ Farmer Ashley