I begin the title of this post: Easy Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut, with “easy” because…well…making sauerkraut is wicked easy.
And there are so many reasons to eat it and make it. A gazillion reasons. Let’s start with five.
- Heals “the gut” — Gut Health = powerful immune system, higher serotonin levels, better digestion, less allergies, higher mineral absorption
- Fantastic way to preserve the fall cabbage abundance — because otherwise… no one can eat that many cabbage rolls
- Making your own is so easy
- Making your own saves you a TON of money + supports the local economy
- Eating it opens up your sour tastebuds and allows you to digest everything better
Lacto-Fermentation is a practice done, around the world, for hundreds of years. It’s a way of preserving food, but it is also incredibly good for you. Read more about it in this post: The Art of Real Food Fermentation
Many people are amazed to discover that the only ingredients in a simple sauerkraut are cabbage and salt. Pretty cool, huh? Easy-to-make lacto-fermented sauerkraut is one of my favourite things on earth. I love it for its flavour, but even more so for its amazing health benefits.
Making your own Easy Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut may be simpler than you think — but it can still feel daunting. Which is why I’m going to show you how to do it — step-by-step. You can literally grab a cabbage and some kosher salt — then a sterilized jar or a Mortier Pilon crock — and make it alongside me RIGHT NOW.
STEP ONE: Items Needed To Get Started
- cabbage (green, red, or a combo)
- kosher salt
- sterilized jar OR Moriter Pilon crock
- mixing bowl
Let’s get started…
Wash your hands. For realz. You’re going to be massaging whatever is on yours hands right into this goodness.
STEP TWO: Choosing A Cabbage (or 2 or 5)
Cabbage is easy to find year-round. But it’s best to grown your own, or purchase them organically grown. Organic cabbage have the best bacteria on them, which benefits your fermented end-product.
Carefully peel the 2 outer layers of cabbage leaves and set aside. (These will potentially be used in a later step.)
STEP THREE: Choosing a Shredding/Chopping Method
- mandolin (my personal choice)
- sharp, heavy knife
- food processor (this will land you with finely grated cabbage)
Chop or shred cabbage into very thin, short strips. Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl (or two).
The method you choose affects a couple things.
- The time it takes for you to shred the cabbage. (But really? Unless you’re chopping 14 cabbages this shouldn’t really matter. If it does… the food processor is your best bet.)
- The end product’s texture. (If shredded too finely, your sauerkraut will end up softer — less crunchy. If shredded too thick, your kraut will be TOO hard.)
- The amount of time it’ll take to ferment. (The finer the shred, the less time it takes to ferment. If you’re DYING to dig into your kraut, then consider shedding it finer.)
Personally I like using a mandolin on the finest setting (1/16′), but shred on the second finest (1/8″) for about 1/3 of the cabbage, to give it more texture. Then I hand chop the chunks the are impossible to shred without slicing your fingers off.
STEP FOUR: Adding Salt
Sprinkle the cabbage with kosher salt (or a delightful sea salt). I use about 2 tsp kosher (or grey sea) salt for every average sized cabbage. (One cabbage usually equates to over 1 litre of kraut.)
STEP FIVE: The Cabbage Massage
Begin massaging the salt into the cabbage by hand. As you do you will slowly break down the cellulose, allowing the juice to escape. The amount of liquid your release will be alarming. But this is the liquid you need to submerge your cabbage in.
This part is the most time consuming, but hardly takes more than 5 or 10 minutes. (Besides…I kind of find a zen in a it. I listen to great tunes and zone out for a bit.)
STEP SIX: Packing It In
Tightly pack the cabbage in your clean mason jar, or fermenting crock. Fill to the point where the jar starts to narrow at the top. (But leave a bit of space.)
Press it down so the cabbage is completely submerged in its own juices. (There should be more than enough liquid.) If not, pour a little filtered water into the jar or crock, so it just covers the cabbage.
IF USING A MASON JAR: Fold a large saved outer leaf into the size of the mouth of the jar. Use this to press the kraut down into the liquid, to keep probiotic bacteria in, and allowing gas to escape.
IF USING A MORTIER PILON CROCK: Use the weight that comes with the crock to do the same thing the outer leaf would — by weighing down the cabbage into its liquid.
STEP SEVEN: Storing Your Fermenting Kraut
Lightly apply a lid to the jar, but do not close it tightly.
The Mortier Pilon crock has a really cool feature. There is a space on the lid (that screws onto the crock) for you to pour in some water. Once you’re done that, the final lid gets place on top of the water, but prevents it from closing/sealing completely — allowing gas to escape.
Place the jar or crock in a bowl or on a tray to catch any water that may spill over. Place the jar or crock in a cupboard of an inner wall.
An additional, but important note (that no one EVER mentions): Sauerkraut, while it’s fermenting, absolutely stinks. You’ll come home around day 4 and wonder why your house smells like farts and old socks. THIS IS NORMAL. And an unfortunate side effect. The stinking of your house can be prevented by placing your crock in the garage, or possibly the basement. But it’ll happen. (I find this to be exclusive to sauerkraut and not other things I’ve fermented.)
STEP EIGHT: Fermenting Time
Ferment your kraut for 4 to 5 days, and up to 2 to 4 weeks. You an check it every day or two — smell and taste, then pack down until liquid rises above it again.
The longer you ferment, the more sour it’ll taste, but the more lactic acid builds, and the healthier it is for you.
Once fermented, close the lid on tightly (or transfer from your crock to a sterilized jar) and refrigerate. This will halt or slow the fermenting process.
Consume within 8 weeks. It keeps longer if the jar isn’t opened.
AND… a Lacto-Fermented Apple Fennel Sauerkraut is NEXT LEVEL, in my opinion. All you do for THAT is add a few things to the basic ingredients BEFORE you begin mashing it up with your hands.
- 1 or 2 peeled, cored apple
- 1 daikon radish
- 1 tsp fennel seed, slightly crushed
Use these items to REALLY make your kraut sing. Or let the basic recipe dance on its own.
See…I told you it was easy. Easy peasy.