The main ingredient for homemade sauerkraut is patience. Of course you'll need some shredded cabbage and salt, but not much more. Homemade sauerkraut is easy to assemble...it just takes time to ferment.
As I was exploring historic cooking methods for a presentation at our local Tread of Pioneers Museum, I was reminded of the importance of fermentation for our valley's earliest residents. Cabbage grows well in our cool climate, so that's why every cook stove had a crock of cabbage nestled close by. The cabbage was preserved through the fermentation process as sauerkraut, providing a source of vitamins to the family throughout the winter.
Check out this time-lapse video of me making Sauerkraut in a Jar...
Sauerkraut in a Jar
- wide-mouth quart mason jar
- plastic wide-mouth jar lid
- 4-ounce canning jar (optional)
- 1 medium cabbage (about 2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon canning & pickling salt
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds or other seed (optional)
- 1 wide-mouth quart jar
- 1 plastic lid
- 1 large non-reactive bowl glass, ceramic or plastic
- 1 4-ounce canning jar (optional)
- Thoroughly clean jars, bowls and other equipment that will be used to make the sauerkraut.
- Cut cabbage into quarters and remove the core from each piece. Cut the cabbage into thin shreds with a sharp knife or mandolin. You can substitute grated carrots, apples or other shredded vegetables for some of the cabbage if you want to add interest.
- Dump the shredded vegetables in a large bowl, sprinkle with half of the salt and with your hands, begin to massage cabbage. As you work the shreds, the juices from the cabbage will begin to release. Sprinkle on the remaining salt and continue to work the cabbage into soft pieces with juices collecting in the bottom of the bowl. At this point you can add caraway seeds, if desired.
- Pack the cabbage into a clean, wide-mouth quart jar. Using your fist or a wooden spoon to press the cabbage into the bottom of the jar and releasing any air pockets that have formed. Continue to pack the cabbage into the jar a few handfuls at a time until you reach the top of the jar.
- Pour the remaining juices over the cabbage until the cabbage is completely covered. If there isn't enough juice to cover the cabbage, add a small amount of boiled and cooled brine. The brine can be made with 1 teaspoon of salt mixed with 1 cup of water.
- To ensure that the cabbage remains submerged under the salty juices, I place a 4-ounce jelly jar on top of the kraut before sealing the jar. I have found that the smaller jar fits perfectly into the mouth of the wide jar and the flat bottom keeps the cabbage under the level of the liquid.
- Use a plastic lid to seal the jar. The contents of the jar will be acidic and cause a metal let to corrode.
- Place the jar on a tray or plate to catch any overflowing juices. For best results place the jar in a dark corner of your kitchen at a temperature of 65- 72 degrees.
- Allow the cabbage to ferment for 1-3 weeks, checking regularly to make sure that there is still liquid covering the vegetables. You should see bubbles form in the mixture as an indication that fermentation is taking place. The speed of fermentation is variable depending on the temperature and condition of the vegetables. Be patient...it will be worth it!
- Salt is an important part of the fermentation process. It creates an environment that encourages lactic acid bacteria, while discouraging certain pathogenic microorganisms.
- I use canning & pickling salt for all of my food preservation recipes. The anti-caking agents that are used in regular table salt will cause the sauerkraut to become cloudy and unappealing.
- The amount of salt used in this recipe is about 1 ½ -2 teaspoons per pound of vegetables. I understand wanting to cut sodium in your cooking, but in the case of this fermentation recipe, do not cut the salt.