Ready in 30 minutes plus 4-12 days of fermentation | Makes about 2 litres | DF | GF
While there are lots of great brands of sauerkraut that you can buy, it’s also easy, fun and cost-effective to make it yourself. Sauerkraut is made using a process called lacto-fermentation. In a nutshell, Lactobacillus is one of the beneficial bacteria present in cabbage, and when submerged in liquid it begins converting sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, which is a natural preservative (it also imparts a lovely tangy taste, like in yoghurt). The most important thing with making sauerkraut is to ensure the cabbage is always submerged in liquid (after the first 24 hours) as this will ensure good fermentation.
1 small (about 1kg) cabbage (green, red or a mixture of both) 1½ Tbsp salt 2 tsp caraway seeds (optional) 2 large glass jars (about 1 litre each), make sure they’re nice and clean Weights to weigh cabbage down (eg clean stones or small jars of pebbles or marbles)
1 Prepare the cabbage by removing a couple of its outer leaves (reserve these for later). Then cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the tough inner core from each piece. Use a large sharp knife to very finely shred/slice the cabbage (or you can use a mandoline).
2 Place cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the salt and caraway seeds. Then, using clean bare hands, toss the cabbage with the salt and seeds, massaging it gently so that the salt and caraway seeds are evenly distributed through the cabbage. Leave for 10 minutes – by this time the cabbage will have started to soften a little and release some of its juices.
3 Once you see some of the cabbage juice collecting in the bottom of the bowl, pack everything into two large glass jars. Use your clean fist or a smaller jar to firmly push the cabbage down to fit it all in and push out any air bubbles.
4 Now you need to weight the cabbage down to ensure that, once liquid has been released from the cabbage, it will stay entirely submerged. Place a reserved cabbage leaf on top to form a barrier, then place some kind of weight on top – eg a smaller glass jar filled with stones or marbles, or a large clean stone (just make sure you don’t use anything metal).
5 Cover the whole jar with a clean cloth or tea towel and secure tightly with a rubber band or string (a cloth allows some airflow but stops any dust or dirt getting in). Leave the jar at a cool room temperature and not in direct sunlight.
6 After 24 hours the level of liquid should have risen above the cabbage. However, if it hasn’t, simply make a brine of 1 tsp salt to 1 cup water and pour into the jar until all the cabbage is submerged.
7 Leave to ferment for 3-12 days, tasting a little every day. It’s ready when it has fermented to your taste buds’ liking!
8 Once the sauerkraut has fermented to your liking, screw lids on the jars and store in the fridge. The sauerkraut will keep for up to 2 months.
While it’s fermenting, you will probably see bubbles rising to the surface of the cabbage and foam or white scum on the top. These are all good signs that happy fermentation is taking place. The scum can be skimmed off either during fermentation or at the end before refrigerating. However, if you see any mould, skim it off immediately and make sure the cabbage is fully submerged in liquid (and don’t worry, the rest of the sauerkraut will be fine).