It’s a cold, dim autumn evening in the mid 90’s and at home in our kitchen my mum and dad are forcing a shredded cabbage into a small bucket, until every ounce of juice has been squeezed out. They then cover it with a small plate and place a big stone on top, keeping the cabbage submerged in its own liquid. For the following weeks my Dad will check the fermenting cabbage and see if it’s still got enough juice. Every now and then he’ll ‘dig’ some sauerkraut out of the bucket, put it in a jar and keep it in the fridge for daily consumption. The smell of fermenting cabbage will linger in the kitchen for weeks.
Inspired by this sauerkraut nostalgia and requests from my food loving friends I’ve decided to share a simple fool-proof sauerkraut recipe that I use myself.
I recommend starting small and making a jar of sauerkraut first. I usually use a recycled 0.5l or similar size jar.
1 head of cabbage (white or red)
2-3 tbsp of Salt.
1-2 tbsp of caraway seeds (optional)
- Shred the cabbage finely – I use a mandolin because it’s quick and easy, but you can use a good knife, just make sure you slice it finely so you can squeeze as much juice out as possible.
- Place the cabbage shreds in a bowl and mix with salt and caraway seeds. Use your hands to massage salt into your cabbage and apply a bit of pressure to make sure the juice is coming out. It may help to leave it for a bit, 30min-1 hour. The cabbage should soften and get juicier. Before you start filling your jar, there has to be some juice already at the bottom of your bowl. If not, massage it for longer.
- Start stuffing a jar with cabbage, one big handful at a time. Make sure you force it with your hand each time to the bottom of the jar so that there are no air gaps.
- When you’ve finished stuffing the jar, find something to weigh down the cabbage to keep it submerged. I use a glass that fits in the jar, filled with water and pushed down on top of cabbage to squeeze out even more juice. You can also get glass weights, which are a bit more practical. Make sure your sauerkraut is submerged at all times. This is the key to a successful fermentation.
- Cover the jar with a muslin cloth or a towel to prevent flies or anything else falling into it.
- Wait. The smell and the look of it so enticing, I can barely wait 3-4 days before I start tasting but you should experiment with times as it will take longer to ferment in colder climates and colder seasons.
Sauerkraut is delicious on its own but can be eaten as a condiment with a main meal, mixed in a salad or even a soup. The leftover juice from sauerkraut is delicious too.
For more tips and inspiration for fermenting, have a look at the work of Sandor Katz and Annie Levy who also runs fermentation workshops.