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Author Notes: I'm a pickling, fermenting freak, plain and simple. If it can be made sour, sweet, spicy, vinegary or tangy I'm game to try it. Sauerkraut is definitely in my top three favorites to make and consume by the bowlful -- the other two being kimchi (of any variety) and half-sour garlicky pickles that still snap when you bite into them. I promise to post these soon as well. Today it's Sauerkraut.
You can find fermented sauerkraut recipes all over the internet, but here's my version I make in a big two gallon glass jar that sadly lost the lid somewhere over the years. No problem with that... it makes the perfect pickling crock!!
By the way, if you use a combination of red and white cabbage, it turns the most lovely shade of pink. For this batch though, I went with all white! —Deb Roseman
Makes about 1 1/2 gallons
- 2 large heads of cabbage; big outer leafs set aside
- 2 lemons, sliced 1/4 inch
- 2 large carrots, shredded or julienned thinly
- 1 large daikon or korean radish, shredded or julienned thinly
- 2 large sweet onions, sliced very thinly
Brine and Spices
- 2 teaspoons dry dill or several heads of fresh dill
- 2 teaspoons pink or black or combined peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
- 4 large bay leaves; or 6 small
- 10 cups warm, not hot, water
- 1/3 cup sea salt (I use Korean sea salt)
- 2 cups kombucha vinegar **see note below
- 1 black tea bag
- 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
- Set aside the thick, outer leave of the cabbage. Prepare the vegetables as directed above and add them all to the 2 gallon jar or crock (or two 1 gallon jars). Just do this as you go along to make sure have the right amount of vegetables. You want enough to fill a two gallon jar about 2 inches from the top. This will eventually shrink down as the vegetables wilt and release their juices. Since vegetable sizes vary, if you need more simply add more until you have enough! The ratio when all is said and done is equal amounts of carrot, radish and onion comprising 1/4 of the entire mix of veg. The rest was cabbage. The nice thing about this kraut though, is you can add whatever you like as long as the consistency is about the same. Things like Kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, parsnips, red radishes would all do very well. You also want some consistency in the shredding and slicing. I use a mandolin to get my root vegetables all julienned evenly; and to slice my cabbage and onions evenly as well as the lemons to the right thickness. That way they all ferment consistently.
- Once you have all your vegetables prepared, dump them all in a big bowl and toss them to distribute everything evenly. You can hold out the lemons to layer in but I like it all mixed up.
- Mix the spices together and toss with the vegetables.
- Mix warm water and salt; stir until dissolved. If you like your kraut a little less sour, you can add 2 Tbs of sugar at this point. Add Kombucha. Note: I use my homemade kombucha brew that's fermented to the vinegar stage. You can use bottled kombucha or you can substitute 1 cup of cider vinegar mixed with 1 cup of water.
- Add vegetable mixture back into the crock. Pour the brine over the mixture. Really push the vegetables down with clean hands to get them as submerged as possible. If you find you don't have enough to cover, you can add more water and salt (1 1/2 teaspoons per quart of water).
- Add the tea bag. The tannin from the tea will keep the vegetables crunchy while they ferment. You can also use grape, oak or horseradish leaves. Just be sure they haven't been sprayed with anything. Now cover the entire thing with the clean, outer leaves of the cabbage and again, push down to make sure it's all covered with brine. This is the thing that will keep mold out. Now weight it all down. I used a smaller jar filled with water on top of the cabbage leaves.
- Cover the entire thing with a thin dishcloth; one that will allow air in like a tea towel. I'm a rubber band hoarder so I always have those big thick ones to use to keep the towel on; but you can tie it down with twine or ribbon. Whatever works for you.
- Here's the hard part. Let it sit in a quiet, dark corner of you kitchen or pantry until the magic happens. Start tasting it after two weeks. I tend to check mine daily for signs of mold. If that happens then just remove the mold and stir everything back in. I know it sounds gross, but the fermentation process will kill the mold as long as there's plenty of brine. And that's why 1) you want to keep it weighted down; and 2) you want to be sure you touch it with clean hands and implements; and 3) keep it covered with something breathable. The cloth will keep out mold spores, but allow enough oxygen for fermentation to occur. If the brine starts to evaporate, you can add more water at the same ratio of 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt per quart of water.
- When it gets to the stage you want, move it to the refrigerator. I usually take out part after 2 or three weeks to start eating while it's tangy but still firm (in the picture); and leave the rest another several weeks until it gets softer. I put it in smaller fido jars in the fridge. If you keep it outside the fridge, with plenty of brine, there's no need to process it and it will continue to ripen and get soft and krauty like the stuff you buy but better. Refrigeration slows down the fermentation process and I've kept batches happily for months until sadly it's all gone.
- About the lemons and bigger cabbage leaves -- waste not want not! Pick them out and use them. I store the lemons with brine in the fridge. You can chop them up and throw them in anything you want to add a citrusy kick to. I've put them in potato salad; greens; lima beans; roasted brussel sprouts and escargot. You can use those big, pickled cabbage leaves for making cabbage rolls with your stuffing of choice. In fact if you know you're going to do that, just throw in a few extra whole leaves at the beginning of the process. The extra flavor from the pickling is amazing and keeps the stuffing nice and moist! By the way, I have been known to pick up stray cabbage leaves in the produce department left behind by uneducated shoppers who want only the bright green heads. No one minds and I never get charged for them.
- Note on Photos: Photo 2 shows the pressed kraut after two weeks of fermentation. Photo 3 is how it looked after it was pressed down into the brine on day 1. I'll post additional pictures as the ferment continues.