Today i’m sharing with you my fourth sauerkraut recipe variation. Although the process is similar to the other two posts i’ve done on it – there are still changes and tweaks to it. Red cabbage acts slightly differently to white cabbage. It’s tougher in it’s density and texture, seems to produce slightly less liquid than white or green cabbage and it’s also sweeter. It needs less time to ferment on your bench compared to white cabbage. If you do find that you leave it for an extra day or two and it still tastes good then thats fine though! I hope you find this one delicious like i do! I’ve been adding it as a side ‘salad’ to so many of our dinners lately.
The power and action of salt in fermentation
Many friends have been asking me how lacto fermentation works with just a few simple ingredients. Salt is one of the key ingredients that makes lacto fermentation possible as it helps inhibit/kill any bad bacteria during the fermentation process, and it also creates the initial brine that is needed to cover the cabbage mix while it ferments. When you crush and massage the cabbage and any other additional ingredients with salt, it draws out the liquid from the cabbage (which contains quite a lot of water) and this water and salt make a brine together which is what protects and helps create the right environment for fermentation and the right environment for lactobacillus (the good bacteria) to thrive throughout the different stages…(theres more to the process but I thought I’d focus on the salt aspect today!). I recommend using sea salt flakes (in this recipe I’ve used sea salt from Olsson Salt) or another pure salt as any additives could actually contaminate the process.
I’ve added these tips below for making really good sauerkraut before in my other sauerkraut recipe posts, but I thought I would list them here as well.
Tips for making really good sauerkraut
- Everything begins with the quality of the cabbage. It should be super fresh, crunchy and full of natural water inside the leaves! This will create the delicious salty brine when mixed with the salt. When you select your cabbage, buy one thats whole. Ask the staff at the farmers market or in store for any cabbages ‘out the back’ or in the storage boxes – I always ask for the cabbages that are whole, with as many of the leaves on as possible.
- Make a good brine. In the steps below I explain how to make a good fresh brine for the fermentation of the cabbage mix. To make a good brine, you just need 10 minutes or so of quality massage and crushing the shredded cabbage with salt.
- When you’re fermenting the cabbage in the salty brine – keep everything under the brine. This helps everything safe, preserved and covered in the salty liquid.
- Have a clean working space, and use clean utensils and bowl etc
- Use a kitchen towel and other material that is breathable and that will let air pass through once covered and wrapped up (I explain more of when this is used below).
Recipe for red cabbage and beetroot sauerkraut
prep time: 30 minutes
makes: several large jars
ready after approximately 4 days (depending on the season and how hot or cold it is)
1 large red cabbage
4 small-medium beetroots (keep the skin on or remove it – optional)
35-40g sea salt flakes (use a good quality salt that is pure salt – no additives)
Note: If your cabbage is small – add a bit less salt (you can always add more later if it needs extra seasoning)
- Clean and dry a large work surface such as a kitchen bench.
- Rinse and dry the cabbage then peel off the first few leaves of the cabbage and set aside a few of the leaves. Cut the whole cabbage into quarters, or even into smaller pieces so that it’s comfortable for you to hold and 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 – but you can grate the cabbage as a last option. Once you get to the stem of each piece, slice very finely with a knife or discard into the compost (if the cabbage is young and the stem is easily sliced then you can use it to add into the cabbage mix, otherwise I would discard it, especially when the cabbage is really mature and the stem is tough). If you like, you can place all the shredded cabbage temporarily into a large bowl.
- Grate the beetroot and add it to the bowl of shredded cabbage. 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 10-15 minutes. Do not discard of any of the juices as this will be the brine that you ferment the cabbage mix in.
- Place the cabbage mix along with the juices into a large bowl that you will be letting it ferment in for the next few days (glass, ceramic, stainless steel are all suitable).
- Push the mixture down with your hands, press it down heavily so that the juices rise and cover the top. Top the edges of the cabbage mix in the bowl with the extra few leaves of cabbage (tear them into smaller pieces) and then place a plate over the top. Place a heavy element on top to weigh the plate and cabbage mix down (You can use a a large glass jar filled with water as a heavy element). You should see some juices coming out in the edges (see preparation note below). Push down further to get more of the brine rising to the top surface. 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 to ferment for 2 days.
- 2 days later, remove the plate, the weight and the cloth and mix through well using clean hands/spoons/other kitchen utensils. 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 (1 day only) or winter (2 days), taste it to make sure there is no bitterness.
- After approximately a total of 3-4 days, transfer the sauerkraut into sterilised jars. Push the sauerkraut down and cover with a 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, it is common though to cook with ‘older’ or ‘aged’ sauerkraut and using the freshly fermented batches to eat straight away!
Preparation notes and further details
- Red cabbage naturally produces slightly less liquid than white cabbage does. So when you do massage it, do spend an extra 5 minutes if you find you need more of the juices to come out. You can also, add extra salt to make the process easier but it may over salt the mixture that way.
- When you are at step 6 (see above step number 6) – you may need to use two weights or an extra large jar to press and weigh down the mixture. This way the brine will come up and cover it. If you find that the brine only rises over the mixture when you press it, just set the weights up following the procedure above and wait 1 hour – you will notice after the hour the brine should have risen.
Let me know if you have any questions and need any more guidance through messaging me on instagram!