Are you intimidated by the challenge of making homemade sauerkraut? I was. And not just intimidated. I was full-on Gloria Gaynor: afraid and petrified. (And now “I Will Survive” is stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Sorry!)
I thought to myself, “What if I give us botulism? What if I kill us all?!?” (We Italians can be so dramatic sometimes!) But then I reminded myself that, give or take a century, fermenting food has been around for thousands of years. Homemade sauerkraut is not just a condiment; it’s a primal chapter of the collective human experience. So, I needed to grow a pair and get over my fear. And boy, am I happy I did!
EASY FOOLPROOF HOMEMADE SAUERKRAUT
With the right tools and some useful tips, sauerkraut becomes so easy to make in your own kitchen. I’ll share with you the way I do it because doing it this way makes me feel safe about the results I will get every single time. Foolproof is always good, but for something this delicate it’s a must.
First of all, let’s talk ingredients. Are you ready to write them down? Go get a pen; I’ll wait. Ready now?
- Himalayan Salt
Seriously, that’s it! You might need a bit of filtered water in the end, in case you don’t have enough brine to cover every bit of cabbage in the jar, but those 2 ingredients are all the ingredients in your homemade sauerkraut.
Tip #1: Choose your Cabbage
Napa cabbage is supposed to be the best for the job.
But personally, I also like the round green cabbage (in the photo below), which is firmer and crunchier. Often, I make both in separate jars.
And of course, red cabbage is also a great choice.
Tip #2: No vinegar!
No vinegar in homemade sauerkraut. Of any kind. Never. But wait, isn’t vinegar supposed to kill the bad bacteria, thus making the sauerkraut or any pickled vegetable safe for consumption? Precisely, vinegar kills bacteria. But it does not discriminate, and it will kill all bacteria: good and bad. The main reason to make and consume your own sauerkraut is to take advantage of the wonderful probiotic properties of fermentation. You want all the good bacteria inside your gut to help it get and stay healthy.
Remember, Cole Slaw has vinegar, but Sauerkraut, or sour cabbage, has just natural salt. The salt will draw the juices out of the raw cabbage forming the brine. This fermentation process will produce a high concentration of Lactic Acid Bacteria. Sauerkraut is a great source of this kind of bacteria. That means you can eat this instead of fermented dairy products, like kefir or yogurt, and get the same kind of probiotics. Great news for all those who are lactose-intolerant or currently on elimination diets like AIP, Paleo or general dairy-free protocols.
Tip #3: Salinity is Key for Homemade Sauerkraut
2% is the ideal salinity in your brine. How do you get that golden ratio? It’s about 2 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of cabbage. So, keep that in mind and adjust accordingly. Too little salt will result in spoiled sauerkraut, but too much salt will inhibit the fermentation process.
Tip #4: Get your Tools
Having a pestle, glass weights or inserts is not a must, but these tools make the job so much easier.
For 4-5 lbs. of cabbage, you’ll need
- 64 oz. wide-mouth Mason Jar
- Pounder to pound down the cabbage into the jar. This will pack in the cabbage tight while releasing more juice for the brine. Very important!
- Insert. You can definitely use a cabbage leaf cut or folded to measure to keep the cabbage under the brine. However, I prefer using wide-mouth inserts. They are BPA free and reusable.
- Glass weight. You can use a substitute. Some people use a heavy pebble or stone (cleaned and washed!) inside a ziplock bag, or some other object that can weigh down the cabbage, so it stays under the brine. I prefer using glass weights. They are easy to wash, insert and remove.
- Airlock lid. There are different kinds out there. After some research, I concluded that this one was the most user-friendly for my purpose. It comes with a pump that will help you remove the air out of the jar. Remember, fermentation is an anaerobic process, so air is enemy #1. It spoils the sauerkraut and forms dangerous mold. That is why the cabbage needs to stay under the brine at all times.
Tip #5: Patience is Key with Homemade Sauerkraut
Don’t refrigerate it too soon! Even if other recipes say that it’s up to your taste, and 3 days for some is plenty to get all the sour they can handle, sauerkraut’s virtues go way beyond the palate. This is the best way to introduce into your body the good bacteria your gut absolutely needs to be healthy and keep you healthy. But it takes time for the different strains of Lactic Acid Bacteria to fully develop. Wait at least 7-10 days before refrigerating your homemade sauerkraut. Now I go 10-15 days, but I know that many braver folks wait a lot longer than that.
Those are all the tips I have for now. Watch me in action, making this super easy homemade sauerkraut from scratch.
Get the full recipe and make your own homemade sauerkraut!
- 4-5 lbs Cabbage
- 2 tbsp Himalayan Pink Salt
- Thinly slice cabbage (about 1/8 of an inch).
- Put cabbage in a large bowl or crockpot and sprinkle with salt.
- Toss the cabbage thoroughly until it gets “wet”. Let it rest until juicy (at least 10 minutes).
- Transfer cabbage into a Mason jar. Pack it tightly and pound it down.
- Once the cabbage is all packed and tight and completely covered in brine, insert a disc or cabbage leaf cut to measure to help all the cabbage stay covered under the brine.
- Top with a glass weight to push down the cabbage under the brine.
- Screw on the airlock lid (not too tight!). Set the canning date and place in a shallow bowl for possible spillage.
- Pump the air out, and let it rest for at least 7-10 days before refrigerating.
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