A Beginner’s Guide to Fermenting Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is one of the easiest and most forgiving first ferments making it ideal for beginners. Literally, you can start with three ingredients: cabbage, water, and salt! Below, find a step-by-step guide with pictures on how to make your first fermented food!
- Sea Salt (use canning salt or sea salt only)
- *3 tablespoons to 5lbs
- Large bowl
- Glass jar
Choose the largest head of cabbage you can find at the store. Larger heads of cabbage have more natural sugars making the fermenting process easier. Wash the cabbage and peel off the outer layers. Save the layers for later.
Cut the cabbage in half, and then cut the halves in half again. Cut out the core of the cabbage (the hard part near the bottom where the cabbage was cut from the stalk).
Taking ¼ of the cabbage, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the cabbage into very thin strips. *If you would like, also add thin carrot strips to the mix. Weigh out 32 ounces of cabbage and add 1.8 teaspoons of canning salt. With your hand, massage the salt into the cabbage for a few minutes. Let sit.
After about 10-15 minutes, begin thoroughly massaging cabbage until juices start to appear. You want the mixture to be very wet with lots of juice at the bottom of the bowl. This juice will be your liquid for later.
When there is enough liquid and your cabbage is wet, begin putting handfuls into a clean, dry glass jar. Wide-mouth jars are ideal. Pack each handful down with your hand. Fill until there is about 3-5 centimeters from the top. Pour the juices into the jar until the top is covered. Then add your large cabbage leaves from the beginning to help pack down the cabbage so no air gets into the sauerkraut. Add a weight of some kind to keep the cabbage under the juice/water. Some individuals like to add a bag of brine on top. Others will add canning weights, a small jar filled with brine water, etc.
When finished, put the jar in a bowl. When fermenting, juices will overflow from the jar, so do not put a lid on the jar. Instead cover lightly with a plastic wide mouth jar lid so juice can escape. Wait at least 3-5 days before tasting. You can let the jar of sauerkraut ferment for as long as you like. When ready, remove the large cabbage leaves and put in the fridge when ready to consume. To reduce the salt content, you can wash the cabbage. Be sure to label your ferment with the date, so you know when it was made and how long it’s been fermenting.
Fermenting most foods is seriously easy, and it adds a great deal to your overall well-being. Fermentation increases nutrient absorption, adds natural pre and probiotics to your gut health, AND breaks down pesticides. You can also use leftover juices from your sauerkraut for marinating foods such as meats. Plus, you have a great snack whenever you need one. As always, if you have any special conditions, be sure to check with your doctor. Lastly, not all ferments works out. Check out the picture of our fermented beans with dill and garlic gone moldy!
Want to Know More? Read these other articles on fermenting!