Sauerkraut or fermented cabbage, is widely popular in Germany. Think bread, sausages, and beer, and you’ll find sauerkraut as the best pairing to go with these German staples. Contrary to popular belief though, sour cabbage is not an original recipe by the Germans. In fact, it was the Chinese who first fermented cabbage in rice wine some 2000 years ago. It wasn’t until the 16th century when Europeans adopted the recipe using water and salt. During winter, people fermented barrels and barrels of unshredded cabbage, then served it as is or as a side dish to meat. From then on, it became a tradition.
There is no doubt people, back then, loved the sour and tangy flavour of sauerkraut, probably without even realising its health benefits. These days, sauerkraut is certainly considered a superfood in the wellness world.
Food educator and fermentation specialist Lisa Thornton of Get Cultured shares her simple sauerkraut recipe and some tips on general fermentation. Lisa herself is a fan of using lacto-fermented foods to keep her diet balanced and healthier. With a passion to share her knowledge about good bacteria in cultured foods, Lisa shares some gut health-boosting recipes at our Fermenting Basics workshop.
- 1kg one medium head cabbage
- 20g sea salt (2% salt per 1 kg of vegetables)
- 1-2 tsbp whey (liquid from previous batch), optional
- 1-2 tsp caraway seeds, optional
- Chop the cabbage anyway you want. Thick or thin strips is fine. Hand chop or use a food processor or v-slicer, but don’t blend it up too fine.
- Mix the shredded cabbage with salt in a large bowl. The cabbage should be good and wet.
- Add whey and caraway seeds (if you chose to use it) and mix with the cabbage. Whey acts as a starter and can make results a little more predictable, but it’s not necessary. Caraway seeds add flavour (if you want to).
- Take one handful at a time and place in a wide mouth mason jar. Press and pack the cabbage into the jar with any kitchen instrument with a dull end. The water should easily come out of the cabbage and start accumulating with every pressed handful. Continue pressing and packing until the cabbage is tightly packed and the water rises to one inch below the top of the jar.
- Put the lid on and leave it at room temperature in a cool, dark place in your kitchen for three to 21 days. It will ferment quicker in warmer weather.
- Check it every day. Open the lid to relieve gasses that have built up. If the water starts to rise, push cabbage down. If kahm yeast (not a mold but a harmless yeast caused by fermentation) forms on the surface, don’t freak out! Just remove it. This is a result of contact with air. Everything that is submerged in the brine is fine.
- Taste the sauerkraut after a few days. Once it’s pleasantly sour, transfer it to the fridge where it will continue to ferment and last for months and months. Then, enjoy eating!
More Sauerkraut Recipes
Try Lisa’s suggestions for different flavour combinations. Use approximately half of a medium head of cabbage and a 12oz jar. Feel free to alter the ingredients to your liking or better yet, come up with your own sauerkraut recipes!
- For Garlic sauerkraut: Add two to four cloves of chopped garlic to the basic recipe. Then follow the same instructions above.
- For Curry sauerkraut: Add 1 tbsp of curry powder.
- For Carrot sauerkraut: Mix two grated organic carrots with your shredded cabbage.
- For Spicy sauerkraut: Add five to six chopped hot peppers.
- For Oregano sauerkraut: Add about ¼ cup of chopped fresh oregano.
- For Cortido sauerkraut: Add a few grated carrots, two to three chopped garlic cloves, one medium onion chopped fine, ½ tsp red pepper flakes and 1 tbsp dried oregano.
- For Kale and carrot sauerkraut: Add two grated organic carrots, ½ cup of chopped fresh kale.
- For Red Sauerkraut: Add ½ red cabbage (chopped or shredded), ½ grated onion, one peeled and grated red beet, 2 tbsp whey or ½ tsp culture starter (optional), and 1 tbsp sea salt. This will result in a beautiful red colour from your red cabbage and beets. If you can’t find red cabbage, just use green cabbage. The beets will still add a nice red colour to the sauerkraut.