I love sauerkraut, but I was always intimidated of making my own because I was under the impression that some sort of giant, magical crock was required. Making small batches of sauerkraut never occurred to me until someone told me you could simply make it in a mason jar (which I have a ton of). Perfect! And it really is SO easy. It takes a little bit of time to slice the cabbage and get it into the jar, but the process is dead simple.
Sauerkraut is made through the process of fermentation*. Common sense is the most important ingredient when fermenting, but three basic rules to follow (from “The Pickled Pantry” by Andrea Chesman) are: be careful about cleanliness (be sure to start with clean utensils, jars and veggies!), keep veggies submerged in brine and taste frequently to decide when your ferment it done and ready for the fridge.
Because fermenting can sometimes go wrong, it is best to stick to small batches to start. This way you can gain experience, experiment and learn from your mistakes without a ton of waste.
1 large cabbage, about 5 pounds (green or red – I used green) from Innisfail Growers
3 Tbsp sea salt
1 to 3 Tbsp dill seeds
(or caraway seeds, or chopped garlic, or juniper berries – your preference!)
First thing’s first – thinly slice the whole cabbage (minus the core) using a mandolin or sharp knife. Find your biggest bowl, and mix the cabbage with the salt. (If you don’t quite have 5 pounds of cabbage, just reduce the salt a bit to keep the same ratio).
Let the cabbage and salt sit for a while, 30 minutes to 2 hours. This will allow the cabbage to start getting soft and releasing liquid. Once you can’t wait any longer, get out your potato masher, or other pounding tool and start pounding the cabbage until it releases enough liquid to cover itself when pressed.
Now, put the cabbage into one 2L mason jar, or two 1L mason jars, squishing it down with a wooden spoon as you go. There should be enough liquid to submerge the cabbage in its own brine.
Put a lid or other covering on the jar and set aside. The jar will overflow once the fermenting magic starts, so be sure to set it on something, like a plate, to catch the liquid. Keep it at room temperature – I find that my kitchen counter is the ideal place, so that I don’t forget about it.
The sauerkraut should start bubbling in about 24 hours. Check on it every day or couple days and remove any scum that forms on the surface, pressing down any floating cabbage with a wooden spoon. It will take about 2 weeks to finish fermenting, though it could take longer depending on your conditions. When it takes delicious and pickled – it’s ready!
Keep the finished sauerkraut in the fridge for several months and enjoy with… well, anything!
Cabbage is in season right now, so stop by the Calgary Farmers’ Market and get yours today!
*If you’d like to read more about fermentation, and the health benefits that go along with eating fermented foods, check out this article.