Sauerkraut

UPDATE: We have since changed our fermentation methods to anaerobic using a Harsch style crock and Fido jars. To read more about the whys and hows of anaerobic fermentation, check out Pickle Me Too’s post Pickl-It Jars, Are They Worth It?

Aaaah, sauerkraut. A king among fermented foods. Once upon a time, I thought I hated sauerkraut and with good reason. When I was a kid, my dad would stick a hot dog in the microwave with kraut on it and stink up the whole house. That sauerkraut was hot, mushy, and dead. Ewwwww.

Fresh sauerkraut, though, is a far different creature. It’s crunchy! It’s tangy! It’s alive!

It’s not just delicious, though; sauerkraut is a strong medicine. It helps us digest fats and proteins, teems with probiotic lactobacteria, and may be more digestible than cabbage.

So, where do we get some of this amazing, traditional superfood? Well, you can buy it. I admit, sometimes I get lazy and pick up a jar of Bubbies at New Seasons. At $5.69 for 25 fl oz, it’s an expensive indulgence. Even with expensive organic grocery store cabbage, I can make an entire gallon for $13.50. That’s a savings of 50%. In the summer, the price of cabbage will drop dramatically and I can make kraut for even cheaper! That excites me.

Plus fermenting can be kinda fun.

I learned to make sauerkraut from Sandor Ellix Katz‘s awesome guide to all things fermented, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Check it out. Alright, let’s get down to brass tacks.

Sauerkraut, Day 1

makes 1 gallon
7 lbs of green cabbage (sub in one red cabbage for pink kraut)
sea salt, preferably Celtic or Himalayan

Day 1

  1. Cut each cabbage into fourths, from top to bottom, and cut out the cores. Put the cores in a bowl for the chickens & rabbits.

    I sliced cabbage by hand for my first couple batches. Then I had the bright idea to use my food processor.

  2. Fit your food processor with your widest slicing disc. Slice each of the fourths into stacks narrow enough to fit through the feed tube of your food processor.

    Cut the fourths into chunks narrow enough to fit through the feed tube.

  3. Shred it! Stick it in a bowl! Sprinkle liberally with salt! (Can you tell this is the fun part?)

    So Easy!

  4. As your food processor fills up, dump it in your big bowl and pound it down with a meat pounder or other heavy thing to release the juices. Just don’t break your bowl. Every few handfuls of shredded cabbage should get a decent sprinkle of sea salt.

    Pound it to release the juices. This is the fun part.

  5. If you don’t have a food processor, you can always slice the cabbage by hand.

    Slicing by hand. A lot of work.

  6. Take a minute to watch the cat playing with a piece of carrot. Awwww.

    He loves playing with carrots like they're covered in catnip or something.

  7. Prepare your fermenting vessel. You do not need a big old fermenting crock unless you are making A LOT of sauerkraut. Like enough for 6 months. I use a 1 gallon pickle jar that I picked up from Jim for $1.75 and it works awesome. I normally leave a little kraut from the last batch in the bottom to kickstart the new batch. However, I kind of didn’t check my kraut for a while and it, ahem, “bloomed.” Which is to say, it grew mold (more on this later). Thus, I washed my fermenting vessel thoroughly and disinfected it, which is why it is so sparkly clean.

    A 1 gallon pickle jar I picked up used on Craigslist.

  8. Let the cabbage sit for 15-30 minutes to release its juice. If you’re forgetful like me, set a timer.
  9. Start packing the cabbage into your fermenting vessel. Put in a 3-4 good sized handfuls and pack it down with your fists.

    Pack it tightly!

    Pack it tightly!

  10. Repeat until the jar is full. Pack it as tightly as you can! Fill the jar all the way up to the top.

    Oooooh, pretty!

  11. Put a pint mason jar filled with water on top and push down hard. You should see the water level rise. The purpose of the mason jar is to make sure the cabbage stays submerged in the water. Lactobacteria need an anaerobic environment to do their job, otherwise the mold takes over. As in the case of my last batch of kraut. If you do neglect your kraut like I did, you can just scrape off the moldy layer and it’s fine. But it’s better not to have to do that.

    The mason jar makes sure the cabbage stays submerged.

  12. For the first day, cover the kraut with a clean towel and leave on the counter. Every time you walk past it, push down hard on the mason jar. The goal here is to get the cabbage to release as much water as possible. That’s it for Day 1!

    Leave it on the counter for the first day or so.

Coming soon: Day 2
Onward to Day 2!
Find us on the Probiotic Food Challenge.

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12 comments to Sauerkraut

  • Thanks for sharing this easy peasy recipe. I actually saw the link to this article on the GAPS diet page on Facebook. I’m still on Phase 1 of the Intro diet. I’m doing the sauerkraut juice and so far so good :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :) :) :)

  • Saskia

    Hi! Should there be a small gap between the pint jar and the fermenting vessel so that gases can escape? I’m using a random glass jar (I don’t have a pint mason jar) and there’s a wee gap present…..also don’t want the glass to explode?

    Thanks for any help! I start GAPS on 4 days!

    • Joy

      You should be fine, Saskia! The pint jar is just there to be used as a weight. It is not meant to completely seal the top… just to keep the kraut under the liquid. You can get an idea of what’s going on by looking at fermenting crocks and weights or airlocks. The jar method we described is a nice, cheap way to get started with fermenting, and has worked consistently for us. We do have a crock now as well, which is great for huge batches.

  • Bebe

    Do you have a ballpark amount of salt per pound of cabbage or by volume… or something? This is my first time making sauerkraut. ;)
    Yesterday was day 1 for me and I sprinkled what seemed like very little salt but it was enough to make it taste a wee past “to taste”. I’ve eaten my fair share of kraut and I know it is quite salty but I followed a kimchi recipe once that came out so salty it was inedible so I tried to guess by flavor how much was enough. Can you use too little salt?
    My gallon of baby kraut looks beautiful, I just want to be sure it’s going to have as much chance of success as possible.

  • bob raymond

    When you say: fill the jar, do you mean with water or cabbage?
    Thanks,
    bob r

  • Alicia

    Ya, I’m with Bebe, I need a ball park amount on the salt; for every few handfuls of cabbage, what is a “decent amount” of salt? A couple tablespoons? a couple teaspoons? I am in search of a jar and then going to start mine. I don’t want to mess mine up…..

    Thanks, alicia

  • April

    How has your method changed since using fido jars? I’ve followed the bloggers through researching which jars to use and when I chose Fido jars and made my first batch, I didn’t have enough juice to do GAPS after all. Very disappointing. Wondering what I did wrong. It tastes good, but it’s just dry. No liquid to add to things like GAPS instructs.

  • Irma

    I am very exited to start the GAPS – I am fed up with being chronically ill and with having had to cope with chronically ill boys for 21 years. Though I do not see an answer for the question on how much salt to use. Would like an answer if possible.

  • […] also want to start making your ferments, since they take weeks! You won’t be eating them right away, but you will want to add the […]

  • […] selon le cas ! J’ai suivi les instructions d’un autre blog très sympathique : The Liberated Kitchen. J’espère vous en parler prochainement quelle que soit l’issue de ce premier essai […]

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