Fermented foods are a pretty hot topic these days, and for good reason! The current health and science research is showing just how very important our gut health is to every other body system; and that gut health is dependent on the bacteria, yeasts and fungi that reside there. Fermented foods are a really good way to introduce different strains of healthy microbes to our gut, while at the same time making the foods they are in easier to digest as well as increasing their nutritional value! This sauerkraut recipe is very easy to make and is a great template for making any type of fermented food you like. Get creative with your own combinations, just remember the ratio; 5 lbs of veggies to 3 tbsp of fine sea salt. This recipe is about 3½ lbs of veg, so I used 1¾ tbsp sea salt. If necessary to top up your liquid, a simple brine solution is 1 cup of water to 1 tsp sea salt.
½ head of cabbage
3 large carrots
⅕ inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1¾ tbsp fine sea salt
You will need either 1 large (2 L) jar or 4 500 mL jars with a wide mouth to fit the vegetables in. Make sure your jars are either ceramic or glass. Metal and plastic will not do.
Before beginning, wash your hands and all of your equipment with hot, soapy water. It is not necessary to sterilize, in fact that will inhibit the growth of good bacteria. Allow your tools to air dry. Don't use a kitchen towel to dry them because they can be carriers of pathogenic bacteria that will contaminate your final product.
Remove the outer leaves of your cabbage and cut out the core. Using either a large chef's knife or food processor, finely slice your cabbage and put in a very large mixing bowl.
Wash and grate the carrots and add to the cabbage.
Add in the minced ginger and sprinkle with the sea salt. Now toss the vegetables together and massage well with your hands to begin allowing the water to release. You will notice that as you massage, the vegetables will get really soft and squishy and when you squeeze the vegetables in your fist, liquid will drip into your bowl. This is what you are looking for.
Continue to massage your veggies for about 10 minutes, then allow them to sit for another 10 minutes while your prepare your jars. Lay out your clean jars and lids on a tray you won't need for a week or more. While your kraut is fermenting, it will get fizzy and the liquid will expand and overflow, so the tray is to catch that liquid.
Now, begin to fill your jars. As you add kraut to your jar, use a pounder or your fist (if it fits in the jar) to push it down and squeeze more liquid out and to remove air pockets. Continue to do this until your kraut comes to 2 inches from the top of your jar. All of the vegetable should be submerged in liquid. If the liquid doesn't quite cover it, you can add some brine solution to top it up (1 cup water to 1 tsp sea salt)
Continue to fill your jars until all of your kraut is packed. Remove a few leaves from the half head of remaining cabbage and use this to keep your kraut completely submerged in the liquid. This part is important because the ferment you want to create is anaerobic, meaning you don't want oxygen to touch it because this encourages the growth of pathogenic bacteria that will ruin your kraut.
Loosely top your jars with the lids, but don't seal them. The fermenting process creates pressure and will blow the top off your jar. You don't want that!
You will leave your jars on the counter for 7-10 days. Every day or so, check on your kraut and taste it. It is ok to touch it. Stick your clean fingers in it and move it around. You will notice it beginning to turn sour like a pickle. Around the 7 day mark, it is probably ready to refrigerate. You can choose when you like the flavour; this is when you seal your jar and it will keep in the fridge.
While the ferment is on the counter, if at any time you notice any mold growing on top, gently remove it without allowing it to contaminate the rest of the kraut. Your kraut is still good! Remember, this is a process our ancestors used for hundreds of years to preserve food before refrigeration. There has never been a documented case of food borne illness from eating fermented foods, so please don't worry. The good bacteria you have created in your ferment compete with any pathogenic ones which only grow on the surface in oxygen and can easily be removed.
If you have more questions, wildfermentation.com is a wealth of information on all types of fermentation.
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