I have a confession to make.
Growing up, I was never a fan of sauerkraut. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the weird smell. Maybe it was the weird name. Either way, I’ve spent most of my life simply missing out on one of the best things ever known to grace mankind.
Fermented cabbage has been enjoyed for centuries. The Chinese first made it with rice vinegar 2000 years ago. Eventually in the 16th century, the Germans began using salt to ferment cabbage, giving us the wonderful taste we still enjoy today.
Fermenting food is super simple, and it’s so healthy to eat. Sauerkraut is believed to boost our immune system, contribute to strong bones, reduce stress and just one serving is full of beneficial probiotics that help to improve digestion and overall gut health.
So how do you make it?
Many people will use a 3 or 5 gallon crock to ferment their kraut in. This recipe will make enough for a quart size jar plus a little extra, depending on the size of your cabbage head. But it can easily be doubled to make as much kraut as your heart desires!
Here’s what you’ll need
- 1 head of fresh cabbage
- 2 T sea salt
- 4 fresh jalapeno peppers
- 1 medium (or two small) white or red onion
- 1 sterilized quart jar plus 1 pint jar
- Fermenting weights
Step One – Clean your cabbage and remove any wilted or discolored outer layers. Cut in quarters and shred into a bowl. I used our food processor to do this.
Step Two – Sprinkle sea salt over the shredded cabbage and mix in. The salt with naturally draw out the moisture in the cabbage. Let this sit for about 5 minutes so the salt can do its magic.
Step Three – While the cabbage is sitting, cut up the onion and jalapenos to your desired size. There’s no rule here. I experimented both with slicing everything lengthwise as well as dicing into smaller pieces. Both worked well. Although I prefer larger slices because it creates better layers in the jar while fermenting. I used our food processor here too, but it can easily be done by hand.
Step Four – This is my favorite part! Pound the cabbage in the bowl with a wooden spoon to release its natural juices. Then toss with your fingers, squeezing and mixing it all up. But careful not to make it mushy.
Step Five – Add the cabbage to a clean, sterilized jar. Create layers with the jalapenos and onions. I’ll put a handful of cabbage first, then add the other stuff in a layer. Pack everything down tightly with a wooden spoon after each layer. This will continue to squeeze more juice from the cabbage and make sure there are no air pockets in the jar. Top off with any extra juice left over in the bowl, leaving about two inches for the fermenting weight. If you have extra, fill your second jar the same way.
Step Six – I like to add a cabbage leaf to top off the jar. Simply fold the leaf and press it down over the cabbage. This keeps everything down under the brine, and prevents little pieces from floating up. Add the fermenting weight. Remember, you want everything below the brine for proper fermentation.
Step Seven – I used a vented lid that allowed me to pull the air out of the jar once sealed. Air is the enemy when fermenting. You can find fermenting kits on Amazon for reasonable prices. We use the Soligt Fermenting Kit. During the fermenting process, it’s normal for some juices to want to spill over from the jar. The vented lids allow this to happen.
Step Eight – Place your jar in a dark, cool spot to ferment. Make sure you put it on a plate to catch any spillage. Let your kraut ferment for 4-6 weeks, checking on it weekly to make sure everything is working right. Don’t open the lid!
Things to watch for – When using jalapenos, it will be normal for your kraut to have a green tinge over time. But your kraut should never turn brown! If you see brown kraut, it means that air has gotten into the jar and interrupted the fermenting process.
After 4-6 weeks, your kraut should be ready to eat! Try it with brats, sausage or even tacos. Or eat it right out of the jar (I may or may not be guilty of this). After you open your kraut, store with a lid in the fridge for up to 6 months.
It’s really as simple as that. I promise you, the taste is amazing with just enough zing from the jalapeno to make your mouth water.
Now get krauting!