Monday, December 7, 2009

Home Fermented Sauerkraut

Even though I love diy projects, I was very nervous about making home fermented sauerkraut. I finally tried it and now there's no going back!  People have been fermenting vegetables for thousands of years, but our culture of cheap, fast convenience bombards us with the message that processed store-bought food is better and safer.  It convinces us we might get botulism if we do it ourselves. I'm glad I let go of that fear.

Fresh sauerkraut contains live bacteria (probiotics) and enzymes that are beneficial to digestive and immune health. An excellent source of vitamin C, sailors used to take sauerkraut on long voyages to prevent scurvy.  It's also a revelation in taste and texture. It retains a wonderful crispy, crunchy texture  and a tangy taste that is not vinegary.

Store bought sauerkraut is definitely faster and more convenient, but it is useless because it's dead. It usually contains a vinegar brine and has been pasteurized, killing all of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes- removing the digestive and immune benefits. It is also too soft, having lost all of its crispy crunch when processed.

Fortunately, it's simple to make your own fresh sauerkraut at home. It requires only three ingredients, although once you know how to make it, you can add other flavorings to it such as onion, garlic, shredded carrot, a tablespoon of caraway seeds, dill, or even hot pepper.

The first ingredient is cabbage. Use a firm, fresh cabbage with the core and any blemishes removed. Shred the cabbage using a knife or mandolin.

The second ingredient is salt. Use pure sea salt, kosher salt or canning/pickling salt. Table salt containing iodine can't be used- iodine interferes with the fermentation process.

The third ingredient is spring or purified water. It must be non-chlorinated. Tap water contains chlorine which will stop the fermentation process.

You will need a gallon jar, ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket, along with two 2-gallon ziploc bags.

Be prepared for some odor. By day 2 or 3 it will be bubbly and start to smell, which lets you know that fermentation is taking place. By the end of 7 days it will begin to smell better; more like sauerkraut. You may want to place it in the basement or a spare room while it's fermenting. Be sure to check it daily. If at any time there is not a covering of brine, add some (mix 2 tsp. non-iodized salt to 1 c. non-chlorinated water).

The temperature of the room where you ferment the cabbage should be between 60 and 75 degrees. If you like it extremely mild, you can eat it after 8 or 9 days, depending on the temperature. It takes 3-6 weeks to fully ferment- 3 weeks near 75 degrees, up to 6 weeks  if it's near 60 degrees. The way to tell if it's done is to taste it. When the flavor is to your liking it's done. Store it in the refrigerator.

How To Make Sauerkraut
1 cabbage, shredded
2 T. non-iodized salt- use pure sea salt, kosher salt, or canning/pickling salt
spring or filtered water (non-chlorinated)

In a large bowl mix cabbage and salt, let it sit for an hour to let juices form. Place cabbage and juice into clean jar or crock, press down firmly. If there's not enough juice to cover cabbage, add water until cabbage is fully submerged. Place one ziploc bag inside the other and pour about a quart of water into the inner bag. Set on top of cabbage and add enough water to inner bag to expand it, weight it down and prevent any air from reaching the cabbage. Seal both bags. Set aside to ferment, checking it daily.

Hope you are all having a happy Monday. After fighting a horrendous two day migraine last week and then trying to get some Christmas shopping done, it's good to be back.


Fayinagirl (means Free One) December 7, 2009 at 4:02 PM  

Great Minds Think Alike!! We are going to make sauerkraut and kimchi this week. Far out! So glad to know you've paved the road and were successful. =)

janet December 7, 2009 at 4:08 PM  

Fayinagirl, kimchi is one of the next things I want to make too!

Vegan Epicurean December 7, 2009 at 4:46 PM  


Sauerkraut was on my list of things to tackle too. So glad you went first. I can't wait to try it now, you made it sound so simple.

BTW, I had a two day migraine last week too. There must have been something "in the air".

talk to you later,

janet December 7, 2009 at 5:13 PM  

Alicia, the sauerkraut really was simple, I am so glad I got over my fear of it!

I think my migraine was brought on by the weather- whenever it drastically changes, especially when it's going to rain I get them.

Glad we are both feeling better!

Oraphan December 8, 2009 at 1:59 AM  

Oh! I love sauerkraut! I'm so glad I found this recipe, thanks for sharing, Janet!

That's strange, I had migraine last week too but 3 days in a row!

janet December 8, 2009 at 10:45 AM  

Oraphan, you're welcome. Three days in a row for a migraine is not fun. I'm glad you are feeling better!

Stacy December 8, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

I agree...there is no going back from home fermenting foods! Thanks for sharing!

The Ordinary Vegetarian December 9, 2009 at 12:38 AM  

Thanks for coming by for a visit! lovely place you have here :)

It has been YEARS since I've even had sauerkraut. How I used to love reuben sandwiches in my meat eating days. What sorts of things do you enjoy it on?

janet December 9, 2009 at 8:42 AM  

Ordinary Vegetarian, I never actually cared for reubens or hotdogs with sauerkraut, and so I don't miss them at all. I love sauerkraut all by itself, or else in pierogi.

iRaw December 11, 2009 at 7:10 PM  

Awesome! I'm going to try this.

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