12-MONTH FERMENTATION CHALLENGE: Month #5 – LACTO FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT RECIPE / HOW TO FERMENT SAUERKRAUTJump to Recipe
It’s the highlight of hot dogs and sausages. It’s the little extra something inside a tortilla or a bowlful of pasta. It’s the secret ingredient in pineapple smoothies. It cures canker sores and strengthens bones. It’s crunchy, pleasantly sour, and full of gut-friendly probiotics. Have you guessed yet? I’m talking about fermented sauerkraut.
What? You don’t eat sauerkraut? You’re missing out, my friend. Every year Americans enjoy 387 million pounds of kraut, according to the Fermentation Association. That’s 1.5 pounds per person! Millions of people can’t be wrong, can they? I challenge you to try making the King of ferments – sauerkraut! So, if you haven’t already, plant those flowery cabbage seedlings, and this fall you and I will be transforming them into delicious bottles of tangy kraut.
As a new fermentista (person who is obsessed with fermenting everything!), I was originally planning to begin this challenge with sauerkraut since it is one of the most well-known ferments. But the recipe sounded a bit trickier than others I had researched. Thankfully, it turns out it’s not. I was relieved when my ferment actually turned out to be a success (and NOT stinky like the radishes I fermented last month). Today, I’m going to show you how to ferment sauerkraut using what must be the world’s easiest recipe for fermented sauerkraut. You only need 2 ingredients and a jar. Are you ready for this? Let’s go! But wait…before we do. Let’s have some fun!
Really Fun Sauerkraut Facts!
- You can cure canker sores with fermented sauerkraut! Rinse your mouth with sauerkraut juice for about 30 seconds several times a day, or simply place sauerkraut directly against the sore area for about a minute. For more info, check out this Los Angeles Times article.
- The Germans may have given sauerkraut its popular name but they didn’t invent sauerkraut, according to this New York Times story. The Chinese did 2000 years ago. In summer, slaves building the Great Wall of China lived on cabbage and rice. In winter, the cabbage was preserved with rice wine which soured the cabbage to keep thousands of laborers healthy in the worst of conditions.
- Sauerkraut is important for your bone health. It contains Vitamin K2, which helps calcium and other minerals bind together to strengthen your bones. You can drink all the milk in the world but if you’re not getting enough Vitamin K2, your bones will suffer.
- Sauerkraut may stop cancer cells from growing, according to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Researchers found the isothiocyanates produced in sauerkraut fermentation inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test tubes and animal studies.
See, I told you that would be fun? Now, Let’s get to it. Here’s how to quickly ferment sauerkraut in just a few easy steps. Afterward, we’ll answer some FAQs. You can also click on the link below to jump to a printable version of the fermented sauerkraut recipe.Jump to Recipe
HOW TO FERMENT SAUERKRAUT: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
- 1-quart jar
- plastic Ziploc bag
- Stainless steel knife
- 1 head of cabbage (about 3.5 lb)
- 1-2 tbsp. sea salt
THE EASIEST LACTO FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT RECIPE
Start by discarding the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Now, remove a couple of the large unblemished leaves and set them aside (we will use them later to top off the sauerkraut).
Get out your favorite stainless steel knife and quarter, core, and chop or shred the cabbage.
Sprinkle the cabbage with the salt and start massaging and kneading the cabbage. You can also pound it with a potato masher. It should start looking wet and limp. The goal is to knead the cabbage until the liquid begins to pool. If this doesn’t happen, try adding a little more salt and/or covering the kraut and letting it sit for an hour. Then try massaging it again.
The hard work is done. Now, it’s time to stuff the cabbage into your jar. Make sure to press down the cabbage so it sits underneath the brine (liquid). If necessary, add a bit of water to completely cover the cabbage. Leave 2 to 4 inches of headspace.
Top the cabbage with the leaves you set aside.
Weigh the cabbage down with a sealed, water-filled Ziplock bag and screw on the lid (not too tightly).
Set aside out of direct sunlight at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) for four to 14 days (I let mine sit for 2 weeks) until it’s pleasingly sour/pickle-y. You’ll also notice that the cabbage will turn a translucent, yellowish color. Check daily to ensure the cabbage remains submerged and burp every couple of days to release excess pressure.
And that’s it! Once the sauerkraut is finished, simply tighten the lid and store it in the fridge. It will keep for a year continuing to develop its yummy buttery, sauerkrauty flavor over time.
FAQ – HOW TO FERMENT SAUERKRAUT
What is lacto-fermented sauerkraut?
Lacto fermentation is the ancient art of pickling long before there was canning. Basically, vegetables are fermented by lactic-acid bacteria, which are found on the surface of all fruits and vegetables. How does it work? During fermentation, bacteria eat the vegetable’s sugars, which release lactic acid. This acid acts as a preservative and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. The process doesn’t require heat so you retain all of the raw vegetable’s vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
Is fermented sauerkraut good for you?
You may have heard that fermenting turns your food into natural probiotics. So, instead of popping a probiotic pill, you can eat fermented foods, which, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola of Mercola.com, actually contain 100 times more probiotics than a pricey supplement. In fact, one serving of fermented foods contains 1.5 billion to 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria compared to 50 million to 10 billion per pill.
One quick search on the Internet will result in tonnes of information on the health benefits of probiotics from boosting your immune system and improving digestion to reducing inflammation and detoxifying your body. I don’t know if it’s all true, but I think I feel better after eating fermented cabbage. I think you will too!
FERMENTATION MAKES EVERY FOOD MORE NUTRITIOUS
I’m not sure about candy bars. but any other whole food that you ferment will be more nutritious than its former self. Fermentation actually enhances the levels of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in food. How? Fermentation breaks down indigestible coatings and cell walls. It also reduces the level of “antinutrients” in foods such as phytic acid and tannins. All of this means your body can better absorb the nutrients found in your favourite foods. For a more scientific and thorough explanation, check out this article from the Journal of Scientific Research.
WHAT SPICES CAN I ADD TO MY FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT?
Once you’ve mastered this basic recipe, you can have some “flavoring fun” when you ferment your sauerkraut by adding other vegetables, herbs, and spices. Try adding a few caraway seeds, juniper berries, ginger, dill, or turmeric. You can also add root vegetables like carrots, radishes, and beets.
HOW MUCH SALT IS IN LACTO-FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT?
Salt is the MOST crucial ingredient in this recipe. It is a preservative and can keep vegetables edible for months…maybe even years!!! Can I get a “hooray” for salt! In fermentation, the salt draws juices from the vegetable’s cells and creates that lovely, cloudy brine rich with health-boosting lactic-acid bacteria. The salinity of the brine encourages good-for-us bacteria to flourish and inhibits the growth of bacteria and yeast that could make us sick. Salt also helps keep your vegetables crispy by hardening the pectin in the cells of the vegetables.
WHY DO I NEED TO USE SO MUCH SALT? I’VE HEARD SALT IS BAD FOR ME.
Once again, health experts are changing their minds. Recent evidence suggests that for many, salt reduction has an overall negative impact on several aspects of health. Recent study, after study, after study, after study have found many negative effects of a low salt diet. Yikes! It turns out that salt not only makes our food taste better, but it prevents problems, like insulin resistance, plaque formation, increased stress hormones, worsened blood lipids, and elevated aldosterone.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY SAUERKRAUT IS DRY?
Did you pound away at your cabbage and still didn’t get enough juice? (See step #3 under “how to ferment sauerkraut“). It could be that your cabbage was dry. Choose your cabbage based on its weight. It should feel heavy. Fall cabbage is usually better than spring as the cool temperatures produce juicier cabbage with densely packed leaves.
You can also cheat by adding a little brine. Mix 1/2 tbsp of unrefined sea salt with 1 cup of filtered water and add just enough to your jar so that when you push down the cabbage about an inch of brine sits on top.
WHAT IF THE BRINE DOESN’T COMPLETELY COVER MY FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT?
The brine should cover the vegetables at all times or else they will start developing mold and yeast and your ferment may be ruined (See step #4 under “how to ferment sauerkraut“). The salty brine creates an environment that’s inhospitable to bad bacteria so as long as your cabbage remains under the anaerobic safety of the brine, it is safe to eat. But any exposed portion will not be.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CABBAGE HAS FERMENTED?
You will see bubbles of carbon dioxide gas in the salty water (brine), which means you’ve been successful and the brine has started to acidify. Over time, the mixture will become cloudy and the cabbage will become more translucent and soften a bit (but will keep its crunch). Now, you can start to taste test your sauerkraut.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BURP MY LACTO-FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT?
If you are using mason jars, you will need to “burp” your fermented sauerkraut. When you screw on the lids of your ferments, don’t place them too tightly in order to let some of the fermentation gasses escape. Soon you’ll see bubbles of carbon dioxide gas in the brine, which means you’ve been successful and the brine has started to acidify. This is the stage in which you will begin to “burp” your jar every couple of days if you are using a standard sealing lid. Simply unscrew the lid slightly and allow the gas to escape.
WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD I KEEP MY FERMENTED FOODS AT?
Most recommendations are to ferment between 55°F and 75°F (13°C to 24°C), which is especially conducive to L. plantarum and L. brevis lactobacillus bacteria, according to the book, Fermented Vegetables.
HOW LONG WILL MY FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT SIT ON THE COUNTER?
There isn’t a cut and dry date for when fermented sauerkraut is done. It depends on the temperature of your home and how sour you like your cabbage. It can take 4 to 14 days.
HOW LONG DOES LACTO-FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT LAST?
Fermented cabbage will keep refrigerated for up to a year or longer. Once opened, keep it covered in brine.
HOW DO I STORE FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT?
Store your fermented sauerkraut in jars with the lids tightened in the fridge.
“EASIEST” LACTO FERMENTED SAUERKRAUT
- 1 quart jar
- plastic ziploc bag
- stainless steel knife
- 1 head of cabbage about 3.5 lb
- 1-2 tbsp. sea salt
- Let’s start by discarding the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Now, remove a couple of the large unblemished leaves and set them aside (we will use them later to top off the sauerkraut).
- Get out your favorite stainless steel knife and quarter, core, and chop or shred the cabbage.
- Sprinkle the cabbage with the salt and start massaging and kneading the cabbage. You can also pound it with a potato masher. It should start looking wet and limp. The goal is to knead the cabbage until the liquid begins to pool. If this doesn’t happen, try adding a little more salt and/or covering the kraut and letting it sit for an hour. Then try massaging it again.
- The hard work is done. Now, it’s time to stuff the cabbage into your jar. Make sure to press down the cabbage so it sits underneath the brine (liquid). If necessary, add a bit of water to completely cover the cabbage. Leave 2 to 4 inches of headspace.
- Top the cabbage with the leaves you set aside and weigh it down with a sealed, water-filled ziplock bag and screw on the lid (not too tightly).
- Set aside out of direct sunlight at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) for four to 14 days (I let mine sit for 2 weeks) until it's pleasingly sour/pickle-y. You'll also notice that the cabbage will turn a translucent, yellowish color. Check daily to ensure the cabbage remains submerged and burp every couple of days to release excess pressure.
- Once the sauerkraut is finished, tighten the lid and store it in the fridge. It will keep for a year continuing to develop its buttery, sauerkrauty flavor over time.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Enjoyed this post? Check out my other recipes in the 12-month Fermentation Challenge series:
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