Sauerkraut is a delicious, easy-to-make fermented food that’s made with one of my least favourite veggies- the dull white cabbage. Thanks to the magic of fermentation, it’s transformed from boring and tasteless to salty, tender and amazingly good for you.
Even though you might think of sauerkraut as being a German or Eastern European dish, it actually has it’s origins way back in ancient China when fermentation was one of the only ways to preserve food. After all, there were no fridges, freezers, or preservative chemicals back then.
We love the stuff because it tastes amazing and it’s packed with a ton of nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and gut-friendly probiotics. These are wonderful for your health and have all kinds of benefits, including easing any gut issues, helping rebalance your hormones, easing stress and depression, boosting your intake of B-complex vitamins and much more.
So, now that autumn is here and we’re getting more and more stormy days we thought we’d have fun making some new batches of sauerkraut. Now we’re here to share the process with you.
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is a really straightforward process that happens when bacteria feeds on sugar within the food and breaks it down, producing lactic acid which produces that distinctive tart taste.
With sauerkraut, this bacteria is from the lactobacillus family. These bacteria naturally live on fruit, veggies, on our skin and in our bodies plus they’re wonderful for your gut health and can really help hit that reset button when it comes to your digestive health.
Why would you want to make your own sauerkraut?
Of course, you could just pop to the supermarket and buy yourself a jar of sauerkraut from the shelves, but this is likely to be relatively expensive (it’s more than €3.50 per tiny jar over here in the Azores!). If you find it on the shelf (not in a fridge), it’s almost certain to have been pasturised. This kills the healthy bacteria and pretty much defies the whole point of eating sauerkraut.
Not only is it much better, much cheaper and completely fascinating to make it yourself, it’s also a simple fermentation process that you can get your kids involved with, you’ll be saving the world from plastic waste and it just takes a couple of ingredients plus some patience.
Here’s how to make your very own sauerkraut.
Recipe: Easy Homemade Sauerkraut
Grab your kids, take a deep breath and get creating your first batch of sauerkraut. It’s easier than you think!
- 2 heads of cabbage
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 1 mason jar or clean jam jar
- Pestle (the ‘club’ from a pestle and mortar)
- Large bowl
- Before you do anything else, make sure everything is clean. Wash your hands really well with soap and give the mason jar, chopping board, knife, pestle and anything else you’re using a really good wash. This will kill any unwanted bacteria which could ruin your creation.
- Now slice the cabbage into very thin strips and place into a large bowl, followed by the garlic.
- Sprinkle the cabbage and garlic with the salt, then start to squish with the pestle.
- Keep squishing patiently until the cabbage starts to release its liquid. Keep doing this until there’s enough liquid to completely cover the cabbage in the jar.
- Carefully place into the mason jar, pushing the veggies down hard with your pestle so they pack tightly and sink below the level of the brine. This bit is really important- for fermentation to occur, you need to keep the cabbage away from the air. If this doesn’t happen, simply top up with a little extra water.
- Pop on the lid, then place somewhere at room temperature for around 2 weeks until perfectly fermented. You’ll need to ‘burb’ the sauerkraut every day to release the pressure- something my 8 year old son really loves.
- After two weeks, place into the fridge to stop the fermentation process then serve and enjoy. I love it as an extra with my salad, but you can also add it to soups, veggies and other foods.
If you’d rather see the recipe than read it, check out this great video from Living Food Project. (They don’t use exactly the same technique but it all works 🙂