Recipe: How To Make Sauerkraut
Since reading The Body Ecology Diet, I’ve been trying to get some fermented foods into my diet. Properly fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir are rich sources of the probiotics that keep your digestion and immune system purring along. Of course you can find several types of kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and other foods in the grocery, but most of those are preserved through the use of vinegar, not through real fermentation. So I’ve been making my own sauerkraut.
Here’s a step-by-step of my latest batch (my third attempt)…the first one wasn’t very good, but the second was well-received. The only change between batch #2 and this one is the lack of a starter culture. Previously, I was using the Body Ecology starter culture, but it’s not necessary. Obviously Germans, Koreans, and others didn’t need convenient packets of the right bacteria to ferment their foods throughout history and I shouldn’t either. So here goes nothing!
First, we start with our ingredients. I’m using two green cabbages, a medium onion, and about a dozen radishes, along with salt. Be sure to use non-iodized salt. Iodine will hinder or stop the growth of the proper bacteria.
As for the tools, I have a huge stainless steel bowl, a sharp knife, and a 3 quart (I think) jar with a sealing ring. To prepare them, I washed them in super hot water (all hot, no cold) with a fresh sponge to make sure I was starting with a sterile environment.
Supposedly the cabbage contains the proper bacteria to get fermentation underway, so I was informed not to wash it. Before chopping the cabbage, I peeled off the first couple leaves and tossed them in the trash, then peeled a few more leaves and set aside for later. I did give the radishes a rinse before starting to chop. I put aside half of the radishes, half of the onion, and a handful of the cabbage for use in the brine. Here’s one of the cabbages chopped. The other looks much the same, so I’ll spare you.
Now it’s time to start salting…
And working the salt in.
Lather, rinse, repeat until everything is well-coated with salt and water is starting to be pulled out of the cabbage. It took me 5-10 minutes of turning and salting, turning and salting. Then it was time to see just how much food can fit into a 3 quart jar. This part is easy: put in cabbage and compact, over and over until the jar is full. You can use a wooden spoon or whatever implement you desire. As you can see, I went with trusty ol’ Righty.
Time for the brine. I added enough water to make a thick juice from the radishes, onions, and cabbage and then hit the Liquefy button on the blender. Then it was the same deal…pour in brine, work it in so that it fills in the compacted cabbage, pour more brine, etc.
Now take the leaves that you set aside earlier, roll them up like you did in college, and fill in any space at the top of the jar. We want this baby as packed as can be. The lid on mine needs that metal clasp to stay closed.
Here’s the finished product, pre-fermentation.
Don’t forget to get out the vacuum cleaner to get up any that fell on the floor.
And here’s a look at how much salt I used. The picture on the left is before starting and the picture on the right is once I was done. It is probably about 3 tbsp of salt and that may not be enough. We shall see in a few days.
Hopefully it goes without saying, but you should probably wash your hands before doing this, especially if you go with my compaction technique.
I’ll be back with you on this in a few days to see how it turned out.