Making Sauerkraut

Sour seems to be a theme in my life. Sourdough, sauerkraut (literally sour cabbage), kefir (soured milk). There is a reason for this. Soured products either preserve the food or make nutritionally available more of the goodness in the food. Or both. πŸ˜€ Sauerkraut is both.

Way back when or “in the olden days” Β as I tell Jasper, there was few methods of preserving food available. Fridges and freezers were yet to be invented and canning and bottling weren’t available either. So, how to preserve the Summer and Autumn bounty for other seasons when food was scarce? Yes, people ate far more seasonably but without some for of preservation you could end up with onions, any meat you had hunted and grains to eat or make into breads and little else. Don’t forget too, foods like potatoes were only introduced to the UK and Europe after Christopher Columbus had discovered the Americas. Many of the longer storing vegetables weren’t available to Europe yet. So, how to preserve the excess foods from harvest? well, with root vegetables like beets and such and with cabbage they can be pickled or soured. This makes their goodness nutritionally available and also enhances that goodness with the probiotics that are added in the souring process. Sauerkraut, a food we associate with German cuisine is made using 3 ingredients plus a little labour. And it’s not that much unless you make a big batch. πŸ™‚

So, here’s my “How to make Sauerkraut” instructions. πŸ™‚

Take 1 cabbage. You can use red or white cabbage, it makes no difference or so I’ve read. So far I’ve only used white but that’s what’s been available each time I’ve made it. I now have a purple cabbage though as I reckon a combo of both would be really pretty. And yes, aesthetics are a big part of food to me. πŸ˜‰

So, take your cabbage, peel off the outer leaves and get rid of any yucky bits. Then comes the “labour” part. You need to slice it thinly. I read somewhere that you slice it to the thickness of a dime but that means little to me having not held a dime since 1997. πŸ˜‰ But you get the idea. Pretty thin. If you have a mandolin slicer here then it’s going to be a much quicker job and far more uniform slices. I have however, failed to locate the box my mandolin slicer is packed in so I just sliced the old fashioned way.

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Once all your cabbage is sliced up, stick it in a bowl and find something to pound it with. I use the end of a wooden rolling pin. Now you need to bruise the cabbage. This helps to reduce the juices inside. It doesn’t need to be totally flattened but give it a good ol’ squishing. When you’ve finished you want it looking a bit limp and lame but not requiring life support.

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Pack it into sterilised jars and I mean pack it down. Put in a loose 1/2 jars worth then pummel it down, then repeat until the jar is about an inch from the top. It should be firmly packed.

Now you need your salty water. Please do NOT use iodised or even uniodised table salt. The iodine in it will kill the good bacteria that we’re harnessing for the souring and it’s also not good for you. Normal table salt is about as good for you as sugar so please do yourself a healthy favour and get good quality salt. I’ve seen sites recommending pickling salt but I’ve used Maldon salt and that worked well and I now use Himalayan rock salt so I’ll see how that goes. Β Anything but that bleached and processed rubbish sold cheaply as salt. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of filtered or chlorine free water. It needs to be chlorine free as the chlorine will also kill the good bacteria on the cabbage and we need them to do the work for us. Pour the water over the cabbage in the jars until it is submerged and pretty close to the top. Screw on the lid until it just catches. it should be pretty loose.

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Put your jars in a tray such as a cake tin or slice tray. It’s going to bubble up and spill over so you want something to catch that excess liquid. Then put the whole lot in your pantry or a cupboard for 2 to 3 weeks to ferment.

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The first time I made this I was really worried when I brought my tray out of my pantry. The tray was full of mold. 😦 I thought I’d stuffed something up but I hadn’t. The tray and its overflow had been exposed to the air and the bacteria that travel thereon but the jars were all full of clean beautifully fermented sauerkraut. πŸ˜€ If there is mold inside the jar then you need to discard the sauerkraut. If that happens then I’d hazard a guess that the jar wasn’t completely sterile at time of packing or something has got in when handling the jar. These things happen. If there is white stuff floating on top of the water it’s apparently harmless and can be scraped off then re-top the salt water in the jar. I’ve never seen this in mine although I think I lost a jar to mold last year from my second batch.

Topping up the salt water.

Topping up the salt water.

Keep an eye on the jars though and if the water level has dropped too far then top it up with salty water. Once your 2 to 3 weeks are over, clean your jars off, check that there’s nothing unwanted in or on them, tighten the lids and pop them in the fridge. They should store for several months. I think ours lasted 6 months all up but that’s because we ate it all. πŸ˜€

The overflow in the tin is about 5mm deep - the excess liquid that has bubbled out during fermentation.

The overflow in the tin is about 5mm deep – the excess liquid that has bubbled out during fermentation.

I followed the instructions I found here but left out all the seeds and spices as I didn’t have them first time I made it and the flavour works for our family without them. My mother-in-law was born in Germany and has informed me that caraway seeds are usually included less so for flavouring than for flatulence control. Yes, sauerkraut, if you haven’t heard, is prone to make one a little windy. πŸ˜‰ A small side effect of a food that contains so very much goodness.

Welcome to a new and wonderful way to boost your probiotics, vitamin C and variety in your meals. It’s a wonderful side serving to go with meats, cheeses, salads and other such meals. And my husband, my kids and I all love it! πŸ˜€

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20 thoughts on “Making Sauerkraut

  1. LyndaD says:

    That doesnt sound so hard, now does it. So many of these things kind of have the “boogeyman” about them because you imagine its a difficult process. Its one ill store away for the future when the cabbages have all matured.

  2. Sue says:

    Great post and timely as I am quite confidently making kimchi these days, it must be a spicy sauerkraut with ginger, chilli and spring onions added. It also makes a fabulous Kimchi Soup which will blow the cobwebs away lol
    x

  3. foodnstuff says:

    I put caraway seeds in mine because I love the flavour. Didn’t know they had anti-burp qualities.

  4. leroywatson4 says:

    I love the sound of sauerkraut and the wind is an added extra! Will be making this soon, I’ve a massive cabbage in the fridge and I know how to use it! Great to find you here. Peace, lee

    • Lol, a bit of tooting after dinner never hurt (permanently) anyone. πŸ˜‰ Let me know how your sauerkraut goes and what you think. It’s very different to the shop bought vinegar and heat pickled stuff.
      And thanks for coming to visit Lee. πŸ™‚

  5. Linne says:

    This was a great post! My Mum used to make sauerkraut, but she made it in a crock and we kept it in the basement (very cool); if you are interested (it’s less work!),

    check out this: http://swampcreekfarm.blogspot.ca/2008/09/how-to-make-sauerkraut-in-crock.html

    and this:

    I haven’t tried this yet, but will keep your method in my binder for future reference. ~ Linne

    Oh, I want to add that you may not know why iodine was originally added to salt; many people had thyroid problems (my Aunty is one of them; grew to less than 5 feet) because they lived where the soil was deficient in iodine and for the most part, ate only what they grew, and that was pretty limited, especially during the ‘dirty 30s’ in Saskatchewan. So iodine was added to salt to ensure that everyone got enough. It’s not always necessary on an individual basis these days, as people have more variety in their diets and most people eat seafoods of one sort or another. I don’t know what sort of problems result from getting too much iodine in one’s diet, but will look it up. (enquiring minds always want to know . . . πŸ˜‰ ) ~ L.

    • Yes, I knew iodine was added to diets to prevent deficiencies. Here in Australia there is usually rude talk about two-headed Tasmanian’s with reference to incest usually tacked on but I have heard that the two-headed part originally came from those with severe iodine deficiencies who had very large goitres on their necks. I think it’s an enlarged thyroid or some such but know little. It’s less the iodine that I object to than the seriously over-processed, bleached and mineral deficient gunk with anti-caking agents and the like added that passes itself off as salt.

    • And yes, making it in a crock is supposed to be good but it was something I wanted to make sure I was properly into before investing in a crock. I think it’s well worth it now. πŸ™‚

  6. narf77 says:

    The crock makes the process take a fair bit longer but the nutritional results are apparently better…2 headed Tasmanians (tee-hee)…lucky I was born in W.A. and eat a lot of sea vegetables eh! ;). It does explain a fair bit though ;). I haven’t made sauerkraut before. Neither red or white has ever darkened my doorstep but with German heritage the recipe calls to me and now that you have made it look easy, this little black duck is going to give it the old college try. I made kimchi that was delicious. I ate my daughters kimchi (they used napa cabbage but I used savoy) and it was delicious (I chose to ignore the tiny amount of dried shrimp that they used πŸ˜‰ )…I think it’s time to progress to sauerkraut as winter is coming and I feel the need of some decent crunchy probiotic goodness to spread the love and I can’t have Steve’s nose “NOT” twitching suspiciously over something that is fermenting, bubbling or just plain stinking (read kimchi with added sea vegetables πŸ˜‰ ) in or around my kitchen now can I? πŸ˜‰ Great recipe rabid and you just elevated yourself in my HUGE recipe folder to “Homemade sauerkraut Rabid Style”…people ONLY get their names added to recipes when I plan on using the recipe πŸ™‚

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