Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe
I enjoy Sauerkraut and I almost always have a jar in the fridge to use on Sausages, or alongside a Pork Roast, and even on Sandwiches. Unfortunately, most recipes for the home cook usually suggest you begin with 5 or 10 pounds of cabbage and then ferment the stuff in a large bucket. Unfortunately, much as I like the pickle, that sort of amount is far more than I could consume in any reasonable period.
This Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe produces a batch just small enough to fill a medium-sized Mason Jar. It requires just two ingredients, and produces a nice, crispy, and tangy pickle in only a matter of days.
Sauerkraut is produced by a Lactic acid fermentation in brine. Many recipes call for you to liberally salt a large amount of cabbage and then employ weight to allow the shreds to be submerged under the water expelled by the action of the salt but, here, less salt is used, and a little water is added at the beginning to keep the Cabbage covered as fermentation begins.
The Recipe Card below calls for a half head of small cabbage, which when shredded and packed, is about enough to fill a 1-quart Mason Jar, or roughly two cups or so. Naturally, you can easily make double the amount, or more, you will just need to adjust the Salt quantity accordingly.
Salt is added at approximately 1 Tablespoon for this amount of Cabbage, which is a decent ratio. You can under-salt, and thus not have a strong enough brine to allow fermentation while inhibiting spoilage organisms, but you don’t need to worry too much about oversalting as, once the Cabbage has macerated, you will be rinsing away excess.
Just make sure that your Salt is the non-iodized variety, as iodine can discolor pickles. Look for coarse salt labelled ‘Pickling Salt, or ‘Kosher Salt’.
Begin by shredding your cabbage very finely.
Toss the Cabbage with the Salt and allow it to wilt and soften for about an hour or so. You will see that a good deal of water will be thrown off during this period. When complete, drain the salty water away and give the shreds a very quick rinse… Don’t overdo this as you just want to remove the excess salt, not all of it.
Afterwards, pack the cabbage loosely into a suitable jar and fill with just enough water to cover. For the first fermentation, just cover the mouth of your jar with cloth or paper towel to keep the surface clean but still allowing air to circulate. You want to keep it in a cool and fairly dark place (a cellar is ideal) but anywhere that is a few degrees cooler than room temperature will do fairly well. I put my jar in the window above my kitchen sink… that side of the house doesn’t get any sun and it is always quite cool there.
Sometimes, a batch just won’t ‘take’ but, if you do get a ferment going, you will see a bit of bubbling going on after a day or two (depending on temperature etc.). You won’t get the furious ferment as you do with beer (for example) but it should be fairly obvious once things get started properly.
The length of fermentation will (again) depend on temperature and other factors, but generally anywhere from 3 to 10 days will be right for very small amounts, and up to 20 days for larger batches. Each batch will be different, and how long you leave it will also depend on how ‘sour’ you want your pickle to get. If you stick it in the fridge after three or four days (thus stopping or slowing the fermentation quite early on), the product will be quite mild, whereas a longer ferment will yield a stronger pickle with a more of a lactic acid ‘bite’.
For this batch, my ferment appeared to stall after just a few days. I was testing the smell and taste every other day or so and, though the bubbling appeared to stop quite early, I couldn’t detect the classic sauerkraut taste or aroma. The taste at day four was a little like seaweed, actually, but, while it was pleasant to my taste-buds, just wasn’t… well … sauerkraut. After 5 or 6 days, I was beginning to think I had caught the wrong sort of bacteria but then… by day 9, the unique sauerkraut smell and taste was apparent and I knew that it had worked, if a little slowly.
Anyway, at day twelve (which is a bit slower than usual) the pickle had faded to the typical straw-colored sauerkraut color you see in the first picture and the taste had developed wonderfully. When you achieve this, you can now keep the pickle in the fridge and use as needed.
Your Recipe Card:
- ½ a Small Cabbage
- 1 Tbsp. coarse non-Iodized Salt.
- Shred the Cabbage finely, toss with the Salt in a bowl and set aside.
- When the Cabbage is wilted and has thrown off water, drain it and quickly rinse away excess Salt.
- Pack the Cabbage into a suitable container and add enough water to just cover. Use cloth or kitchen Paper to cover the jar opening.
- Place the container in a cool place for several and watch for signs of fermentation in the form of gas bubbles.
- Once fermentation has commenced, continue to monitor until the characteristic sour smell is apparent (anywhere from 3 to 10 days after beginning).
- Once the sourness has developed to your preferred degree, store the finished Sauerkraut in the fridge and use as necessary.