As I said before, if you have never tasted it, you should buy a jar at an Eastern European shop and get the idea of what to expect (see: How To Buy Sauerkraut). If you know the taste, though, and decided you like it, I recommend making it at home. As oppose to pasteurised, jarred cabbage, raw, homemade Sauerkraut contains all the beneficial bacteria.
The funny thing about making sauerkraut is that one cabbage head makes only one medium (1 litre) or two small jars of the final product. I wondered if I should hire a van to get enough cabbage for the decent supply of Sauerkraut. Eventually, I got into the habit of buying a couple of cabbages every time I have spare space in my shopping basket and there is nice white cabbage in a shop. (It must be WHITE, not green, otherwise the sauerkraut will have a bitter taste).
This way I always have a few heads at home and whenever I have some spare time I take out my equipment, i.e.
- A big mixing bowl
- A 5l plastic bucket
- A shredder
- A grater (if you want to add carrot)
I cut each cabbage in four and shred it into the bowl after removing the core. When the bowl is half full, I add half a spoon of sea salt, a few caraway seeds and sometimes a bit of grated carrot, mix it very well and place everything in the bucket.
I shred more cabbage into the bowl and so on. It makes me sure that my cabbage is mixed with salt evenly. I leave the cabbage in the bucket for an hour or two or overnight until the juice is released.
Then I pack the shreds into jars. They do not have to be sterilized. It is good to pack the cabbage tightly, so I use my fist or an ice cream scoop if the neck of a jar is too narrow. If the cabbage is squeezed too much, though, it won’t be nice and crunchy. So, squeeze, not crush.
I put the lids on, add a sticker with the date and that’s it. If I use metal lids, I place a piece of baking paper underneath to prevent them from rusting induced by the contact with the acidic juice. I place my babies close to a radiator and keep them there until the smell becomes intense and OBH explicitly requests removing them.
So, they go to a big black container on my balcony, which breaks my heart because a proper place for any Fermented Food is a warm cellar. If you think that building apartment blocks with cellars is totally absurd, see one of my posts from the category “childhood memories”
I keep the jars closed for at least 4 weeks, but it is not necessary. You can start to eat your sauerkraut after 2-3 days or even sooner. I never open jars within those 4 weeks but heard a lot of stories about exploding jars and it is officially recommended to “burp” jars every day. It means opening them for a few minutes to release the gasses. If you do so, make sure you pour salted water on to of the Sauerkraut if it’s not completely submerged. Exposing it to air increases the likelihood of growing mold.
Many people recommend keeping sauerkraut in a fridge after achieving the desired taste. I never do it, because I live in Ireland and it is never really hot here anyway and because I like to be surprised by a new taste.
Either way, they last up to two years. After opening always check for mould, as you should with any other Fermented Food. Mould looks like separate threads and stinks and it is rather a rare thing. If you get a white, smooth residue on top, they are totally harmless kahm yeast. Some people even like it. If you don’t, just “skim it”.
Please note that this is THE EASIEST way to make sauerkraut. Any other way requires a bit more complicated actions to provide oxygen-free environment than just to “put the lid on”. The “put the lid on” way works perfectly for me because I like zesty, sharp taste of sauerkraut given by carbon dioxide.
There is the whole science behind it and it requires a separate post, which I will write one day. In the meantime, I recommend reading this: aerobic vs anaerobic or airlock part.
Enjoy and drop a comment, please!
* see Glossary of Terms