Why make your own kraut?  Because commercially available kraut has been pasteurized which kills the beneficial bacteria that make real kraut SO therapeutic.  Pasteurization has to be done to extend the shelf life as the beneficial microbes will continue to transform the food if they are not stopped through pasteurization.  Fermented foods are teeming with beneficial bacteria that provide us with many beneficial products and services which are written about elsewhere on this site.  This basic sauerkraut recipe is incredibly therapeutic for all digestive derangements and is very simple to make – the major ingredient being time.  It is similar to the cabbage juice recipe with a few twists.

 

Materials:

2 heads of non-irradiated cabbage.  (See notes below)

Plan B: If you are not sure whether your cabbage has been tampered with electromagnetically you can simply add a little kefir or kefir-whey.

A crock or glass (non-metallic) container that can hold 2 shredded heads of cabbage.  I’m estimating about a gallon crock.  You can halve the recipe if you only have something smaller.

Salt.  The amounts of salt can vary according to desired taste and texture.  Salt can retard certain kinds of microbes which is presumably why it was traditionally used.  However sauerkraut can be made without it too.  Salt also keeps the sauerkraut a little crunchy.  The amount I recommend here produces a kraut which is not too salty and, over the recommended time, not too soggy either.

A 1 to 1&1/2 inch sawed-off dowel is handy for mashing down the shredded cabbage.  Other kitchen non-metallic tools can be used for this.  I’ve used a wooden spoon.  You’ll need something to mash the cabbage down into the crock.

A glass saucer or ceramic plate that fits down inside the crock that will hold the shredded cabbage under the brine.

Canning jars or other glass containers to store your kraut when it is done.  I use mason jars and pickle jars from the store or whatever is available.  We will not put the kraut through the canning process; we are just using the jars as they are convenient and readily available.

 

Process

Pull off some of the smooth outer leaves of the cabbage, wash well and set aside for later packing.  These we will use to cover or tuck in our submerged grated cabbage before the fermenting process.

Shred the cabbage by hand or with a food processor (recommended).  I like finely grated cabbage.  The larger the pieces, the longer it takes to soften.  Shred all cabbage and place in a large non-metallic bowl.  Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of salt per head of cabbage. At this point a little kefir can be added (¼ cup) to introduce beneficial microbes.  Mix well.  Allow 10-20 minutes for the cabbage to render its liquid.  This makes packing easier.

Start packing the crock or jar, mashing down as you go. The cabbage should begin to yield its liquid as you mash. Continue until the crock is about 2 inches from the top or until you are out of cabbage.

Sometimes there isn’t enough moisture in the cabbage to produce enough liquid to cover the packed down shredded cabbage. In this case just make a brine. To 2 cups of filtered water add 1 tablespoon of salt and mix well.  Pour into the crock until liquid is visible above the shredded cabbage.  Pack down to remove trapped air.

Take the smooth outer cabbage leaves that you set aside and tuck in your shredded cabbage, covering the top and poking the leaves with a spatula down into the sides of the crock a little bit.  Poke small holes in the leaves with a knife to release any trapped air.   We want the brine to be able to go above the leaves but the shredded cabbage to stay under the leaves.  Add brine until it covers the cabbage leaves about ½ inch (unless the cabbage had sufficient rendered water).  Use a kitchen tool to press out any air trapped below the leaves.  Place the plate or glass saucer or any other non-metallic weighting jar or bowl on top such that there is plenty of brine above the layer of the cabbage leaves.  This non-metallic cover should be weighted down.  Label the crock with the start and anticipated finish date.

Now set the crock aside for about 2 to 3 weeks.  I cover the crock with a large plastic bag as the smell of the aerobic decomposition on top of the working kraut can be unpleasant to some people.  Check daily to make sure there is sufficient water covering the cabbage leaves as the water level will rise and fall over the course of the 3 weeks.  Don’t worry about any scum or ‘bloom’ that appears on the surface of the water.  That will be lifted off and discarded at harvest time.  It does not mean your kraut has spoiled.  Your kraut is safe under the brine with its anaerobic microbes, protected from the air.  Just keep the kraut covered with water.

After 2-3 weeks or so uncover your kraut.  Don’t be taken aback by what is growing on top.  That is the ‘bloom’ and it is simply lifted off intact with a fork.  You can also skim off some of the brine if you like.  You can sample the kraut to see if it is tart or soft enough.  If not tart or soft enough, re-cover with lid and brine and wait another week or two.  This process is slower in the winter in cooler room temperatures.  When it is to your liking, pack the kraut into jars tightly and store in the refrigerator.  This recipe yields about 3 quarts of sauerkraut.  The coldness in the ‘fridge will retard the fermentation process.  The salt preserves it and the bacteria continue to transform it into something good for you.

 

Notes:

The cabbage should be non-irradiated as the resident microbes that will breakdown the cabbage for you and provide your gut with their healing by-products are killed when irradiated.  Your sauerkraut will be a flop without them.  This may require a discussion with your grocer, finding the organic section of your food store, or a trip to the health food store or local farmer’s market.  Red cabbage makes a beautiful kraut which turns from purple to red during the fermentation process indicating the slow change in pH caused by the microbes.  After you make your first batch you can use some of it as a starter for the next batch with store bought cabbage.

The cabbage is transformed by anaerobic bacteria – the kind that do not need air – the kind that should inhabit our gut.  When aerobic bacteria work on the cabbage such as at the top of the jar/crock there is an awful smell.  It does not mean your kraut has gone bad.  The less air available, the less smell.  However you must allow head room because the liquid level will rise initially and then fall during the process.

©Pat Block ND 2007

 

One Response to Living Cultures – Basic Sauerkraut

  1. Anne Dail says:

    Dear Pat, Just what I need . Go to the store tomorrow to find the right kind of cabbage. Keep up the good work. We I love you and Thank God for you. Anne Dail PS tomorrow night at 7pm meeting. I will call on the Phone Thanks again.

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