Growing up, I hated sauerkraut. Loathed it. My mom would make sailor sandwiches and oven baked hot dogs with kraut occasionally, and from the first odors I was set against it. It was mushy, stinky, ugly, and revolting in every way. I’ve never been one for subtlety of opinion.
Well, I’m hereby changing my tune. Sauerkraut has become a favorite treat at the Purple House, regularly added to salads and soups as a condiment, taken along to cookouts to adorn all manner of grillables, and it’s not rare for me to just eat a couple mouthfuls straight out of the jar (I also do this with nut butters).
How did this shift occur? Well I’ll tell you I still don’t buy the flaccid canned mess from the store. I make my own fermented kraut at home with local cabbage and sea salt. It’s crispy, zesty, a great source of vitamin C, and of course it’s purple because we’re the Purple House people.
This is as easy as can be. The steps are pretty much the same as the kimchi, just fewer ingredients.
Purple House Sauerkraut
- 2.5 pounds purple (or regular) cabbage
- 1.5 Tbsp. sea salt
- de-chlorinated water (boil and then cool, or use distilled)
I make this in 2-quart batches. Sometimes I double it and just divide it into smaller jars for the fermentation stage. Anything more than two quarts during fermentation just seems unwieldy to me.
Shred the cabbage using the slicer of a food processor or a mandoline. I like thicker pieces because they stay crispier.
Layer cabbage and salt into a large stoneware or glass bowl and allow to sit 15 to 30 minutes, allowing the salt to start drawing salt out of the cabbage.
Use a pounding tool to pound the cabbage, pulling liquid out of the cabbage. This will be your brine. Continue pounding and stirring alternately till you have a good amount of brine in the bowl. This will take a while, so put on some good music and have fun with it!
Begin to spoon your kraut mixture into a 2-quart glass jar(s), pressing it down with your fist to drive out any air bubbles every couple inches.
Once all the cabbage and brine are in the jars and all the air bubbles have been pressed out, you’ll need to make brine baggies to weigh the cabbage down below the surface of the brine, preventing exposure to air during fermentation. Using 1 Tbsp salt per cup of water, dissolve salt in water, then pour into sealable plastic baggie(s). Place the baggie on top of the kraut mixture and arrange it so all the cabbage is submerged. Wipe the exposed inside of the jar clean with a paper towel, and put the lid on the jar.
Allow to sit out at room temperature, burping the jar 2 or 3 times a day to release gases and avoid a sauerkraut sprinkler system (ask me how I know). If you see air bubbles building up down in the cabbage, just use a clean hand to press the mixture down and drive out the air bubbles.
Every couple days you may want to rinse off and dry your baggie, wipe out the inside rim of the jar again, and replace the baggie. If the baggie breaks, no problem! That’s why it had brine in it.
Fermentation times vary, as short as 5 days in a warm kitchen, much slower when it’s cool. You’ll know it’s ready by taste and smell. If any of the cabbage gets exposed to air and discolors, just remove the affected pieces, press the mixture down again, rinse and replace the brine baggie, and wipe out the rim again.
When your kraut is ready, store it in the fridge, keeping the rim clean and the baggie in place. It will last months.
This may sound complicated but I have a tendency to be verbose and err on the side of over-explaining. Trust me: once you’ve done it and thoroughly enjoyed the end product, you’ll be fermenting everything you can get your hands on!
A great resource for other projects is the book Wild Fermentation, one of a very few food books I’ll actually read in bed.
Have fun, and feel free to send your questions and comments!