Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage that is prepared with salt and optional additions like carrots, apples, and even different seeds like caraway seeds…and air! I have only recently learnt how to make my own foolproof sauerkraut and it’s so satisfying!
The origins of Sauerkraut are believed to have been in China and Russia, a recipe that travelled with nomadic Tatars and brought to Europe, who originally found fermented cabbage in China. Sauerkraut is very simple to make with the correct techniques and conditions. This recipe is my family recipe that comes from Eastern Europe and uses the simple technique of creating a salty brine that covers the cabbage and is pressed down by a heavy weight over several days.
Time, fermenting and storage
In this recipe the cabbage is weighed down with a plate and a heavy item (i.e a heavy weight or we use a water filled glass jar). Then it is covered with a light kitchen towel or cloth. The cloths allows a continuous amount of air flow in the fermentation process. Good sauerkraut maintains a soft yet crunchy texture, and you don’t want any bitterness in the juices. If you find your sauerkraut too bitter, the beginning of the fermentation process is still going and you should leave your sauerkraut to ferment longer. The juices that are created in the process are full of healthy bacteria, so spoon them into the jars of sauerkraut once its ready for storing.
To serve, bring the sauerkraut back to room temperature for all of the probiotic benefits.
There are so many wonderful ways to serve sauerkraut.
Firstly, just add it raw to any sort of salad or vegetable bowl, it will provide a nice sweet and salty element, use it in sandwiches or burger buns, cook with it in stews or toss it through any vegetable dishes. Below are some serving suggestions:
- Beetroot, rocket, spinach/other greens, sauerkraut, red onion/spring onion, olive oil
- Radicchio, cos lettuce, sauerkraut and mustard parsley dressing
- Cold potato salad with red onion or chives, cornichons and sauerkraut
- Pumpkin salad with sauerkraut and pumpkin seeds
- Sandwiches like the Rueben sandwich with corned beef and cheese
- Bread rolls with sausages, sauerkraut (raw or lightly cooked), mustard dressing and cheese
- Add it to stews A chicken, chorizo, pork or sausage stew with potatoes and sauerkraut
- Add it to any side dish with chicken, duck or beef
- Put it into sliders/burgers with raw sauerkraut and cheddar
Recipe & Photography created for Harris Farm Markets
Recipe for Sauerkraut
Prep time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 large jars
Ready after 4-5 days (depending on season)
1 x whole white cabbage
2 x carrots
50 g salt
- Clean a large work surface on a kitchen bench.
- Rinse and dry the cabbage then peel off the first few leaves of the cabbage and set aside a couple. Cut the whole cabbage into quarters, or even into smaller pieces so that it’s comfortable to grip it. Shred the cabbage using a mandolin or a sharp knife. I recommend shredding rather than grating the cabbage as the shredded cabbage keeps a crunchy structure. Once you get to the stem, slice very finely with a knife. Place into a large bowl.
- Grate the carrot coarsely and add it to the bowl of sauerkraut. Add the salt and mix through well.
- Transfer the entire mixture onto a clean kitchen bench or surface. Begin to crush and massage the cabbage and salt mix, crush it together to release the first juices. It will begin to decrease in size. Do this for approximately 10 minutes. Do not discard of any of the juices!
- Place the cabbage mix along with the juices into a large bowl. Then push the mixture down with your hands, press it heavily so that the juices rise and cover the top. Top the edges of the sauerkraut in the bowl with the extra few leaves (tear them into smaller pieces – see image for reference) and then place a plate over the top. Place a heavy element on top to weigh the plate and cabbage mix down. You should see some juices coming out in the edges. Use a glass jar filled with water as a heavy element. This will ensure the cabbage is submerged under the liquid. Cover with a light kitchen cloth and tie on the side, ensuring that nothing can enter. Set aside ferment for 3 days.
- 3 days later, remove the plate, the weight and the cloth and mix through well using clean hands or 2 wooden spoons. Let the sauerkraut breathe openly in the bowl for 1 hour. Cover it back and repeat the whole process of pressing down the cabbage, weigh it with a plate, a jar filled with water and a cloth tied around the bowl. Let it stand for another 1-2 days (depends if its summer or winter), taste it to make sure there is no bitterness.
- After approximately a total of 4 or 5 days, transfer the sauerkraut into sterilised jars. Push the sauerkraut down and cover with a whole cabbage leaf from the fermentation process above. Make sure to also mix the sauerkraut through the liquid and use a spoon to add this liquid to the jars, do not discard it as it has unparalleled health benefits. If you do have a lot of the sauerkraut juice, just place it into a separate jar and use it in salad dressings.
- Seal the jars with a lid and place into the fridge. Store in the fridge and eat as you like, the sauerkraut will continue fermenting in the fridge however at a much slower rate. The more time passes the more aged the sauerkraut becomes and the texture and flavours change. Eat as you like through the different stages!
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, Published in 2003.