Timeframe: 1 to 4 weeks (or more)
- 2 quart (1/2 gallon) glass jar or jar with hinge top
- Small plate or ceramic weights that fits inside glass jar or crock
- Cloth cover (small linen, cheesecloth or coffee filter)
Ingredients (for 2 quarts/ 1/2 gallon):
- 1 large cabbage, green or red
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- optional* 1 tablespoon each of caraway, celery, and dill seeds - grind them with a mortar and pestle or other grinder
- Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts. I like to alternate my batches from red to green cabbage. Whichever you like. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.
- Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. About 3 tablespoons of salt is a rough guideline for 5 pounds of cabbage. I don't measure the salt, I just shake some after every layer of cabbage that I throw in the bowl. Sandor Katz, who wrote Wild Fermentation, uses more in the summer and less in the winter. He also says that it is possible to make kraut with less salt or with no salt at all.
- You can add other vegetables! Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables like onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, beets, ginger, and fennel can get thrown in there. You might want to slice them thinly or in chunks. You can also add fruits such as, apples, whole or sliced are classic, and herbs and spices like caraway seeds, dills seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries. Really, you can do whatever you like it, it can take some exploring and experimentation. It becomes real fun.
- Mix ingredients together and pack into glass jar or crock. Pack just a little bit at a time, tamp it down with a fist. This helps force water out of the cabbage.
- Cover kraut with a small plate or something else that fits snuggly inside the crock. Place a clean weight, such as a ceramic weight for fermenting or a small glass jar filled with water on top of the kraut. This weight forces water out of the cabbage even more and helps keep it submerged under the brine. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep the dust and flies out.
- Press down on the weight to add pressure to the cabbage and to help force water out. Continue to do this periodically, every few hours or so, until the brine rise above the cover,this can take up to 24 hours. *If the brine does not rise above the plate level by the next day, add enough water to bring the brine level above the plate. Add about 1 tbsp. of salt to a 1 cup of water and stir until dissolved.
- Leave the crock to ferment in a cool and shady spot where it's not in the way.
- Check the kraut every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes mold occurs, it's not a problem. Just scoop it out. It won't hurt you if you can't get it rid of it all. Skim off as much as you can. This is just a result of air contact.
- Rinse off the plate or ceramic weight. Taste the kraut. Generally, it starts to taste tangy after a few days and gets stronger with time. In cooler climates, kraut can keep improving for months. In warmer climates, it ferments a lot quicker.
- Eat up. Eating a serving at a time or transferring some to a jar is convenient. Make sure the kraut stays packed tight in the jar, the surface is level and the cover and weight are clean. Sometimes the brine evaporates, so if the kraut is not submerged below the brine, just add water as necessary.
- You can use some of the old kraut and its juices over the new kraut, this gives the new batch a boost with an active culture starter.
After 3-4 weeks, I start to chow down on it. The cabbage is soft, tangy but still has a bit of a crunch to it. I add a couple of tablespoons to every meal. Kraut is full of digestive enzymes that help you break down your food and absorb nutrients better. I have noticed a vast improvement on my digestive health and my immune system due to eating kraut everyday.