The word Sauerkraut is made up of two words: sauer and kraut. Sauer stands for sour and Kraut stands for cabbage. Thus, sauerkraut is sour cabbage.
But do not let the name fool you even a bit. Although the word is German, the dish is originally from China.
Chinese workers discovered that cabbage stored in porcelain jars acquired a tasty, tangy flavor which was a great accompaniment to meals.
Sauerkraut is made using lactic acid fermentation which imparts not just a mouth watering taste but also many healthy benefits. So today I will be giving you a detailed, step by step recipe on how to make Sauerkraut.
Before we move on to the steps to make delicious sauerkraut, let’s take a look at some of the many benefits:
Benefits of Sauerkraut
- Sauerkraut is low in calories and hence an ideal food or side dish for weight watchers.
- It is loaded with digestive enzymes. Sauerkraut is a must-have food for people with constipation, and chronic stomach issues.
- The Lactic acid fermentation helps impart probiotic bacteria in the pickle making it extremely beneficial for the immune system. The good bacteria fight off bad bacteria and yeast, thereby preventing urinary tract infections, sinusitis, stomach infections, skin problems, and even allergies.
- Vitamin C in sauerkraut also can help prevent seasonal colds and coughs and ward off premature aging.
How to make Sauerkraut
You will need
You can use a knife, a shredder or a grater for this job. Many people also use mandolin or scissors and even food processors. You can use any of these depending on how you would like the shredded cabbage pieces to look.
Mainly you will use the scale to measure cabbage, apples and spices. Scale is a necessary tool if you plan on making large batches of sauerkraut. You don’t want to end up throwing away a large batch because you didn’t measure the ingredients properly.
I use measuring spoons. These will be needed for measuring salt, spices and similar. I recommend using wooden spoons when preparing fermented foods. Metal or stainless steel spoons can kill the good bacteria so it’s best to avoid using them.
It is best to go for ceramic, stainless steel, or glass mixing bowl. Ensure the bowl is large enough to accommodate all of the shredded cabbage.
I like to use ceramic or glass jars. Make sure the jar has a wide mouth. Plastic buckets also work.
Pick a jar that is big enough to fit your sauerkraut batch (of course you can use a few jars).
Avoid containers that could leak or ones with cracks. Also avoid stainless steel or metallic containers as they could corrode due to the acids that form during fermentation.
I recommend Masontops fermentation kit due to quality, convenience, and price. It has the basics you need to ferment sauerkraut.
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Mason jars also work well. They act as air tight containers and help in preservation of pickles.
Leftover rubber bands
Keep the rubber bands. You will need them to secure the lids of the fermenting jars in order to weigh them down.
I collect rubber bands in all shapes and sizes. Stack them up in a ball and keep them on hand.
These are optional but good to have.
Preparing the veggies
There are many options for you when it comes to prepping your vegetables to make the sauerkraut.
You can grate your cabbage/veggies using a grater, mandolin or slicer. Grating guarantees the right length of cabbage pieces so that the salt can reach all parts proportionately.
SlicingSlice your veggies using a slicer if you do not want to shred them. Use a knife, vegetable slicer, or mandolin for this job. The firmer the cabbage/veggies, the thinner you should slice them. Slice the softer veggies into thicker pieces.
You can chop the veggies in pieces. Make them into cubes or squares as required. Roughly chopped veggies take slightly longer to cure than thinly chopped ones.
Leaving the veggies intact
Some people also pickle the vegetables intact. This is mainly the case for cucumbers, sprouts, beets, radishes and olives.
If your sauerkraut contains cabbage then it is best to submerge the whole thing in brine and hence shredding, slicing or chopping works best.
Precautions to take
Fermentation requires you to take several precautions. Sanitation and cleanliness are of utmost importance here and are essential to avoid spoiling your ferment.
- Wash your hands thoroughly. Use disposable or reusable washable gloves if needed.
- Sanitize all surfaces including the cutting or chopping boards, all instruments including slicers, food processors, and shredders.
- Try using organic products as far as possible. This will ensure toxin free ferments.
- Wash your veggies thoroughly before fermenting.
- Ensure that you give the veggies adequate time to ferment before you move it to cold storage. If veggies are not fermented storing them in the cold temperature will abort the fermentation.
- If any mold develops on the ferment, you must scrape it away.
A simple recipe to make traditional, homemade sauerkraut using only cabbage and salt.
- 1 medium size cabbage head
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Sterilize the jar with boiling water or wash well with warm soapy water. As you will be using your hands to massage the salt into the cabbage, ensure you wash your hands in warm soapy water.
- Remove outer leaves of the cabbage and place them on side. Then cut the cabbage into quarters and trim out the core. Shred cabbage into very thin ribbons and leave the core on side.
- Transfer the cabbage into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over the top. Start massaging and squeezing cabbage with your hands until it’s soft and juicy. This will take 2-10 minutes.
- Pack the cabbage and juice into a glass jar. Ensure the cabbage is submerged below the brine of cabbage juice. Apply added pressure to the cabbage while packing to ensure that there are no trapped air pockets in the jar.
- Leave at least 2 inch of space between lip of jar and brine. Place one or two larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the shredded cabbage. Then place a weighting stone on the top of the leaves to keep the cabbage weigh down. If you do not have weighting stone you can use cabbage core instead.
- Cover the mouth of the glass jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band. Placing the cloth will allow the air flow in and out of the jar and will prevent insects from getting into the jar.
- Ensure the stone is holding the shredded cabbage below the brine.
- Leave the cabbage to ferment away from direct sunlight. The fermentation process takes around 21 days. Keep checking it daily and start tasting it after 5 days. Ensure the cabbage is sitting below the brine, if not, keep pressing it down every time when you check it.
- When the fermentation is to your liking move the ferment into refrigerator, basement or root cellar storage. Enjoy this crunchy and delightfully sour ferment with your meat meals and sandwiches.
Equipment: Glass jar (Le-Parfair style jar with a rubber seal or similar), chopping board, cabbage shredder or chef’s knife, mixing bowl, weighting stone, cloth for covering the jar (if glass jar does not have a rubber seal) and a rubber band for securing the cloth (if glass jar does not have a rubber seal)
- Cuisine: European
- Serving Size: 100 grams
- Calories: 19
- Sugar: 1.8 grams
- Sodium: 661 mg
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 4.3 grams
- Fiber: 2.9 grams
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 grams
Variations in basic recipe of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut basic recipe above is flavorful and tasty but the following variations also work well and have received rave reviews.
- 4 cups shredded cabbage
- 2 peeled and shredded carrots
- 1 cup French style green beans
- 1 cup peeled and shredded turnips
Method: Follow the steps given in basic recipe above.
South American sauerkraut
- Basic sauerkraut recipe ingredients
- 2 thinly sliced medium onions
- ¾ tsp red chili powder or pepper flakes.
Method: Follow the steps given in basic recipe above.
- Basic recipe ingredients
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp of grated ginger
- 2 tbsp Tamari sauce
Method: Follow the steps given in basic recipe above.
Tips and ideas
I make many sauerkraut variations but I keep coming back to the basic recipe. I love adding carrots and onions to my kraut recipes.
They not only add a hint of sweetness and spiciness but also some cool sunset-like colors to the kraut.
Adding caraway and/or cumin seeds is optional but they add great flavor although some people do not like the taste of these seeds in their kraut.
You can use any large glass or porcelain jar as well. Do not tighten the jar too much; let the carbon dioxide bubbles escape from time to time.
Some experts also recommend adding a napkin, kitchen towel or some wax paper at the mouth of the jar before securing the lid.
Many regular fermentors have invested in crocks with spouts that allow the carbon dioxide bubbles to escape without adding oxygen. However, for the novice or occasional fermentor, regular jars or crocks will suffice.
Five to seven days is the ideal time for fermentation to be complete. You will get a nice green and crunchy sauerkraut at the end of this period.
Two to three weeks of fermentation will give you classic sauerkraut – a rich, crunchy and healthy kraut with tons of probiotic bacteria. You can always experiment a bit and see what you like.
Note that fermentation depends on a lot of factors including the ambient temperature, the strength of your brine and even how finely or coarsely you have chopped your vegetables.
The jars in my refrigerator that I made last year are delicious and they taste better as they age.
With just a bit of practice, I have learned that it is very easy to make basic sauerkraut.
Once you know all the steps in the process, you can make it again and again and even try the variation recipes.
It is very important that the brine completely covers the veggies. This will prevent exposure to air and activate the lactobacilli bacteria. These bacteria are what make the sauerkraut what it is and they thrive in an anaerobic environment. The proliferation of these bacteria is what gives sauerkraut its characteristic tang. It also makes the kraut acidic enough so that the harmful bacteria does not survive.
Make sure you store your kraut in the refrigerator or cellar. At higher or warmer temperatures, the pectin in the kraut activates resulting in a vinegary taste and loss of crunchy texture.
Comment below with your experience of making sauerkraut!