If you’ve never wanted to even taste sauerkraut, you might want to reconsider. Real, fermented sauerkraut (as opposed to the average vinegar-based store-bought kind) is quite different. There’s no vinegar is this–just a nice salt brine. The natural fermentation creates a probiotic-rich food that is as tasty as it is good for you! And, there are many other optional ingredients you can add or substitute, like grated fresh horseradish, grated daikon radish, peppers, and all sorts of spices and seeds like caraway, black pepper corns, dill, or celery seeds, etc.
This recipe is for a fairly basic beginner’s sauerkraut. You’ll need this equipment:
- large bowl
- knife and cutting board
- mason jars
- plastic lids to cut*
- rubber bands
*Make a plastic disk that will fit inside the mouth of your jar from a disposable plastic lid:
This homemade sauerkraut is nothing like the vinegary store-bought type you may have tasted once and vowed never to eat again. It's crisp, fresh-tasting, and uses no vinegar.
Thinly slice cabbage and place in a large bowl.
Grate carrots and jicama, then add to cabbage.
Add one or more of the optional ingredients. Toss with hands.
Sprinkle salt* on top. You need to use unrefined sea salt like full-spectrum, Himalayan, etc. Refined salt (sodium chloride) is not as healthy and can inhibit the fermentation process. Use ground, not crystals.
Grab a fistful of the mixture, squeeze. and crush. Press your fist into the bowl, crushing the cabbage not in your fist as well. Massage and crush, handful after handful for about 2 minutes or more, until you have a good amount of juice in the bottom of the bowl (1/2 to 1 inch deep). The fresher your cabbage is, the juicier it will be, and the easier this step will be! Chef’s Tip: You can make this easier by covering your cabbage/salt mixture with a towel and letting it stand 1 to 24 hours before you start massaging/crushing.
When ready, pack into a 1-quart mason jar. You might need an extra jar if it doesn't all fit. Leave at least 1 inch of space at the top.
Cut a small disk out of flexible plastic (i.e. from the top of a take-out container or yogurt) to fit on the inside of the jar. Cut a slit in it along a radius. This will help you get it in and out. Place the disk on top of the cabbage and press down to submerge the cabbage fully into the liquids. You should have at least 1/2 inch of liquid on top of the disk.
Place a weight inside the jar to keep the plastic disk and the cabbage under the liquids. You can use a smaller jar or something similar. Even a clean stone will work.
Do NOT put a lid on the jar! Cover with a cloth, so the gases of fermentation can escape. Secure with a rubber band.
Leave on your counter for 1 to 3 weeks, tasting from time to time so you can stop the fermentation process when it’s done to your taste.
When ready, remove the disk and weight and cover with the jar’s lid. Keep refrigerated.
NOTE: While it’s fermenting, some white mold (similar to that found on Brie cheese) might form on the jar edges. Just wipe it off. It’s not harmful, but might alter the taste.