How to Create the Simplest Sauerkraut
A love of good food and gut health is what sparked us to start Give a Fork, in hopes to share our knowledge with a lovely community of people much like ourselves. A large part of our gut health journey has been to embrace fermented and pickled foods. Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lacto-fermentation, creating an environment where natural bacteria can feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating beneficial enzymes, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Consuming a broad range of fermented foods aids in a healthy digestion, metabolism, immune system and cell repair. Basically, the more fermented foods we eat, the better our overall health. We cannot begin to explain to you all the impact eating even small amounts of fermented foods can have on your overall health. During our journey, we would buy jars of kimchi and sauerkraut to keep on hand and envied those who made their own, because let’s be honest, buying fermented foods can get quite pricey. Little did we know that making your own sauerkraut is one of the simplest processes available to us.
With a little know-how and a small wobble along the way, we’re well into creating our own various flavours of fermented foods. We’ve created a step by step guide on what you need to know to get you started with your own sauerkraut, make sure to note the types of salt suggested, as this could completely change the end result.
1 – Sanitise Everything
You’ll need a few important utensils to get started; a 1-liter mason jar, a large sharp knife, a kitchen scale, and a large mixing bowl. Make sure to sanitise everything with white spirit vinegar, including your hands. When fermenting anything, you want to give the beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible.
2 – Prep your cabbage
We started with a 1/2 a head of cabbage, discarding the wilted, limp outer leaves. Slice the cabbage into thin strips (as thin as you can possibly cut, you could use a mandolin slicer but make sure to sanitize the entire device) and transfer to a kitchen scale and record its weight. Rinse your cabbage thoroughly as it has a habit of allowing little bug friends into its tiny crevices.
3 – Adding Salt
Not all salts are made equal. This may be one of the most important steps to achieving the perfect sauerkraut. Determine 2% of the total weight of your cabbage – this will be your salt quantity. Weigh your salt and combine with cabbage in a large bowl. A little bit about types of salt and how they affect your sauerkraut:
Himalayan Pink Salt, what we found preferable.
This is the prized salt choice for most fermenters. It adds a less salty taste to the sauerkraut due to a slightly lower percentage of sodium chloride in addition to adding a wide a range of trace minerals.
Industrial Sea Salt, make sure you read the label
Make sure to read the label to make sure there are no additives as a result of the mineral removing process. Your sauerkraut might come out a little saltier than you expect.
Table Salt or Iodized Sea Salt, avoid at all costs
Your regular table salt contains anti-caking agents and iodine that may interfere with the fermentation process.
Grey or Celtic Sea Salt, be mindful
Celtic sea salt feels light and airy and when using a measuring spoon, you’re getting less sodium chloride than you realize, and often end up adding too much salt. and could end up with moldy kraut.
Maldon Sea Salt, be just as mindful
When first trying our hand at making sauerkraut we used Maldon sea salt, for the same reasons as mention with Celtic sea salt, Maldon sea salt is lighter than pink Himalayan salt, with a high sodium chloride percentage. You might need to add a little less than the recommended 2% as we ended up with a rather salty batch.
4 – Massage
Using your sterilised hands begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage. It might seem like you’ve added too little salt at this stage but keep at it, gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut with caraway seeds or fennel seeds mix them in at this stage.
5 – Let Rest and Keep Massaging
Set the cabbage aside and leave it to rest for 1 hour. After 1 hour the cabbage should have released an adequate amount of liquid, but a further 5-10 minutes of massaging will ensure enough liquid is created.
6 – Pack it in tight
Transfer the cabbage to your sterilised jar or fermenting vessel and pack in tightly, there should be a few cm’s of liquid above the top layer of cabbage. Lightly screw the lid onto your fermenting jar and place in a cool, dark place to ferment. For the first 24 hours of fermentation, you will want to press the cabbage down lightly (with very clean, soap-free hands) so that it sits below the liquid.
7 – Be Patient
Your cabbage will start fermenting by day 3, you’ll begin to taste your kraut but, keep fermenting it until it is crunchy, and sour enough for your liking – this can be anything from 3-30days. The longer the fermentation period, the more developed the community of probiotic enzymes in your sauerkraut will be, and the happier you’ll be when you enjoy it all!