Author Notes: Fermentation is one of the most fascinating, ever-present food processes, occurring naturally everywhere. Food fermentation is the microbial transformation of raw or cooked foods to a more preserved state that has a complex, unique flavor profile. —Tara Whitsitt
Makes: about 1 gallon of kraut
1-gallon glass jar or crock
Weights (river rocks or other heavy things and a yogurt lid or plate)
Dishtowel or other cloth
pounds cabbage (green or red)
tablespoon caraway seeds
tablespoon cumin seeds
dried Thai chilis
tablespoons unrefined sea salt (or more to taste)
- Prep your cabbage and carrots: Thinly slice cabbage and cut the carrots julienne-style. Put them in a big bowl. If you have outer leaves of cabbage, rather than compost them, set them aside to use as a top layer between your kraut and your weight (more details on this shortly).
- Add 1 tablespoon each of caraway and cumin to your vegetables.
- Cut open 3 Thai chilis and collect the seeds. Add them to your ingredients. Chop the skins of the chilis and add these too.
- Add 2 tablespoons of salt and massage into your ingredients for 3 to 5 minutes. Your cabbage will release water, which will serve as your kraut’s brine. Don’t forget to taste prior to packing—you may want to add more salt to your liking. The addition of salt is important for a multitude of reasons, but how much you add is up to you. Here’s a nifty chart on salinity percentages for your reference: http://www.probioticjar.com/uploads/1/7/6/5/17656129/4012185_orig.jpg
- When the ingredients are nice and wet, pack them into your jar or crock. The goal is to pack down your vegetables until the brine is above your vegetables. Note: This can take time and a lot of strength! We have friends who use wooden spoons or even wine bottles to pack their kraut down below the brine. Packing it below the brine is important, because any vegetables exposed to air can grow mold. You can scrape off the mold (it’s not dangerous), but you will lose a little bit of kraut.
- Once it’s packed down, take the cabbage leaves we recommended you set aside from the beginning of the recipe and layer them over the top of your kraut. This way, the outer leaves will grow mold first, and you can simply toss them into your compost as they do.
- Now for your weights: My winning method on the fermentation bus is using 3 outer cabbage leaves on the top layer of my kraut, followed by several scrubbed and boiled river rocks. My river rocks were gathered from the Willamette River back home, so I know my ferments carry a little bit of my beloved Oregon with each bite. If you don't have any river rocks, you fill a small jar with water and sit it on top of your ferment; but if you have other ideas for weights that still allow your ferment to get some air exposure, give them a try.
- Cover your vessel with a cloth and rubber band to keep random bugs and dust particles out.
- Wait a week and taste your kraut. Maybe you’ll want to keep it going another week, but it’s good practice to try your ferments along their journey. Ferments will work at different speeds depending on their environment. Temperature is a huge factor: Most ferments thrive best at 68 to 76° F, just like we humans do.
- When your ferment is to your liking, cover it with a lid and place in the fridge or other cold storage. Keeping your new kraut cool stalls the fermentation process, so you can enjoy the flavor you reached the day you sealed the jar.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!