How to make Sauerkraut

Bright green bottled sauerkraut.

Let’s make some sauerkraut!

I’ve been telling everyone who will listen that I should have my own cooking show. Unfortunately, I have none of the qualifications and my charisma is largely based around things I wouldn’t get away with on TV.

So, I decided I’d share some of my favourite recipes here on Sunny Guts.

As someone who loves to cook it has been difficult at times to make food that agrees with my colitis, and subsequently my stoma. I’m no saint, I can’t fight the allure of carbs drenched in cheese just as much as you can’t, but I did want to start this off with something that is genuinely good for you.

Enter sauerkraut – this simple recipe opened the door for me to get into fermenting anything and everything, probably unlocked by my extremely vague German heritage.

What you need

  • A kitchen scale
  • An air tight jar, the best ones have a two-piece lid
  • A green cabbage
  • Salt

Yep, that’s it. Sauerkraut in its simplest form is made with cabbage and salt, I did say it was simple.

How it’s done

  1. Take your whole cabbage and cut it into quarters.
  2. Once you have it cut into quarters, cut the core out of each piece.
  3. You’ll need to weigh the cabbage to ensure accurate salt ratio, I find it easiest to weigh the cabbage before I slice it. As a rough guide, I used two of the quarters of my cabbage weighing a total 520g – that 520g half filled the 1 litre jar I used. It looks like you have a lot of cabbage, but it will take up much less space after we beat it up a little! Using roughly 800g of cabbage in a 1 litre jar should be a safe bet.
  4. Slice each piece as thin as possible, putting the slices into a large bowl as you cut.
  5. Add 2% of salt by weight to your sliced cabbage (take the total weight of your cabbage in grams multiplied by 0.02 to find the amount of salt needed in grams).
  6. After you’ve added your salt, get your hands into the bowl and roughen up that cabbage. Toss it around, squeeze it, wring it out – the goal here is to expel as much water as possible. After 3-5 minutes you should have enough brine in the bowl to entirely cover the cabbage once placed in its jar.
  7. Transfer the contents of the bowl into your jar, making sure not to lose any of the liquid. Once in the jar, firmly compact the cabbage into the bottom of the jar so the liquid will entirely cover it.
  8. Cover the top of the contents with something that will keep it submerged – my go-to is a zip lock bag cut in half, as the plastic is thick enough to stay in shape when it’s pushed in the jar.
  9. Leave somewhere cool and dry, with the lid securely closed. Don’t close it too tightly or you’ll never get it off again once gas starts to form (ask me how I know). Come back and ‘burp’ the jar by releasing the lid every day, you don’t want to make a cabbage bomb in your kitchen.
  10. How long you leave the fermentation is your choice! I start tasting mine after about 12 days, usually stopping it at the two week mark – however you can stop it early for a more subdued flavour, or keep it going longer until it’s strong enough to make a Bavarian’s head spin. You stop the fermentation process by moving the sauerkraut into the fridge, where it could outlive the next 4 generations of your family and still be good.

Made your standard sauerkraut and want to change things up a bit? You can add almost anything in with the cabbage to change the flavour profile. Some of my favourites are sliced jalapeno, crushed garlic, mustard seeds or fennel seeds!

Once you’ve got your sauerkraut in the fridge it is ready to eat. Put it on anything you like, by all means, but my two favourite ways to eat it are:

  1. With bratwurst РI watched a great video by Kenji López-Alt where he braises bratwurst in a barbecue tray, with the sausages nestled in a bath of beer and bratwurst. Since watching that video it has been my go-to any time I feel like a proper cultural punch to the face. You can watch it here.
  2. Secondly, put it in a Reuben. Toasted sandwiches are already the greatest food group on Earth, the Reuben no exception, but there’s one thing that will make a Reuben so much tastier than one you can buy and that is your own homemade sauerkraut.

Thanks for sticking around this far. My aim is to have sauerkraut in every fridge in the world, so if you’ve been inspired to make some of the tastiest shredded cabbage you’ve ever eaten – I’ve done my job. Happy fermenting!

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