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You guys. I did it! I fermented vegetables, and I didn't die haha! 😛
Ever since first learning about fermented foods, and the fact that you could totally make this at home yourself, I have always wanted to make sauerkraut but I was always TOO afraid to even try!!!
I guess I had this mental block that fermenting was something only the pros could do, and there was no way I'd ever be successful in keeping vegetables from completely turning into mush during fermentation. LOL!
But here I am, proving myself wrong. I did it. And it was so delicious. And so much cheaper than the store bought stuff (and dare I say yummier too).
I was very proud of myself - until the mason jar holding my precious homemade sauerkraut slipppppped from my hands and - insert shattered glass noise here, and maybe a little quiet sob too - yep that happened. And just like that my perfect first batch of homemade sauerkraut was gone. </3
But no worries - I will be making more again, and again. Because it's really easy. And tasty. Luckily, we were able to enjoy the sauerkraut for about two weeks before *the* incident and it was bliss.
so, what is sauerkraut and fermentation:
Sauerkraut is the name given to fermented cabbage, And the process of fermentation, as stated by Wikipedia is, - "the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat."
I once read a really great quote which basically summarizes fermentation in one sentence: Fermentation is "The flavorful space between fresh and rotten." - Sandor Katz, Author of The Art of Fermentation (affiliate link).
Lots of common foods go through a fermentation process - alcohol, yogurt, kombucha and miso are a few good examples.
benefits of fermented foods
Many believe that foods that have been fermented are super foods for our health. During the process of fermentation, there is a lot of good bacteria created that helps and restores our digestive system. The fermented food is also considered 'alive' and filled with probiotics and enzymes that do our body good.
Homemade Sauerkraut Caraway Recipe
The recipe that I am sharing with you all today is adapted from Pure Joy Planet Culinary School, of which I am a graduate from. Our instructor mentioned during our sauerkraut lesson that she has been making kraut for a very long time and has never had any problems with it molding or going bad. So that's great news for us newbies! 🙂
Caraway should be added, not only for the amazing extra flavor that it provides, but also because caraway helps the body digest the sauerkraut better.
How to turn cabbage into sauerkraut step by step:
The process of fermenting cabbage and turning it into delicious homemade sauerkraut, really isn't too hard at all. I think, from my own personal experience, the hardest part of it all is - knowing when the 'kraut is ready enough to be transferred to the fridge.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown:
1. Shred The Cabbage
You can use a knife, a mandolin, or a food processor with a shredder blade. The last two options will give you a finer shredded sauerkraut, while using a knife will usually result in a thicker shred. I used a knife and really enjoyed the nice crunch of a thicker 'kraut.
2. Add the salt and lemon juice
The salt and lemon juice are going to break down the cell walls of the cabbage resulting in a lot of water being released from the cabbage. Make sure you massage the salt and lemon juice well into the cabbage. Use your hands. Squeeze the cabbage and spread the mixture around, then let it sit for 20 minutes.
3. Squeeze (or pound) the shredded cabbage.
After you have let it sit in the salt and lemon mixture for a while, begin squeezing the cabbage to release as much liquid as you can. Some people use a pounding tool to hit the cabbage but I am not familiar with that method so I just used my hands. It worked wonderfully... and saved me a few bucks. I did this step for about 10 to 15 minutes. This is also the part where you add the rest of the ingredients that are going to add flavor to your sauerkraut - I used garlic and caraway seeds.
4. Transfer shredded cabbage AND liquid to a CLEAN mason jar.
Once you've got all the water you think you're gonna get - transfer the shredded cabbage and the juices that it released to a 32oz mason jar (or you can totally use smaller jars if that's what you have on hand but you might need 2 or 3).
When transferring the cabbage to the mason jar make sure you are pressing down the cabbage, squeezing any spaces or air bubbles than might be present. You want the cabbage to be nicely packed inside the jar. This will help release even MORE liquid.
5. Store in a warm and dry place.
You don't want ANY shredded cabbage to be left above the liquid (brine). A few things you can do to help push the shredded cabbage down below the brine is to A. use the extra outer leaves of the cabbage and fold them up nice and tight and use that above the shredded cabbage to keep it under the brine, or B. get yourself some fermentation weights like this one, that will weigh down the shredded cabbage preventing it from coming up above the brine.
6. Check on it daily. Look at it, Smell it, Taste it.
Store your mason jar in a dry, warm place (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and check on it daily. You'll want to open up the mason jar and inspect it. Look at it, smell it, and even taste it! The whole fermentation process can take anywhere between 3 to 30 days.
7. When the sauerkraut is ready, store in the fridge.
Sandor Katz, who I mentioned up above, and is a leader in the fermentation world (he has been fermenting and teaching workshops on the subject for decades), states in this article that he encourages first timers to experiment with the sauerkraut. To taste it periodically, and decide whether it has achieved enough of an acidic taste yet or not. Once it has, and you are happy with the flavor, you can move it to your fridge - where it will continue to ferment but much slower.
In other words, and in the words of my instructor, the sauerkraut is ready once you like the taste of it.
Mine was ready in 11 days. It could have probably fermented a few days longer. But on the 11th day it had a strong enough zing to it, and I was content with the flavor. I also live in a very hot climate which could have sped up the process.
Best practices and 10 tips for a successful ferment:
Making sauerkraut, and any other ferment really, is an experiment, especially for newbies. Learn as you go. Take notes. Enjoy the process, and the 'kraut. 😛 Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making sauerkraut, and a few things I learned throughout my experience:
- Things can get messy, and purple-y. Make sure you've got towels handy, especially if you're going to be using your hands to do the squeezing.
- Check on your ferment daily. Look for signs of mold, drastic color changes (like yellows and greens, ew!), smell it, and most importantly taste it.
- Feel free to experiment and try different flavors. Skip the caraway if that's not your thing and try dill instead!
- Use clean mason jars and lids - I clean mine each time with boiling water before storing my kraut in them.
- Don't use metal utensils to taste the sauerkraut. Apparently metal reacts with salt and can spoil the ferment. Use wooden or glass spoons.
- If you are using regular mason jar lids you'll have to 'burp' the sauerkraut everyday. This simply means to open the jar to let out the pressure that is building inside. If you are using a handy little fermenter jar lid like these ones (affiliate link), then you don't have to open it every day because the lids are design to release pressure. However, you should still keep an eye out on your ferment and check it at least every other day.
- Make sure that all of the shredded cabbage is BELOW/UNDER the liquid (brine). You do not want to leave any of the shredded cabbage above the liquid line. This is super super super duper important. Leaving it above the brine can lead to mold and will ruin the ferment.
- Leave about 3 to 4 inches of space inside the mason jar. The cabbage is going to expand as days go by, and you want to make sure there is enough space in there for that. I didn't follow this rule and within a few hours my ferment was leaking from the top. Yikes. No worries, you can always remove some and close it back up.
- It may seem as if you are not getting enough liquid, but you will have enough (usually anyway), just keep squeezing or pounding it. Add a tidbit of more salt if you reallyyy feel that your cabbage is dry and not releasing any water. You don't need as much liquid as you think.. once you add the cabbage to the mason jar you'll see how quickly it fills up. Also, squeezing the actual cabbage down inside the jar helps release more liquid. If all else fails - you can add a bit of water on top to finish it off.
- Remember this is an experiment. There are many variables that can affect your 'kraut. The temperature of your home is a big factor. Typically, in warmer climates the kraut would ferment a bit sooner than somewhere that's really cold.
- Bonus tip: Don't drop your mason jar filled with sauerkraut. I tested this out for you already to save you the trouble. 😛
I hope you succeed on your first try, but if you don't, TRY AGAIN! 🙂
how to enjoy sauerkraut:
Enjoy as a side to your favorite meals. Serve it with any savory dish, in veggie bowls, on top of quinoa, inside sushi, as a pizza topping, with crackers, or in mixed salads. It's so tasty my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I am very sad that my mason jar filled with delicious homemade sauerkraut literally exploded on the floor in front of me. But I live another day to make more 'kraut!
Friends, if you do try this recipe, would you be so amazing to come back here and let me know how it turned out for you? Not only will it help fellow future sauerkraut makers, but it will also help me learn more about the process and improve this recipe if need be. Thanks ♥
Looking for recipes that pair up nicely with sauerkraut?
Using sauerkraut as a topping for these amazing vegan loaded nachos, or sprinkled on top of these raw vegan romaine lettuce tacos. Sauerkraut also goes nicely as a side with quinoa and cooked beans such as these garbanzo beans or red kidney beans.
with love + gratitude,
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Easy Homemade Sauerkraut Caraway Recipe
Shredded cabbage that has been fermented to form a deliciously tasting sauerkraut with flavors of garlic, lemon, and caraway!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 1 - 32oz mason jar 1x
- Method: fermenting
- 1 cabbage
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice
- 2.5 teaspoons of himalayan salt
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
Equipment You’ll Need:
- 1 wide mouth 32 oz (1 quart) mason jar – I use these mason jars from Amazon (affiliate link).
- Easy Fermenter Lid Kit (affiliate link) – This one’s totally optional but it’s what I used. Read notes on blog post to learn more about this.
- A large mixing bowl
- A knife, or for finely shredded cabbage a mandolin or food processor with a shredder blade.
- Remove a few of the outer leaves from your cabbage and set aside. Using your knife, cut the cabbage in half, and then begin slicing the cabbage into finely shredded pieces. Throw out the stem or save for your compost pile. For a finer shred you can use a mandolin or your food processor with a shredding blade if you prefer.
- Place shredded cabbage inside a large mixing bowl. Add the 2.5 teaspoons of salt and 1/4 cup of lemon juice and begin massaging the cabbage with your hands for a few minutes to distribute the salt and lemon juice evenly. Let cabbage sit for 20 to 25 minutes* so that the salt/lemon can begin breaking down the walls of the cabbage. It will slowly begin releasing its water.
- After 20 to 25 minutes – using your hands (or some other tool to pound the cabbage) begin squeezing the cabbage. Some people prefer to pound the cabbage using a rolling pin or another hard object (but be careful not to break the mixing bowl!). I used my hands and it worked out fine. Grab the shredded cabbage and just squeeze it hard and continue doing so for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Go ahead and add the minced garlic and caraway seeds at time time and mix evenly.
- Once cabbage has released enough liquid transfer to a clean mason jar making sure to leave about 4 inches of space on top for expansion. I always clean my jars and lids with boiling water before using them. Transferring the cabbage to the jar may get messy. Make sure you are pressing down the cabbage into the jar so that the liquid begins pushing up. It may seem as if your cabbage is not releasing enough water (I thought I wasn’t going to have enough) but if you keep pressing down the cabbage, sure enough the liquid will rise. The goal is to get all of the cabbage submerged under the liquid (also known as brine). If any cabbage is left above the brine, it can and most likely will, go bad and begin to mold. Once again – ALL SHREDDED CABBAGE MUST BE UNDER THE LIQUID.
- Using the extra cabbage leaves that you removed earlier (or some other type of weight mechanism like this one (affiliate link), place it on top of the shredded cabbage and push down enough so that all of the shredded cabbage is under the brine. I used the weights that came with the ‘Easy Fermenter Lid Kit’. It’s okay if this extra cabbage is above the liquid because you won’t be eating this part, this is just extra to help you push down the actual shredded cabbage.
- Close up the mason jar with a regular mason jar lid, or with one of the fermenter kit lids if you have, and store in a dry, warm place (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) . I kept mine in my kitchen cabinet away from any direct sunlight.
- Check on your sauerkraut everyday. Don’t be afraid of opening your sauerkraut, just make sure you use clean wooden utensils and always close the lid back up tightly. If you are using a lid from the ‘easy fermenter kit’, use included pump to restore the seal (follow product directions.) If you are using regular mason jars lids – please note that it is recommended that you ‘burp’ or open the jars every day to allow the pressure to be released. The benefit of using a fermenter lid is that you don’t have to ‘burp’ it because the lids are designed to allow oxygen to escape.
- I checked on my sauerkraut mostly every other day, and once it was on the last few days, I was checking it daily. Always keep an eye out on how it looks, how it smells, and how it tastes. Yes, you can taste your kraut. That’s how you’ll know when it’s ready to transfer to the fridge! I transferred mine on the 11th day. I could have possibly left it to ferment a few more days, but on the 11th day I was happy enough with the taste. This part can take anywhere between 3 to 30 days – and there are many factors involved such as temperature of your home. Once you are happy with the taste of your sauerkraut, you can transfer it to the fridge. Your kraut should taste a bit sour and mildly crunchy. The longer it ferments, the more acidic/sour it’ll become.
- Keep it in the fridge inside the mason jar for the remainder of the time. The sauerkraut will continue to slowly ferment even while in the fridge so as days go by, you’ll notice the taste changing slightly.
- Serve as a side to your favorite dishes, or as a topping to nachos, tacos, or mixed in salads!
- The time that you let cabbage sit after adding the salt varies. I’ve seen texts that say to leave it for up to an hour. I only let mine sit for 20 minutes and that was enough time for the cabbage to release enough water. If you are having a hard time squeezing the cabbage or can’t get enough water, just let it sit for a little while longer. You don’t need too much liquid just enough that covers all of the shredded cabbage once it’s in the mason jar.
- Always remember to be as clean as possible when fermenting foods. I clean my mason jars, lids, and weights with boiling water before using them.
- It is recommended that you use wooden utensils and not metal because metal reacts with the salt and can ruin your ferment.
- Always keep an eye out for signs of: mold, drastic color changes, or bad odor. My kraut stayed a beautiful vibrant pink color, never had any mold and the smell was always delicious.
- Don’t just forget about your ‘kraut. Check on it daily if you can, even if you don’t open the lid you can look through the glass and check on it’s progress making sure nothing seems odd.
- Remember I am not a sauerkraut expert. This was my first time doing this and I am sharing that experience with you. 🙂
- It is common for sauerkraut to last for several months in the fridge – but I cannot vouch for that. Always inspect your kraut before eating it and if there are any signs of mold, throw it out.
- This recipe was adapted from Pure Joy Planet Culinary School