Here’s a basic Sauerkraut technique and recipe. A favorite client of mine asked me to write down some instructions on how to make sauerkraut and after doing that, I was inspired to share this technique with the world!

Now, many of you are likely already crinkling your noses and uttering a silent “eeew” when you hear the word sauerkraut. I admit that I never had much of an inclination to eat kraut, but then again my only exposure to it was at the ballpark, sitting in the open and looking like a translucent, slimy mass of angel hair pasta. In my early twenties, I had my first Rueben at a Hofbrau in Santa Clara – I was looking for something that would be an ideal complement to a pint of German lager and one of the cooks suggested I try the Rueben. I was a little hesitant at first but after the first bite I fell in love with the wonderful tangy taste of the sauerkraut in conjunction with the salty taste of the corned beef… and it sure did go well with that crisp lager!

While attending acupuncture school in Santa Cruz, a very dear friend and classmate who would go on to become an Osteopath turned me on to the joys of “small batch” sauerkraut. This kraut differed from the usual store-bought variety as the ingredients were organic, vital and fresher than the mass produced kind. The first one I tried was made with spices typical of the cuisine of India – turmeric, coriander, mustard seed, and a hint of curry. It was really delicious and I was instantly hooked on adding it to everything – rice congee, salads, and of course, sausages. So, a big thanks goes out to Dr. Villegas for bringing the brine to Beach Hill!

When I moved back up to the North Bay, I found myself surrounded by an abundance of incredibly fresh, locally produced organic vegetables, including lots of cabbage. Finally, it occurred to me to make my own sauerkraut after my neighbor/landlady very thoughtfully gave me my first book on fermentation, which I read with great delight! A big thank you goes out to Gloria, and my body is eternally grateful as a result of your kindness.

Sauerkraut is a wonderful ferment – one that combines the fun and satisfaction of witnessing a living process taking place along with flavors that delight the senses while packing a probiotic wallop to keep our insides healthy and strong! My favorite part about sauerkraut is that it is not an exact science; rather it is a process and a relationship that one forms with the ingredients and the environment. There are many techniques to make sauerkraut but mostly it is easy to make and very forgiving, as the abundant lactobacillus bacteria naturally present on the cabbage and which proliferate during the fermentation, prevents the growth of E. coli and other nasty bacteria.

With all this in mind, I encourage everyone to try making sauerkraut – and if the first batch doesn’t come out right, do some homework and try, try again!

To make sauerkraut, you will need the following:

  • A crock with straight sides or a large mason jar (I use Quart or Half Gallon size)

  • A small saucer or dish that will fit inside the above-mentioned container – the closer to the size of the container the better but just about anything will work!

  • Something to rest on top of the plate/saucer to keep it weighed down. I use a large boiled rock I found in the desert, but you can also use a smaller mason jar filled with water, a mug, a brick, etc. Be sure to clean it meticulously as any residual bacteria will likely be introduced into the ferment.

  • Cheesecloth or a kitchen towel to cover the top of the fermentation vessel to keep dust and flies out of the ferment.

  • Fresh, organically grown cabbage – I’ve used Napa, Savoy, green and red cabbage will good results. The only time my ‘kraut has failed was when I used conventionally grown cabbage, which is why I recommend organic so heartily.

  • The amount of cabbage needed depends on how big of a fermentation vessel you have and how much kraut you want.

  • Sea salt or pickling salt – again, I feel more natural is better, so Himalayan salt, unrefined sea salt, etc is preferable. Various sources suggest iodized salt is to be avoided as it imparts a different taste or may possibly influence the fermentation process as iodine is an antibacterial, which is the opposite of what we’re trying to do here!

  • A cool, dark place to keep the developing sauerkraut.

  • Love, patience and time…

 

  1. Gently wash the outside of the cabbage. Peel the outside leaves of the cabbage and keep them whole for later use as a covering for the sauerkraut.

  2. Shred or finely slice the cabbage, removing the hard cores. I like mine a little coarse so I cut “shreds” with a knife that are about 4 inches long by about ¼ – ½ inch wide.

  3. Mix about 1.5 – 3 Tablespoons of the salt per head of cabbage – you can increase or decrease the amount of salt used per your preference. The cabbage should taste pleasantly salty but not overpoweringly so. Less salt  = faster fermentation, but softer texture. More salt = slower fermentation but crisper texture, and saltier taste.

  4. I take a handful of cabbage, toss it into the vessel, sprinkle some salt, then mix with my hand. Finally I pack it down firmly with my fist.

  5. Feel free to experiment with any spices at this point. I like to add dill and coriander seed to mine. Sauerkraut is very forgiving with the flavors and can handle a wide variation in degree of spicing, so experiment to figure out what works best for your tastes.

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all cabbage and salt has been added and cabbage is packed down firmly in the fermentation vessel.

  7. Place the whole outer cabbage leaves on top of the lot  – this will keep mold and other stuff out of the precious kraut!

  8. Next, place the saucer and the weight on top, followed by the cheesecloth or towel, draped over the vessel. The bacteria naturally present in the cabbage will do the rest!

After waiting several hours to a day, check the cabbage. Brine should be visible and should eventually cover the kraut entirely and probably even the saucer as well. If not, mix a little salt water and add it to the kraut to bring the brine up to an acceptable level.

The brine is key for preventing spoilage – anything submerged will be in an anaerobic environment and thus protected from spoilage.

After some time, you will likely notice bubbles forming, along with what appears to be a “scum” on top. Sometimes a little mold forms as well. If so, use a spoon to scrape away the mold if you like but overall, the top whole cabbage leaves will protect the precious ferment underneath.

After about 2 weeks, peel back the leaves and taste some of the shredded kraut underneath. It should be developing a nice sour tangy taste. If it’s still mostly salty and not too tangy, leave it to ferment another week or two. Temperature and other variables make it difficult to give a concrete time estimate, but generally smaller batches are done more quickly and a warmer environment speeds the process as well.

Once the kraut has developed a taste that suits you, remove the upper leaves and pack the kraut into clean mason jars with lids. Refrigerating the kraut will slow the fermentation process but it will continue to develop and mature for up to a couple of months.

Now, enjoy some sauerkraut with potatoes, sausage, rice… just about anything, in my opinion, will benefit from the zesty flavor of sauerkraut!

For more info on fermentation and great sauerkraut, I heartily recommend Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz or check out his website. His books are extremely informative, well-researched and delightful to read!

Love and cultures,

Marc