A Very Simple Sauerkraut
2019 will be the Summer of fermentation for me. I’m fascinated by it. I have had a few attempts previously – last year I fermented cauliflower, cabbage (for sauerkraut) and chillies and also had a big jug of kombucha on the go for most of the year. This year however, my plan is to take it a little more seriously, to study it, experiment and come up with a handful of recipes that i can come back to time and again. For anyone who would like to do something similar, I can’t recommend the book “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Katz highly enough.
Sauerkraut is a great way to start experimenting with fermentation. It’s quite simple to do and you can make it as strong or mild as you like. Experiment with the salt content – a sauerkraut with less salt will ferment quicker but may also spoil quicker. I like to hover around the 2% mark. I drop this to about 1.6% if I need it for something in a few days but when time is on my side I will use 2% and give it the extra few days that it needs.
It goes without saying that to ferment foods everything you use must be spotlessly clean. Sterilise all jars etc. before using them and ensure that you wash your hands well. Fermentation also produces lots of CO2 gas, particularly in the first few days. While most pickling jars with a rubber rim will allow the gas to escape, I like to open the jars twice per day just to be safe. Without a release, a jar can crack or even explode from a build up of gas. It’s better to be safe than to have an explosion of glass fly around your kitchen.
Makes approximately 1 large jar
1 White Cabbage
Caraway Seeds (optional)
Slice the cabbage finely (keeping the core for later) and then cut the slices into 1-2cm pieces. There’s no need to be too precious about this. Weigh the amount of cabbage you have and add 2% of the weight of the cabbage in salt. For Example: If you have 1KG of cabbage, add 20g (2% of 1000g) of salt.
Add a liberal sprinkling of caraway seeds, if using. Using your hands, mix the salt and caraway seeds in well and leave the cabbage to rest for 10 minutes.
Once rested massage the cabbage with clean hands. Be quite rough, squeezing and pounding as you go until the cabbage has released plenty of water (this can take up to 20 minutes). If in doubt, do it for a little longer! Pack the cabbage and juice into a large, sterilised clip top jar and push down with your hand, ensuring that there is enough liquid to cover all of the cabbage.
Keep It Under!
It is best to weigh the cabbage down in the jar to keep it under the water level. I find that the best way to do this is to cut the hard core of the cabbage in such a way that it can be used like a plug with the lid pushing it down (see picture below). Failing this, you can add some water to a plastic bag and hang the top of the bag out over the sides of the jar before clipping down the lid. It’s important that no extra liquid is added to the sauerkraut so ensure that the bag doesn’t leak.
Leave the jar at room temperature and allow it to ferment for about 4-5 days before tasting. Open the jar and let the gas escape twice per day to avoid any explosions! I like sauerkraut after about 2 weeks of fermentation. It is down to personal preference of how strong you want yours to be. Once it reaches the desired sourness, put the jar into the fridge where the fermentation will slow to a snails pace.