Sauerkraut is one of the most delicious and easiest fermented foods to make at home. Most folks are familiar with the traditional green cabbage Sauerkraut piled onto hot dogs in the summer but Sauerkraut can be flavored with unique spices or made with different vegetables too.
We recommend starting your flavoring experiments with spices or by mixing another type of vegetable with your cabbage. Check out Our Top Ten Favorite Kraut Additions for a list of ideas or use the ratio below and your own creativity.
A general rule of thumb is to keep your recipe ratio at 75% cabbage, and 25% other vegetables, like onions, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, or anything else!
When adding spices as additional flavoring, massage the cabbage and salt and create your brine before you adding spices to the mix. If you aren't sure about how much spice to add, taste as you go. Flavors tend to intensify during the fermentation process so don't be too heavy handed when trying a recipe for the first time.
Choose a medium sized (3 lb.) head of red cabbage and peel off the outer leaves.
Cut the cabbage in half, and then cut two little V’s, just a few inches deep, on either side of the core in order to remove it - kind of like you’d do with an apple or tomato.
Chop the cabbage into small pieces ore shave it on a mandoline or cabbage shredder.
Use a Microplane or cheese grater to grate your apples finely. Keep the apple and cabbage separate.
Transfer the shredded cabbage to a large stainless steel bowl with plenty of space for you to get your hands in and mix it around. Leave your grated apple to the side for now.
For 3 pounds of cabbage you will need 1 tablespoon of salt. If you’re doing this by weight, in larger quantities, you can use anywhere from .08% salt to 2% salt. We like 1.5% salt by weight. You’ll want to use a really nice, coarse, quality Sea Salt, pickling salt or a local salt. The most important thing is that it is a pure salt. You want 95% sodium chloride - it’s very important. Pickling salt will work just fine.
Massage the salt into the cabbage to draw the water out. A great shortcut to doing this is to massage the cabbage for a few minutes, walk away for 30 minutes, have lunch, come back and voila - most of this work will be done for you. What you are looking for is for all the water to be drawn out of the cabbage by the salt and to start seeing a salt-water brine starting to form at the bottom of the bowl.
You will need enough brine to cover your sauerkraut in the vessel you will be using to ferment it.
Once you’ve got your cabbage massaged, gently mix in your grated apple until it is combined evenly.
Now its ready to go into a container.
So we’ve got our cabbage salted and massaged and our apple is incorporated - it’s salty, juicy and ready to go into a container.
In the case we are using a half gallon Ball jar with a Kraut Source fermentation kit. A crock, a sealed canning jar or another type of fermentation kit will also work great. Just make sure your fermentation vessel can breathe but be sealed enough to keep out any unwanted bacteria and yeasts. You will also need to make sure your container is deep enough that your Sauerkraut can be pushed below the brine level for fermentation.
Put your jar directly over the bowl, and begin packing your kraut into the jar. Don't forget to pack all that nice brine at the bottom of the bowl.
Once you’ve packed the jar full of kraut, push the kraut down into the jar below the brine. You want to keep the kraut submerged at all times.
The Kraut Source kit has a handy spring loaded top that pushes the vegetables in your jar down for you and locks in place. Of course you can use crock weights that can serve this purpose as well for a crock or a jar.
Now you’re ready to find a good location to let your kraut ferment.
Tip: Place your jar inside of a bowl while it’s fermenting just in case there is any overflow or spillage.
Ideal fermentation temp is 64°F to 67°F. What’s really most important though is that you put it somewhere where the temperature is not wildly inconsistent. You don’t want it to be 40°F at night time and 70°F during the day. A great place to keep my fermenting kraut, in wintertime especially, is right on top of the fridge.
The longer you ferment the more sour and strong the flavor. When your sauerkraut reaches the desired flavor, screw on a lid and refrigerate. Eat within 1 month. If it lasts that long!
If you want to learn more about the art and science of fermentation, there are a lot of good resources out there. Head over to the pickling & fermentation section of our Homestead Library.