How to make Homemade Sauerkraut
It’s great to see so many people becoming interested in fermenting foods at home. I enjoy making all types of ferments, but sauerkraut is my favourite and where I started. In addition to the nutritional benefits of sauerkraut, I love being able to preserve food naturally for a long time, without using any nasty preservatives.
How is sauerkraut made?
Sauerkraut is often referred to as the ‘gateway ferment’, which essentially means the beginning of your fermentation journey. The fermentation process can be carried out without the use of a starter culture (unlike kombucha and kefir) and is often referred to as spontaneous fermentation. This relies on the lactic acid bacteria naturally occurring on vegetables and the right environment being created so the microbes can get to work. All you need to make a basic sauerkraut, is cabbage, salt and a clip top jar.
What is lacto-fermentation?
Fermentation is the metabolic process of microorganisms that is harnessed to create desirable changes in food and beverages. It’s important to know that there are different types of fermentation. In both kimchi and sauerkraut, fermentation is allowed to happen under specific conditions without the use of a starter culture.
What equipment do I need to make sauerkraut?
Making sauerkraut in small batches at home won’t break the bank. A clip-top jar and a bamboo stick will be enough to get you going - no expensive equipment required.
How long should I ferment sauerkraut?
For best results, ferment your sauerkraut for 3-4 weeks.
How much salt do I use to ferment my sauerkraut?
Salt plays an important role in the Lacto-fermentation of vegetables. We are going to use a 2% salt brine in this recipe. If you add too little salt, your cabbage won’t ferment but will instead start to rot. If you add too much salt, this will also inhibit the fermentation process. This is why it’s extremely important to get that perfect balance.
When salt is added to shredded cabbage, certain microbes thrive and produce lactic acid (it kick starts our ferment). These wild, natural microbes are what transform your fresh vegetables into nourishing, fermented sauerkrauts.
Can sauerkraut go bad?
Yes, if the right conditions are not set up for the microbes to work away, it can go bad. We are looking to make sure the salt content and room temperature are correct as well as ensuring our cabbage is submerged under the liquid. You may see some white scum appearing on the top of your ferment, this is known as kahm yeast which is harmless and can be easily scraped off.
How long will my sauerkraut last once it’s finished fermenting?
Your sauerkraut can last at least a couple of months, in the fridge (if not longer). Don’t introduce any new bacteria to the jar (i.e. no double dipping) and if it is kept under the brine it can last a lengthy amount of time.
What health benefits does sauerkraut have?
The health benefits of fermented foods has taken the social media world by storm, but what is the truth? Is it the new craze or is there some meaning behind it? So, what are the health benefits of eating unpasteurised sauerkraut? ‘Fermented foods have long been thought to provide health benefits to the consumer. They contain vitamins and minerals (such as Vitamin C and K). Although the beneficial effects of sauerkraut have been less extensively studied, there is convincing evidence that sauerkraut possesses a wide range of health benefits that can be attributed to its high levels of phytochemicals.
HOMEMADE SAUERKRAUT RECIPE
SPICED CARROT & GINGER SAUERKRAUT
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Ferment time: 3-4 weeks
1 medium-large sized cabbage
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp grated fresh root ginger
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp mustard seeds
Good quality salt such as Pink Himalayan salt or another unrefined sea salt
1 litre glass jar with clip top lid
Wooden bamboo stick (optional)
- PREPARE CABBAGE: Remove outer 2 leaves. Cut cabbage into quarters and then remove the core. Shred thinly.
- WEIGH CABBAGE & SALT: Once shredded weigh the cabbage. We want to make a 2% salt water brine for our ferment. This means we will work out 2% of the cabbage weight to work out how much salt we need. Here our cabbage is 800g, so we will need 16g of salt.
- COMBINE SALT & CABBAGE: Sprinkle your salt over your shredded cabbage and then massage it in. It should sound similar to someone walking in the snow with big boots on (that satisfying crunch like noise). Massage for around 5 minutes. Set aside while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
- PEEL & GRATE: Chop the garlic and ginger and add to salted cabbage and again massage all the ingredients together. Add cumin and mustard seeds and massage them together. By this stage, you should see the liquid coming out of the vegetables and creating a brine.
- PACK JAR: Begin to pack your jar with your sauerkraut, pressing down as you go so there are no air pockets. We want to create an anaerobic environment for the microbes to thrive.
- Once all your cabbage is packed down, put one of the outer leaves over the surface of your ferment. This will help to hold it under the liquid and also act as a barrier. I then like to use a bamboo stick (broken in half) to hold down the leaf (X). This will hold/weigh it all down together.
- Pour the brine over the top and ensure everything is under the brine. Close the lid and place it on a plate in case liquid leaks out of your jar.
- You want to ferment your sauerkraut for at least 3 weeks. As your sauerkraut is fermenting, keep it out of direct sunlight and have the room temperature around 13C – 22C. Burp your jar regularly, to let gas escape.
- After 3 weeks, remove the bamboo stick and cabbage leaf. You can transfer to another clean jar at this point if you wish, but it’s not necessary. Keep it stored in the fridge and it should last for a couple of months.
SAUERKRAUT RECIPE TIPS:
Cabbage information regarding fermentation:
You can use any type of cabbage to make sauerkraut. Red, white, savoy, napa all make good sauerkraut. When prepping your cabbage for sauerkraut, be sure to remove the core and shred it thinly.
Submerging your sauerkraut under the brine:
This is one of the most important steps when making sauerkraut. Your cabbage must be submerged under the brine. This is to ensure there is an anaerobic environment (no oxygen is present) which will allow the microbes to get to work.
Signs it’s fermenting:
If you are using a clip-top mason jar, be sure to burp your ferment each day. Gas will build up in the jar so you’re going to want to release it through burping. You may notice bubbles appearing, an odour and your sauerkraut will become more translucent as time goes on. These are all signs it is fermenting.
What to eat sauerkraut with? Sauerkraut is to be eaten as a meal accompaniment, the same as you would coleslaw. You only need a forkful. For lots of healthy meal ideas to eat your sauerkraut with, check out our recipe blog and give us a follow on social media for an extra helping of inspiration.
Can I heat my sauerkraut?
You can, but it will kill off any living friendly bacteria. Lactobacillus starts to die off at around 40C.
PASTEURISED vs UNPASTEURISED
You will find two kinds of sauerkrauts available to by in the UK: pasteurised and unpasteurised. We are going to make unpasteurised sauerkraut, which contains all of the friendly bacteria. My Superkraut range is unpasteurised and very much alive.
Sandor Katz, ‘The Art Of Fermentation’
Kirsten& Christopher Shockey, ‘Fermented Vegetables’
J. Frias, C. Martinez-Villaluenga, E. Penas, ‘Fermented Foods in Health & Disease Prevention’