Homemade Sauerkraut for Beginners
My German heritage must have inspired my passion to find the perfect sauerkraut to go with my sausage. I have been sorely disappointed in store bought varieties. I feel there has to be a more compelling reason to continue this tradition for 1,000s of years. So I started to research homemade recipes. Apparently, the resulting concoction is amazingly healthy for you. The lacto-fermentation process puts all the good bacteria you are suppose to find in probiotics (after paying 30 per peron, per month) into your diet without the expense. In addition, raw sauerkraut adds a fresh source of vitamin C for the winter months. Ships use to take it on long voyages to stave off scurvy. Along with the vitamin C and probiotics, sauerkraut contains several cancer fighting compounds and iron. The benefits don’t stop there. Remember I was looking for something that tasted better? Well, the homemade stuff tastes great. It gives an additional crunchy/savory highlight to sausage and potatoes. It is completely different from it’s canned counterpart. You may think that making your own sauerkraut is complicated, but on the contrary, it is quiet simple. And it requires a relatively simple set of ingredients and equipment.
Equipment: A large jar, a plate, a narrower jar, a potato masher/baseball bat, vinegar, cabbage, salt, large bowl, tea pot.
*Not all smashing needs to be done with your feet. we also tried a large mash potatoes masher. It worked fine.
- 2 heads of cabbage
Slice cabbage and layer 1/2 head of cabbage and 1 Tbsp salt in a bowl until the cabbage is completely sliced. Place a damp towel over the bowl and put it into the refrigerator over night.
- horseradish-peeled and sliced into rounds (The horseradish inhibits mold growth. Quince can also be used.)
- 1/2 Fennel bulb -diced (Dill can also be used.)
- Heat water to a boil and add salt (about 1 tsp/ cup)
- Layer cabbage, fennel and horseradish into the large jar (You could use a 1 gallon glass canning jar or ceramic crock. The crock works best.).
- Smash the cabbage mix with a bat (cleaned with vinegar.) The more traditional way is to use a crock and step on it with your feet (washed with vinegar). The problem with this method is that traditional people are not eating your sauerkraut. They don’t have the same understanding. I had a hard time getting anyone to try the “feet-kraut.” The next time I made it, I used a large potato masher. It seemed to calm peoples fears.
- Once the sauerkraut is sufficiently squished, (if it fits) place a plate on top of it and then place a narrower jar filled with water on top of the plate. (When using a gallon glass jar, you may not be able to fit a plate in the mouth of the jar. You will just use another narrower canning jar filled with water.) The first time you make it, you want to use as much of the stuff you already have to reduce the economic impact.
- If the juice of the sauerkraut does not come over the plate so that no kraut is exposed to air, then you will have to add salt water. Pour salt water over it until the kraut is completely covered.
- Cover the entire contraption with a clean cloth and let sit for one week-three weeks. I have tried both one and two weeks. I loved the kraut after two weeks. I don’t like my kraut too sour, but just enough. I will be using the two week duration in the future.
**Everything that touches the sauerkraut has to be sterile. Be sure to clean everything with vinegar before starting.**
- 2 heads Cabbage (I like 1 red and 1 green.)
- 1 Fennel Bulb
- 1 1/2 heads of garlic (5 cloves for every 1/2 head of cabbage)
- 5 Tbsp salt (1 Tbsp for every 1/2 head of cabbage and one for extra salt water)
- 1 cup water
- 1 large crock or 1 gallon glass jar
I have since simplified my homemade sauerkraut recipe.
- Clean the pot with white wine vinegar.
- Layer the ingredients into the crock. (If you are using the jar, layer and squish it in a large bowl and the transfer it.) : one half head of thin sliced cabbage, 1/4 sliced fennel bulb, 5 cloves chopped garlic,1 Tbsp salt, and repeat until they are all in the crock.
- You need to beat or squish or pound this stuff the get the juices out. I started by using a potato masher, and I got so tired I switched to the old fashion foot method. It is so much easier. Be sure to have a clean towel on the floor. Scrub your feet and rub them with vinegar, then rinse. Step on the clean towel after cleaning you feet (They should not touch the floor.) and step into the crock. Squish the cabbage mixture down until a lot of juice comes out. I do a dance to make the kids laugh. (It is fun!)
- You will probably have to add the 1 cup water and 1 Tbsp salt. the water should be above the mixture.
- Place a plate on the top and a gallon jug of water on top of the plate to keep it down. Make sure the bubbles are out and the water is covering the plate. (If using a gallon jar, sit a half gallon jar filled with water on the kraut.)
- Cover with two dish towels.
I push on the jug to release the air bubbles every now and then. The sauerkraut will be done in 1-2 weeks. I hope you like garlic. It will keep everyone who doesn’t like garlic out of the kitchen for a few weeks. The garlic will also keep away the mold and bring health to your digestive track. I like the garlic better than the horseradish. I wonder what they would taste like together? –try it.