Home Cooking

Homemade Sauerkraut

February 03 2015 - 9:00 AM

Sauerkraut is one of those polarizing foods you either love or hate. It is fermented and it has a very strong odor. Well, sauerkraut is not only a great way to add crunch, acid and depth to your cooking​,​ but due to ​the ​health​y​ bacteria produced during fermentation it is great for your digestive system as well.

Sauerkraut provides a​ ​wide range of beneficial live bacteria which a​id​ in the digestive process. E​ating Sauerkraut​ can give your body as much of a health boost as many of the expensive probiotic drinks sold in stores. However, most commercially sold sauerkraut ha​s lost th​e beneficial bacterial organisms​ due to heating during preparation. ​

Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation, which basically means there is beneficial bacteria present on the surface of the cabbage, the same bacteria found in yogurt and many other cultured products. When submerged in a brine, the bacteria begin to convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid; this is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.

As fermented foods become more popular due to their health benefits sauerkraut is becoming easier to find year round in grocery stores, but it is just as easy to make at home! Homemade sauerkraut is crunchy and tart, worlds away from the limp colorless mass produced junk sold at your local supermarket. The cabbage releases liquid, creating its own brining solution. Submerged in this liquid for a period of several days or weeks, the cabbage slowly ferments into the crunchy, sour condiment​.

​Sauerkraut is one of the simplest things to make and ​it ​will last you months in the refrigerator. All you need to do is combine shredded cabbage with some salt and pack it into a container to ferment.

  1. Choose the right container. You will need a seal-able glass jar. If your house is filled with trendy Mason Jars they work great, otherwise save and wash any old mustard, mayonnaise or pickle jar. Wide mouth jars do work best.
  2. Core and thinly shred the cabbage, keep one large outer leaf for later.
  3. Add the cabbage to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in about 1 1/2tsp salt per medium sized cabbage head.
  4. Massage the salted cabbage with your hands. It will begin to be limp and extrude water. This process takes 5-10 minutes.
  5. Pack the massaged cabbage into jar, pouring in any extra juice as well. ​Push cabbage down as far as possible so juice rises and put large outer leaf on top to help keep cabbage submerged.
  6. Place lid securely on jar and place dark, cool place (65-75F) to ferment.

​Though there is no real minimum or maximum time for the fermentation, 3-10 days ​is what I would suggest​.​ Once you like the taste of it, simply put it in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process.​ ​If you see a white scum or mold on cabbage while its fermenting simply scrape off and make sure sauerkraut is submerged. I have never had this issue, though.

​Sauerkraut is traditionally used on Reuben sandwiches or served with sausage, though I have added it to a lot of my dishes. I’ve added it to a cold peanut noodle salad and it added just the right amount of acidity to liven it up!

I will be posting an article for St Patrick’s day party foods in the next few weeks; so start making your kraut now, and you will be well prepared!

Photo courtesy of youngandraw.com

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