How to make sauerkraut: step by step foolproof sauerkraut recipe
Have you heard of the health benefits of sauerkraut? Have you tried the shop-bought version and been disappointed? If so, this super-easy recipe is for you.
Now anyone who knows me, knows that I’m into all things natural and healthy. Yes I loves me a buffet (everything in moderation), but I’m also a sucker for anything that promises to hydrate your skin, boost your immune system or cleanse your gut.
Plus, I live for a good pickle. Courtesy of being Asian I love a bit of tangy, spicy fermented veg to go with my dinner.
So when I heard about sauerkraut – a fermented cabbage pickle-type-thing boasting millions of good bacteria, I was all over it.
I bought a jar of sauerkraut first, but it was a bit disappointing. Slightly tangy but otherwise a watery cabbage-y concoction.
Plus I learnt that the shop bought versions are preserved in such a way that most of the good bacteria disappears. AND, shops only seem to sell them in industrial-size quantities, with a really short shelf life. So given that my husband didn’t like sauerkraut (or at least the shop-bought version), I found it hard to eat my way through a litre of sauerkraut in a week.
When I looked at online recipes, it all seemed a bit too complicated for my liking. Canning jars (whatever they are), conflicting measurements (get it slightly wrong and die of cabbage poisoning)… it was all a bit much for my half-arsed self.
So I fell off the sauerkraut bandwagon and figured with a baby to look after (that doesn’t SLEEP), I’d never have time to make my own anyway.
Finally, a foolproof homemade sauerkraut recipe
Just as I’d given up, I came across this brilliant website: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/.
This literally spelled out exactly how to make your own sauerkraut with idiot-proof steps. There was lots of trouble shooting too, explaining all the way people may get it wrong and how to avoid this. I’ve detailed a quick recipe below, but if you want lots of sauerkraut theory and advice, head over there.
So one evening when Hannah was asleep, I got to make my own sauerkraut.
The result was this…
Colourful, tangy, salty and juicy sauerkraut. And it was better than the shop bought version for so many reasons:
Homemade sauerkraut versus shop bought sauerkraut
- Homemade sauerkraut tastes better
- Homemade sauerkraut lasts UP TO A YEAR in the fridge
- Homemade sauerkraut preserves all the good bacteria
- Homemade sauerkraut goes with pretty much anything
The sauerkraut I have made is the most basic version. I wanted to get it right so didn’t risk going crazy with ingredients. Next time around I may add a little heat with some chilli and black pepper.
More recipes you need in your life:
So here it is. How to make sauerkraut (and not mess it up):
Equipment you need:
- Kitchen scale
- cutting board and knife
- large mixing bowl
- vegetable peeler
- 1 litre wide-mouth canning jar (I bought a special Kilner jar which has a lid with a loose screw top to let air out for fermenting. I’ll explain why later)
- Something to hold the cabbage mix down. I used a small jar.
Update: You don’t need a special jar! Since I’ve made a few variations of home-made sauerkraut now, I’ve started using an empty pasta sauce jar. Works just as well!
Ingredients for sauerkraut:
- 1 medium head fresh green cabbage, (weighing 2 ½–3 pounds
- 2–3 carrots
- 2–3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) iodine-free salt, fine-grained (I used Himalayan pink salt).
Update! I run out of Himalayan pink salt recently, so for my last batches of sauerkraut I’ve been using regular table salt and haven’t noticed a difference in taste, or consistency. I can’t speak of the health benefits, but if you don’t have pink salt to try it with regular salt.
Step 1: Be precise
If you have a digital scale, set it to zero with your bowl on top. The key to getting this sauerkraut right is measuring out the ingredients exactly.
Otherwise note down the weight of the scale with the bowl on.
You will need 800 grams cabbage, carrot and garlic in the bowl. This is the exact amount of cabbage and vegetables to mix with one tablespoon of salt to create the right brine to ensure perfectly fermented sauerkraut. And, it’s the perfect amount of sauerkraut to pack into a 1litre jar.
When making sauerkraut, you first prepare the flavouring ingredients – carrots and garlic in this recipe – then add the sliced cabbage at the end.
Update! Don’t have the right size jar? No problem! Just use proportionately more or less of the ingredients!
Step 2: Chop chop!
Peel and grate the carrot and add to the bowl. Then add finely chopped garlic.
Get rid of the outer leaves of your cabbage. Then set aside one leaf, which you’ll need to submerge your vegetables later.
Slice the cabbage finely. Very thin ribbons are best. Discard the core.
Step 3: Get brining!
Salt pulls water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create an environment where the good bacteria can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria die off.
Sprinkle vegetables and cabbage with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of salt and mix well.
Step 4: Get mixing!
Massage and squeeze the vegetables with strong hands until moist, creating the brine. This may take between 2 and 10 minutes. If you’re feeling lazy, you can leave the mixture to sit for up to an hour, which will start the process for you. This means less massaging and mixing.
To check if you’ve massaged enough, tilt the bowl to one side. If you see a good-sized puddle of brine, you’re good to go.
Step 5: Pack it in!
Grab handfuls of the cabbage mixture and pack into your jar. Press the salty, juicy mixture down as you go along. You want the brine to rise above the top of the cabbage.
Leave at least 1 inch of space between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar. As you’ve got the exact amount of cabbage, this should happen automatically.
Pour any leftover brine into the bowl.
Step 6: Submerge
It’s important that the cabbage mixture remains submerged in the brine while it ferments. Air is bad for the fermenting sauerkraut, as it can make your lovely cabbage mouldy.
To ensure the mixture is submerged, use that cabbage leave you saved. Tear it so that it fits into the jar, covering all the packed cabbage.
Then on top of this, place a weight. As mentioned, I used a small glass jar, bottom side down. The jar might stick out of the top of the jar a bit. Don’t worry, when you screw on the lid, it will get pressed down into place.
Lightly screw the lid onto your 1litre jar. By leaving the lid on somewhat loose, CO2 gases that will build up during the fermentation process can escape.
If you have lots of brine in the jar, you may have to remove some of it to get the lid on without the liquid overflowing.
Place the jar on top of a saucer (to catch any overflow), and keep out of direct sunlight.
And now the waiting game…
Wait for seven days to allow the sauerkraut to ferment. You can keep it fermenting for up to four weeks, but as a beginner, makesauerkraut.com advises to do the first batch for a week.
Over the week, you’ll see your brine level rise and fall with the room temperature. Basically, the cold draws the brine back into the cabbage. The heat does the opposite.
After a week your sauerkraut is ready to eat! You can also store it in the fridge for up to a year – mental!
Ways to eat sauerkraut
If you’re a sauerkraut novice, like I was, you might be thinking, ‘how the hell do I eat it’! Allow me to enlighten…
Sauerkraut is a good condiment. As it’s got a tangy pickly flavour, it can accompany pretty much any dish. I’ve had a forkful on the side with curry and rice. You can pair it with fish and chips. It even works with a Turkish / Middle Eastern mezze as it’s similar to the classic purple cabbage pickle.
And as for the one-year shelf life, you needn’t worry about that. I smashed by way through half the jar of sauerkraut in just couple of weeks…
Plus, hubby enjoys it too. Which is a surprise as he detested the bought version.
Next time I make it I’ll be adding some chilli or ginger to see how that works. And now I’m on the fermenting bandwagon, I’ll be embracing other healthy recipe next. In fact, I’m eyeing up keffir as we speak.
Have you tried sauerkraut? Would you be tempted to make it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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I’m not a makeup artist, chef, lifestyle guru or stylist. I’m just me. And like you, I’m trying to make the best of most things, only I’m sharing my warts-and-all thoughts along the way.