Sauerkraut – lactofermented cabbage – is a classic winter ferment that benefits from long and slow fermentation at relatively cool temperatures. Below I will tell you how to make your own classic German sauerkraut. I’ve used both white and red cabbage to create a beautiful, dark pink colour effect, but there’s nothing to stop you from using only white or only red cabbage.
a sterilised clip top jar (I used a 3l jar to fit about 2 cabbages)
digital kitchen scales
a sharp knife or a mandolin slicer
a fermentation weight (a clean glass paperweight, or a glass ramekin)
organic red and white cabbage
fine salt (without additives and non-iodised) (2.5 % of the weight of the cabbage)
- Slice all your cabbage very thinly and then weigh it.
- Now multiply the weight of the sliced cabbage by 0,025 (e.g. 1kg (1000 g) cabbage x 0,025 =25g). The outcome is the amount of salt you need to use.
- Have your cabbage in a large mixing bowl and add the salt to it.
- Now make sure your hands are very clean and start mixing the salt through, kneading and squeezing the cabbage as you go. This will help to draw out the moisture. Wait for about 10 min and repeat the process one or two times.
- Don’t be afraid to be a little rough here. You are angry at this cabbage!
- By now there’ll be a fair bit of liquid in your bowl, and the sliced cabbage will have decreased in volume.
- Now sprinkle through some whole spices. You can use anything you fancy, but mustard seed and caraway are classics.
- Now put everything in your jar, pressing it down with your fist, and make sure you leave a few fingers headspace at the top.
- Now place your weight on top of the cabbage, so that the cabbage stays submerged in liquid and doesn’t float to the surface. I always also like to add a little bit of 5% brine here (water with 5% salt dissolved into it, so e.g. 100 ml water with 5g salt) to make sure everything is covered.
- Now close your jar and put it somewhere relatively cool and away from sunlight. I like to use a cool box, but a cardboard box or cupboard would also work. If you have a room in your house that’s a bit colder than room temperature, that would be ideal. My kitchen, for example, is around 17 degrees in winter, because we don’t turn the radiator on. However, if this is not an option in your house, room temperature will also work.
- Now it’s time to wait.
- Every now and again you can “burp” (quickly open and close) your jar, to make sure the build-up of carbon dioxide doesn’t get too much and cause the liquid to overflow. Clip-top jars are designed to withstand and release pressure, so once every so often should be more than enough. However, if you’re using a regular jar, you’ll have to do this pretty much every day or risk the jar exploding (!)
- Personally, I think 7 weeks is ideal to reach the kind of fruity acidity and texture that I like in a classic sauerkraut, but you can start testing it after 2 weeks. Make sure to use a clean fork and don’t double dip, you don’t want to introduce unwanted bacteria to the mix.
- As soon as you’re happy with the flavour and texture, you can put the jar in the fridge. This will virtually halt the fermentation process.