If you haven’t tried lacto-fermenting yet, you’re missing out! Start with this homemade sauerkraut recipe, and you won’t be disappointed!
When I first started learning about making lacto-fermented food, I was a little disappointed to find out that lacto-fermenting didn’t actually preserve the food; you had to keep it in the refrigerator.
What kind of deal was that?
As a homesteader type/farmer’s wife, preserving food outside the refrigerator is high on my list, and one of the reasons I make canned dill pickles, and freezer pickles much more often than real, fermented pickles – because they’re sealed and preserved on my pantry shelf.
Imagine if we tried to keep everything “preserved” in the fridge! What a mess, and we’d be in real trouble if our electricity went out for more than a day.
The fact is, here in the south where we can’t put a barrel of homemade sauerkraut in the garage and expect it to keep all winter, lacto-fermenting is something we do on a small scale because we care about natural probiotics – not to actually preserve food.
It was a harsh reality, but once I came to terms with it, I really started to enjoy making small batches of homemade fermented salsa, pickles, and sauerkraut on an as-needed basis.
Making enough pickles or sauerkraut to can and last the year is a big undertaking, but making a pint or two of homemade sauerkraut to enjoy throughout the next week or two, or gift to a friend only takes a few minutes – easily something I can fit into the afternoon housework.
Why You Should Make Homemade Sauerkraut
- It’s easy. You only need two ingredients, a knife or food processor, and a jar.
- It’s cheap. Whereas good, live-culture sauerkraut is hard to find outside of Whole Foods, and costs an arm and a leg when you do find it, homemade sauerkraut can be had for the cost of a head of cabbage and a tablespoon of salt.
- It’s good for you. The lactic acid fermentation process of fermenting sauerkraut increases the food enzymes and vitamins – particularly B vitamins – and friendly bacteria that help colonize the gut, and help the immune system.
Do I need special equipment?
You do not need any special equipment for making sauerkraut. While you can order one-way valve lids to let gas escape your jars while keeping foreign bacteria out, I have personally found them to be unnecessary. The only thing you really need is super clean equipment – to keep the aforementioned foreign bacteria out while the good bacteria takes hold and starts the fermentation process.
How will I know my sauerkraut is safe to eat?
Easy! It will look, smell, and taste like sauerkraut. The cover leave on your sauerkraut jar may end up looking wilted, grey, dry, and generally unappealing if it isn’t covered with the fermenting juice – and that’s the whole point of a cover leaf. It keeps the rest of the sauerkraut down under it fresh. You can take it off and throw it away.
It however there is a bad smell mold, or slime, that’s when you know your cabbage has gone bad instead of gone sauer.
Watch the video below for a simple tutorial:
Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe
- Wash cabbage and remove outer, dirty leaves, reserving a large piece of leaf for a “cover leaf”
- But into wedges and slice using the slicer attachment of your food processor, or slice thinly with your knife.
- Transfer to a large, clean bowl, and sprinkle with salt
- Stir salt in, using clean hands if necessary to squeeze or bruise the cabbage, encouraging it to “sweat” or release its juices
- Once the cabbage seems to be sweating, start packing it into your jar.
- Pack the cabbage as hard as you can so that by the time you reach the top, you can press the cabbage down under the juice that has been released.
- Stuff your reserved cover leaf down onto your packed cabbage to keep the shredded, salted cabbage down under that juice.
- Wipe down rim and sides of jar
- Fit with ring and lid, screwing ring down until it’s secure, but still loose to let gasses escape as cabbage ferments
- Let sit, undisturbed out of direct sunlight for 5-8 days. Check in on it every day to make sure it’s not bubbling over (if it does, there’s nothing you can/should really do other than clean up the mess), or rotting (in which case, you’ll want to throw it out – I haven’t had this happen very often, but occasionally it does).
- Near the end of the fermenting process, lift up the cover leaf, and take a bit of cabbage out with a clean fork to taste. If it tastes like sauerkraut, put the lid back on, and store in the refrigerator until ready for use.
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