How To Make Homemade Sauerkraut

Raw cultured vegetables/fermented foods are ridiculously good for you. They are are alkaline-forming, rich in vitamins and enzymes, and contain live probiotics which promote healthy microflora (bacteria) in the gut. Adding fermented foods on a daily basis improves digestion and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Raw cultured veggies are pre-digested, meaning that even before you eat them, the “good” bacteria have already converted the natural sugars and starches in the vegetables into lactic acid, so your body doesn’t have to:). Pretty awesome, right? I’d say so! Not only do fermented foods vastly improve digestion, they also increase longevity, help control cravings for sweets, are alkalizing, promote cleansing, are a much less expensive alternative to probiotics, and taste ah-maze-zing.

However, not all fermented foods are equally nutritious. The good stuff is raw and unpasteurized. Pasteurization and heating destroys the precious enzymes and friendly bacteria we’ve been discussing, and we want to keep that goodness intact! You can find raw and unpasteurized cultured veggies in the refrigerator section of your local health food store, but at roughly $7.99 per jar, that can get pricey real quick. 

Lucky for us, fermented foods are super easy to make at home. To prove it, I’ve created a simple step-by-step tutorial to show you how to make sauerkraut, my favorite fermented food! It is so easy, I promise! Once you get the hang of it you’ll be making it all the time. So here you go! A step-by-step guide to making sauerkraut, [sauer-sour, kraut-greens/plants]. Let’s get cultured;).

Healthy How-To: Homemade Sauerkraut

Ingredients:
1 head fresh cabbage (I used green)
2 teaspoons sea salt

Materials:
cutting board
sharp chef’s knife 
large glass or ceramic mixing bowl*
wide mouth glass jar

Directions:
First things first, make sure all your materials are clean. They do not have to be sterilized but make sure everything you’re working with is clean and dry.  

Remove and discard outer cabbage leaves then rinse the cabbage to remove any dirt or debris.

Now that the cabbage is clean, remove the outer leaves and set them aside (you’ll be using them later). 

Using a sharp chef’s knife or food processor, remove the core and shred cabbage into small pieces. I like to shred the cabbage by hand unless I am making a large bulk batch.

Add cabbage to large glass or ceramic mixing bowl. 

*Do NOT use a metal mixing bowl. For fermentation (or anytime something with salt will be sitting for a while), do not use metal bowls or leave metal utensils sitting in the sauerkraut because salt reacts with metal. No bueno.

Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage. Use about 1 – 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage. Try 2 teaspoons for your first batch, if you find it too salty, use less in your next batch. 

Using clean hands, massage the salt into the cabbage for 5 - 10 minutes. This helps draw out the moisture of the cabbage to create a brine.

Leave the cabbage to sit for about an hour. 

After letting the cabbage sit for an hour or so, the cabbage should be much softer and there should be a good amount of liquid/brine in your bowl. 

Give it a little massage if needed, then start to add the cabbage to your wide mouth glass jar. I like to use a wide mouth glass jar so I can stick my hand in there to really pack down the cabbage. And now for the most important part of this entire tutorial: your cabbage must stay submerged in the brine the entire time. The brine is what protects your cabbage from mold forming so make sure the brine covers the cabbage! Leave an inch or two of space at the top of the jar. 

After you have your cabbage all packed into the jar, you’ll want to add something to keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. I used a small glass jelly jar because it fits perfectly inside of the jar. You can use a glass shot glass or a rock, just make sure it’s clean! 

So what you’ll do is take the outer cabbage leaves you set aside earlier and stuff/place them in the glass jar. Then add your weight (small glass jar/shot glass/etc.) atop of the leaves to ensure the sauerkraut is packed airtight. 

Seal the jar and keep at room temperature for about 3 days. Be sure to check the brine level and make sure the cabbage stays submerged. As the cabbage sits and ferments, more liquid will continue to be drawn out of the cabbage which may cause the jar to overflow if you did not leave enough space at the top of the jar. No big deal, just place the jar on a towel or in a bowl to avoid spills. 

The longer the sauerkraut sits and ferments, the stronger the taste. Once the sauerkraut has achieved the desired taste (usually about 3 days), store it in the fridge. As long as it stays submerged below the brine it will stay good for months. 

See? Super easy. Once you’ve perfected making your own basic sauerkraut you can get fancy by adding caraway seeds, grated carrots, beets, ginger, or using purple cabbage. Regardless or the ingredients, the directions and fermentation process stays the same. Play around and enjoy! 

Keep the leftover brine to add to your next batch to speed up the fermentation process.

Are you into cultured and fermented foods? I can’t go a day without them! 

Be well and get cultured,
Erika & Jess