A Quick and Easy Intro to Fermenting: Making Sauerkraut

One popular form of fermenting and pickling is done with the common cabbage. Sauerkraut is an incredible recipe that uses the process of wild fermentation, meaning that no starters are needed. The natural bacteria living on the plant life are responsible alone for the ferment.

It doesn't get any easier than that, which makes sauerkraut a perfect recipe for fermentation beginners! Here are the items you need:

  • One head of cabbage (any color your heart desires)

  • Sea salt

  • A well-sharpened knife and a cutting board

  • Cleaned and sterilized fermenting containers; a glass bowl, wide-mouth Mason jars, ceramic bowls, or plastic buckets will all work just fine

Sometimes people use a weighted object to cover sauerkraut as it ferments. Whether you use one depends on the fermenting container you're using. For sauerkraut, large ceramic bowls or wide-mouth jars are certainly handy. Keeping your cabbage submerged under the wet brine is most important. A weight, something as simple as a heavy plate or a plate with a stone on top, helps to put pressure on the top of your container and pack down your cabbage.

Try to ensure that the plate fits snugly around the circumference of any vessel you use. You want to allow the gas to escape but minimal oxygen to get inside that may cause mold to build on your sauerkraut. If you notice mold, you can scrape it off and still eat the cabbage below. The fermentation process and all the salt will kill off any unwanted microbes.

After you gather your materials and equipment, here's how you make sauerkraut:

  1. Chop the cabbage into fine, thin slices.

  2. Place the cabbage into a large bowl or plastic bucket and add an even amount of salt to cover the cabbage.

    Two to four tablespoons should suffice, but feel free to add according to your taste and preference.

  3. Mix the salty cabbage and squeeze the vegetable until liquid begins to emerge from it.

    The act of salting the cabbage draws out enough water. You'll get to see this over time.

  4. Place the squeezed cabbage tightly into a Mason jar or other fermenting container.

    Press the cabbage forcefully down into the bottom of the container so it's packed well. You don't want to have any air bubbles. Ensure that the brine (saltwater) is covering the cabbage.

  5. Leave the cabbage submerged under the brine.

    If you want to add a small amount of water you can, but this isn't necessary.

  6. Seal the jar or cover your fermenting container with a heavy weighted object.

    A comfortable fermentation environment is at or just below room temperature. Some people suggest covering the top of your sauerkraut with several full cabbage leaves before placing the lid on top. Try this for yourself and see what works best. Leave your jar sitting in a room slightly colder than room temperature for three to five days.

  7. Check on your fermented goods daily.

    Pressure will begin building on the inside of your container, and you may see some water overflowing. You can taste the changes over time and adjust the salt or water content as needed (add some water if you find the brine isn't covering the cabbage). If the cabbage you use to ferment isn't fresh, the water content is naturally going to be less.

  8. After several days, your sauerkraut should be ready to eat.

    When you've achieved the softness and salty flavor you desire, serve it as a side dish or just eat it alone. It will last for months in your refrigerator.

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