Starting Simple with Sauerkraut
Saurerkraut was my second venture into cultured foods. There are tons of varieties at local stores including Trader Joe’s. The benefit of doing it yourself is that you control what goes into your kraut and you tailor it to your tastes.
Simplicity is what I strive for. I use the following:
*Plastic mason jar tops
*Kosher salt, Himalayan sea salt, or mixture of both
*Cabbage (green, red-highly nutritious and full of phytonutrients, and savoy cabbage all work)
*Glass weights made for mason jars, cut a safe plastic lid down to fit in jar and hold down kraut, some people use a ziplock bag filled with brine to hold down the kraut.
Spice: You can add an assortment of spices or seeds to create a taste you love. Traditional sauerkraut calls for caraway seeds. I also love cumin seeds! You can always add heat to your kraut with red pepper flakes or dried chilies.
Cabbage: I always look for local cabbage at farmers market where I can ask if it was sprayed with pesticides or I buy organic. You will have better luck using organic cabbage and it is better for you due to the lack of pesticides. Pesticides can halt or alter the cabbage fermentation process.
I use a food processor to shred my cabbage but I make huge amounts for each batch. It is simple to cut up your head of cabbage with a knife. Thick or thin it is up to you. You can mix cabbage, salt, and spice in a bowl massaging or gently beating the cabbage to get the leaves to release their juices while sprinkling salt and spice in as you go. I use about two tablespoons of salt per cabbage head and half to a whole tablespoon of spice. Pack the sauerkraut into jars leaving an inch of head space. If there is not enough juice being released from the cabbage you can make a brine to cover the cabbage. First pack the cabbage tightly and then slowly add a brine to the jar. The brine I use is 1 tbs salt to 1 pint of water, the water should taste salty but palpable. Remember to leave an inch of head space at the top of the jar. I use a weight (glass ones are great or plastic to hold cabbage under the brine.Put a lid on the kraut. I put my Mason jars on a plate or in a large flat bowl because the kraut will at time release juices. I just check on it daily and wipe away any juice that may have leaked out.
The sauerkraut can take 4-10 days on average. Generally, if it is hot in your house then the kraut will take less time and if it is cold it will take longer. You will see the water become cloudy and that is a good sign it is getting close to done. The best way know if it is done is to taste test. With clean hands or a clean fork grab a bite and decide if it is sour enough for you. If you move the kraut into the fridge and wait a couple of days I have found it to become more consistent and crisp.
Lack of salt can cause the sauerkraut to be mushy or allow mold to grow before it gets a change to ferment. My attitude is if there is any mold ( dry fuzzy stuff) growing on the top of my jar I dump it. There is a natural residue from the process that gathers at the bottom of the jar. That is normal and safe. If your kraut is too soft you can still consume it or you can blend it and use it in salad dressings or soups to add flavor.
As you experiment more you might add shredded carrots, onion, green onion, turmeric, ginger, seaweed….