Sauerkraut is a German cabbage dish that literally translates to “sour cabbage.” It originated from Germany but spread to other parts of Europe, where the people created their own regional variations. Addition of ingredients such as apples and juniper berries were common, but the basic recipe didn’t call for them.
There are a number of ways to get the particular sour taste that comes with sauerkraut, but the process of making sauerkraut uses a form of pickling that involves lactic acid fermentation. There are also many ways to do this, but one of the easiest is using brine.
This sauerkraut recipe doesn’t involve anything more than cabbage, salt, water, and a container to put them in.
First, chop up or shred five pounds of cabbage. You can use any kind of cabbage for this. You can even use two or more kinds to suit you tastes. You can shred the cabbage with a knife, or with a vegetable grater, or a cabbage grater if you have one.
Massage the cabbage, with either your hands or a tool such as a mortar and pestle, or a meat pounder. Add three tablespoons of salt little by little as you massage the cabbage. Keep this up for about half an hour, or until the cabbage is bruised and tender and starts to release water.
Transfer the salted cabbage along with the water it released to a container big enough to hold it all. Ideally, this container would be a jar or something similar. Press down on the cabbage. There should be enough water to cover the cabbage, with an inch or two to spare. If there isn’t, you can fill it in with brine.
To make the brine, dissolve one and a half tablespoons of salt in four cups of water. Pour just enough to cover the cabbage with an inch or so of brine. If the cabbage floats to the top, weigh them down with a cabbage leaf and something heavy, such as a clean rock or a bag of brine.
Cover the jar with a dishtowel or cheesecloth. Don’t use the, especially if it is airtight. The cloth protects it from airborne contaminants such as dust and insects, while letting the bacteria breathe and ferment at the same time.
Leave the jar in a cool and dry place and check on it every few days. Within the first week, bubbles are supposed to have formed. This is normal, it’s a sign that fermentation has begun. Scum forming on top of the water is also normal. Remove the scum whenever you check up on it. Top off the brine when the water levels look lower than they should.
Let this ferment for four to six weeks. When it is done, it should taste sour, not salty. When it tastes alright to you, place it in the refrigerator. Refrigerating it doesn’t stop the sauerkraut from fermenting further; it just slows the process down. This homemade sauerkraut should last in the refrigerator for two weeks. Enjoy!
See more about sauerkraut in this blog: