The process of fermenting food produces beneficial probiotics that are linked to many health benefits including improvements in immune, cognitive, digestive and endocrine function. When renowned natural health physician Dr. Joseph Marcola had homemade sauerkraut analyzed in a lab he found it had trillions of good bacteria. It equated to two ounces of home fermented sauerkraut having more probiotics than a bottle of 100 probiotic capsules – wow!
My all-time favourite sandwich is a Reuben, loaded up with melted swiss cheese and sauerkraut. My husband loves sauerkraut on hotdogs so we go through a LOT of it! We thought it would be fun to make our own sauerkraut and share the process.
With cabbages being plentiful this time of year, why not reap the health benefits of live culture fermented food by making sauerkraut right along with us?
Preserving doesn’t always involve boiling and sterilizing jars. As we recently found out, fermenting cabbage bypasses that canning step altogether. Canning involves high heat and will just ruin the good bacteria you work hard to encourage, so follow this method for tried ‘n true results. You can start off with one jar and scale up as you become more confident.
For this recipe, be sure to buy organic cabbage, carrots and ginger; why go to all the trouble of preserving something if it’s just going to be full of pesticides?
Watch the Video
The video shows the process from start to finish so take a minute to watch it before you proceed – and subscribe to my YouTube channel while you’re at it 🙂
You Will Need…
- Organic sauerkraut
- 2 carrots
- 1 finger of ginger (total weight of the first three items should be 800 g or 1 pound 12-1/4 ounces)
- 1 Tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
- Vegetable peeler
- Chopping board
- Wide mouth mason jar
- Snap ring (not shown)
- Pickle pipes* (we used wide mouth)
- Pickle pebbles* (we used wide mouth)
- Reusable mason jar plastic storage lids* (we used wide mouth)
*Note: You can find the pickle pipes, pickle pebbles and plastic lids on Masontops and will receive a 10% discount if you use coupon code BIRDZOFAFEATHER. There are regular mouth and wide mouth versions of each product, so be sure to buy the ones that will work with the jars you are using.
We could have gone old-school with the technique but my husband loves his gadgets. We intend to make sauerkraut on a regular basis so we purchased these accessories from Masontops: a set of glass pickle pebbles (used to weigh down the sauerkraut), pickle pipes (which allow the gas to escape as the cabbage is fermenting, but prevent air from getting in) and plastic storage lids (to seal the jar in the fridge after the cabbage finishes fermenting).
We also purchased snap lids (to seal the jar while the cabbage ferments) at a local retail store. We saved money by buying our jars at a yard sale for next to nothing so it wasn’t a complete splurge!
No worries if you don’t have the fancy gadgetry though; I’ll give you some other options too.
Peel and Grate
Zero the bowl on a scale and then turn it off for now. Peel the carrots and ginger.
Set it aside in another bowl.
Prep Cabbage and Set Mandolin
Take off the outer leaves of the cabbage, then cut into quarters (save a clean piece for later). Remove the core.
Set your mandolin to whatever thickness you prefer; we set our dial fairly high for a coarser shred.
Use the safety guard on the mandolin to spear the cabbage quarters – unless you have a cut resistant glove like we used.
Shred the cabbage then remove the glove. Turn the scale on and wait for it to zero.
Add the carrot and ginger to the bowl, followed by the cabbage. Fill the bowl until the scale reaches 800 grams – or 1 pound 12-1/4 ounces. Take the bowl off the scale and turn it off.
Sprinkle the tablespoon of salt over the cabbage and mix in well with your hands. At this point, you can continue to massage the cabbage until liquid starts to form in the bottom of the bowl or you can walk away and leave for 20 minutes to an hour. We chose to walk away and let the salt do all the work for us! If you like, you can give the cabbage an occasional stir and even squeeze it every once in a while to extract more liquid.
If you find yourself with extra leftover cabbage after weighing it, you can make it into coleslaw for later (all you need is some mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper). You can easily get this done while you’re waiting for the salt to do it’s work.
Pack Into Jar
Give the cabbage a final squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible. Hold the jar over the bowl and pack the cabbage into the jar. I used my fist, but you can also use a tamper, or pickle packer, to pack it down. Once it’s all in the jar, pour the liquid in and pound the cabbage down to remove any air pockets and make sure everything is under the brine.
Now you can use the leaf you reserved earlier (it’s the one thing I forgot to show in the video)! Cut the leaf as wide as the widest part of the jar and then place it in the jar submerging it in the liquid. Put the pickle pebble on top and press down so liquid rises above all the cabbage, including the leaf and the pebble itself. Since the pickle pebble is typically smaller than the surface of the cabbage in the jar (most mason jars have a smaller neck), the leaf will help keep the air from spoiling the contents it as it ferments.
If you don’t have a pickle pebble, don’t fret! You can use a smaller, shorter jelly jar filled with glass gems – or other such weight – to weigh it all down (just make sure your makeshift weight is food safe; i.e. that nothing contains lead!). Ensure all the cabbage is submerged before moving onto the next step.
Cap and Let It Do Its Thing!
If you’re using a Masontops silicone pickle pipe for the first time, squeeze the ‘nipple’ to ensure that gas can escape through the top (there are slits that allow the carbon dioxide to pass, but prevent air from seeping back in).
Air can cause the cabbage to spoil, so take your time: when you’re satisfied that both the cabbage and pickle stone is below the liquid you can place the pickle pipe on top of the jar.
Seal the jar with a snap lid.
If you don’t have a pickle pipe, you can try a clean tea towel or cheesecloth and secure it onto the mouth of the jar with an elastic band. However, air can still get in and let in more mold and yeast. From what I’ve read, this is okay as long as you periodically skimmed it off.
Alternately, you could drill a hole in a plastic lid that fits the jar and insert an air lock from the brewing supply store to keep out air but release pressure.
Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Ferment It Up to Four Weeks
Once the jar is sealed, wipe it down and place it in a spot out of direct sunlight where the temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees F. We put ours in the basement where it’s consistently around 70 degrees F.
You can place a shallow dish under the jar just in case the brine leaks out. After the first day you’ll notice that the brine fills the air space in jar and you’ll be able to see the bubbles rising to the top and dissipating.
Write the date – and also what you made – on a piece of painters tape and stick it onto the jar. That way you won’t forget what you made, or when it will be ready.
After the first week, you can open the jar, pull out the pickle pebble and give it a taste. You can add a proper lid and refrigerate it at this point (wipe the outside of the jar if necessary) or keep tasting it at one week intervals to see how you prefer it. If you want to keep going, reassemble and seal it up again as before. You can ferment it for up to 4 weeks. I like it tangy so I let it go the full 4 weeks; I’m also hesitant to open the jar to taste-test before then and let air into the mix.
Don’t Forget to Pin and Share
You can experiment with different flavour profiles and other varieties of cabbage. Next time I’m going to add caraway seeds to my sauerkraut (to compliment my Reuben sandwich), and after that I’d like to try making it with red cabbage & beets. I’ve read that red cabbage is more challenging to work with, but I’m excited to try it!
If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share.
Get Your Own Gadgets
(Disclosure: we came across Masontops when my husband started researching the best way to make sauerkraut and paid for the accessories out of pocket. Masontops has an affiliate program that we signed up for once we already owned and began using their products – and discovered how much we love them. This means that at no extra cost to you, we will receive a nominal commission if you link to Masontops or Amazon to make a purchase).
You can get by without the gadgets we used, but Masontops accessories are food safe and simple to use so they take all the guesswork out of fermenting sauerkraut. If you want to try these accessories out too, just a reminder that you’ll get a 10% discount from Masontops by using the coupon code BIRDZOFAFEATHER at checkout.
Here also are links to Masontops from Amazon for the pickle pipes, pickle pebbles, storage lids and fermentation kit (which includes a tamper along with the pipes and pebbles). Again, don’t forget that there are regular mouth and wide mouth versions of each product, so be sure to buy the ones that will work with the jars you are using.
The Unknown Chef
We just launched our recipe category, The Unknown Chef. So far we’ve made rotisserie chicken….
… and chicken soup:
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