➤ by Gerhild Fulson
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Homemade sauerkraut recipe. There's nothing quite like it. Amazingly delicious and wonderfully healthy. You'll be amazed how easy this is to make with Oma's tips.
Cabbage, whether green or red, is so common throughout Germany. It's used in salads, side dishes, soups, main dishes, and particularly in this fermented form, sauerkraut, literally 'sour cabbage'.
Although sauerkraut is known as one of Germany's most traditional foods, its origin stems from China where it was originally fermented with rice wine. In the 16th century Germans improved this version by using salt instead of the rice wine and sauerkraut, as we know it today, was born.
At its simplest, sauerkraut contains only shredded cabbage and salt. The salt draws out the cabbage juices and fermentation by lactobacilli begins. These bacteria occur naturally on the fresh cabbage leaves, meaning that nothing needs to be introduced to get the process started.
There are several stages of the fermentation process that produces varying degrees of sourness. Making one's own sauerkraut lets one regulate the level of sourness one likes.
Or be more adventuresome and add carrots, beets, cranberries, apples, pineapple, red cabbage, pears, bell peppers or turmeric powder. In some parts of Germany, juniper berries, bay leaves, dill, and/or caraway seeds are added.
Many years ago I owned a 2-gallon fermentation crock, well actually a a large, open crock with no lid. I don't quite recall what I used as fermentation weights, but I seem to recall a large plate with a brick in a plastic bag on it and covered with a towel.
As much as we loved sauerkraut, we really didn't love the 'fragrance' that it emitted as it fermented for weeks. Then the years passed by. I gave the crock away and somehow settled for grocery store sauerkraut.
Until just recently. I came across an interesting container that is sold to make Kimchi.
Kimchi, also known as Korean Kraut, is similar to sauerkraut because it is also fermented cabbage. That, however, where the similarity ends. Kimchi is more crunchy, more salty, but less acidic and often includes cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, scallions, garlic, ginger, salt, and fish sauce.
Since Kimchi also depends upon an anaerobic process for the fermentation to occur safely, I figured it would be perfect for making sauerkraut. I was right!!!
What makes this E-Jen container so perfect is that it has an inner vacuum lid. NO ODORS at all escape from it.
It can stay on my kitchen counter at room temperature until the cabbage mixture has fermented to the right degree of sourness. I can then either freeze the sauerkraut or just put the container into the fridge to slow the fermentation process and use it from there. Never any smell ... until you open it. Then the sauerkraut fragrance wafts through the room and it's time to make dinner.
The E-Jen container comes in a huge variety of sizes, from 0.45 gallon to 4.4 gallon. I have the 0.9 gallon size since it fits nicely in my fridge without taking too much space.
Absolutely! Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria, and sauerkraut is especially rich in lactobacillus bacteria and are good for your gut and your immune system. Sauerkraut is packed with enzymes, probiotics, vitamins B and C ... and so much more.
Have it raw in a salad for maximum health benefits. Eat a spoonful or two before meals to help you digest your food better. Raw sauerkraut is considered one of the superfoods with the highest vitamin C content and when it's made with red cabbage, that's even better.
Although raw is best, cooked is so delicious and still healthy. To regain some of the probiotic benefits, it is a good idea to add a bit of raw sauerkraut to the finished cooked dish.
Using mason jars to make sauerkraut is all the rage now. Yes, it's definitely doable. There are all sorts of airlocks one can buy that releases the gases that build up in the jar. One can also just use a water-filled baggie as a weight to keep the cabbage submerged and manually 'burp' the gases.
But, there will still be that sauerkraut odor that will waft through the house until the fermentation process is over. That can be from 1 week to several weeks. Make sure you keep the jar in a dark place out of direct sunlight.
The method below works for using a fermentation crock, mason jars, or the E-Jen container. The only difference is going to be the amount. For the photos shown here, I used a 3 pound head of cabbage. It filled my 0.45 gallon E-Jen container about ⅓ full. This would also fill 2 1-quart mason jars.
You do not need to sterilize your mason jar or other containers. Just wash well with soup, rinse, and dry, or use the dishwasher. Everything you use should be clean, but sterile is not necessary.
The best cabbage to use is the regular round-headed green cabbage, sometimes called white cabbage. When you are choosing it, it should be compact, firm, and heavy for its size, meaning it is fresh. Fresh is best!
Choose cabbage that has shiny and bright-colored leaves that are crisp and not wilted or brown. The leaves should taste and smell sweet. Newly harvested is best because it will have a higher moisture content that creates more juices for the brine.
Ideally you want to use winter cabbage, cabbage that is grown for storage and is harvested in late fall. This type has a more compact structure and higher moisture content than the summer variety.
Rinse the cabbage and remove the coarse outer leaves.
Using a large knife, cut the cabbage in half and then slice each half in half to get four quarters.
Slice the cabbage as thinly as you wish. I cut mine on the thicker size, but thinner is more traditional.
Some people like to keep the core attached to each quarter to make slicing the cabbage easier. It give a place to hold it while the slicing is happening. Then the core is thrown away.
My Mutti taught me to cut the core away and then slice, so that's how I've always done it. Both ways work well.
A large chef knife works best. If you're wanting to make sauerkraut frequently, then perhaps getting a cabbage knife (it has a double blade) would be an idea. If you have a mandolin, it makes quick work to get even and thin slices. Wearing cut-resistant gloves would be an asset with this.
You can also use your food processor with the large grating disc to make quick work of this.
Ideally, to ferment the cabbage properly, one should aim for a 2% salt solution. That means you'll use about 1½ teaspoons of salt for every pound of cabbage. Using a scale is actually best. You'll use about 20 grams of salt for every kilogram of cabbage.
The right amount of salt is necessary to encourage proper bacteria growth. Too much salt will hinder this. Too much salt will give you pickled cabbage, not fermented cabbage. Too little could allow harmful bacteria, mold, or yeast to grow.
There are so many salts one can choose from. Start with sea salt first, finely ground. Avoid using any salt that contains iodine anti-caking agents as that can interfere with the fermentation. Himalayan pink salt is good as well.
For the batch I took photos of, I used canning salt. It was rather coarse, so grinding it with my mortar and pestle was needed.
Get everything ready. Wash and cut cabbage into quarters and remove the core. Shred the cabbage as thinly as you wish and put into a large bowl.
Weigh the cabbage and adjust the quantities of salt so that you'll end up with a 2% salt solution. 1½ teaspoons of salt for every pound of cabbage.
Mix in the salt and cover with a towel. Let it sit for about 15 minutes for the cabbage to start 'sweating'. The salt will begin to draw out the cabbage juices.
After letting it sit, vigorously massage the cabbage/salt mixture with your hands. The juices being released from the cabbage mixes with the salt to create the brine that will ferment the cabbage.
I like to use disposable gloves for this, but you can use your bare hands. As well, one can buy sauerkraut stompers or pounders to use instead.
You'll be surprised how much brine is produced by this method.
Above, I'm filling my E-Jen container. Put all the brine in. If you're using mason jars, you'll want to fill them in such a way that you have space to add a fermentation weight or plastic baggie filled with water as your weight.
The shredded cabbage needs to be kept below the level of the brine in order that none of it spoils.
Below, I have the airlock open as I press down the air tight lid. Once the brine starts to bubble up through that hole, I close the airlock.
Airtight, this is now ready to put the container's lid on and let it sit on my kitchen counter. It can ferment without those sauerkraut odors filling my kitchen for weeks. I love to start nibbling on is every so often as it continues to get to the nice sour taste that we want.
Can you tell that I LOVE my E-Jen?
Now that you've made your first batch of sauerkraut, what are you going to do with it, besides using it as a fresh condiment on hotdogs or sausage? Here are some of my favorite recipes:
The recipe below will make one enough for 2 mason jars. If you are using the E-Jen container, adjust the quantities accordingly. For my 0.45 gallon container, I use up to 8 pounds of cabbage. Weigh your cabbage and adjust the salt with the same ratio as below.
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