In the fall, I always have an overabundance of cabbage and vegetables in my garden. I am ready to make sauerkraut this week, and I hope these simple instructions will give you the encouragement to do it also. Sauerkraut can be made with homegrown or store-bought cabbage and other vegetables.
The recipe for sauerkraut originated in Asia. Then Europeans started making it. Immigrants brought it to the United States. The recipe was handed down from family to family. People have been pickling cabbage and vegetables for thousands of years. It has been found that sauerkraut has a high content of vitamin C and proved to be useful to the people who were on ships for long periods of time where there was no access to citrus fruits. Sauerkraut provided the necessary daily requirement of vitamin C, which prevented scurvy from occurring. Called kraut for short, it was kept in crocks with lids through the winter months when fresh fruits were not available.
Naturally fermented foods have vitamins, protein and probiotics, or friendly flora. They are healthy and good for the body. Sauerkraut is a fermented food that has natural probiotics, providing friendly bacteria in the gut, boosting the immune system and assisting people in staying well.
Veggie kraut is another version of fermented food. It is easy to make and will keep well if sealed in a canning jar. Veggie kraut can be eaten all year, and it provides the necessary probiotics we need to keep our digestive tracts healthy.
Ingredients For Veggie Kraut
To make fermented foods, you need organic vegetables without any sprays or chemicals; sea salt; filtered, boiled and cooled water; a crock with a lid; any nonmetal pot with a lid that can be pushed down inside the pot to add pressure to the kraut; and canning jars with tight-fitting lids. I like to add three capsules of probiotics, such as acidophilus, from the health food store per gallon of kraut. It assists the bacteria in getting started. (This is optional.)
Naturally fermented veggies do not require any sugar, vinegar or heat. Vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, pickling cucumbers, onions, green tomatoes, yellow, crookneck or zucchini squash, potatoes, beets, bell and jalapeno peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli can all be fermented. Veggie kraut is made with cabbage and vegetables and is fermented with the naturally occurring friendly bacteria that are on the leaves of the cabbage and other vegetables from the garden. I take all the extra veggies from my garden, slice them thinly and add them to the brew. It takes about three weeks to ferment properly. It will smell sour as it brews.
The best kind of salt that I have found is non-iodized Redmond salt. Redmond Real Salt is mined from an ancient seabed deposit formed thousands of years ago from a time when there was no contamination. These ancient seabeds are tucked under the Earth and are remnants of an ancient inland sea in South Central Utah that eventually dried up and is full of natural trace minerals.
ION In Sauerkraut Kills Harmful Bacteria
ION stands for Ions Of Oxygen Negative. I use 10 drops per quart in my sauerkraut to kill harmful bacteria. That is also the job of the salt; however, I have found that it works very well with both products. ION not only kills some harmful bacteria, but it encourages the growth of probiotics. It helps preserve the kraut as well.
ION is optional in kraut and will work just fine without it. If the kraut grows mold, just skim it off.
Recipe For Veggie Kraut
1 large cabbage or 10 cups of garden veggies, including cabbage
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (absolutely necessary)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds (optional)
12 Juniper berries (optional)
2 teaspoons non-iodized sea salt
5 cups of filtered, boiled and cooled water with 5 teaspoons of non-iodized sea salt mixed into the water to make brine
If you want to make a 5-gallon batch, multiply the recipe by 5. I like to make it in large batches because I have so many vegetables from my garden that I need to use up.
- Clean the cabbage and veggies and cut off any brown spots. Wash your hands as well. Using a cutting board and a sharp knife, shred a firm head of cabbage into lengthways strips. You will need about 10 cups of cabbage or veggies.
- In a large bowl use your hands to mix together the cabbage and veggies, caraway seeds, mustard seeds and 2 teaspoons salt per gallon of veggies. Massage the salt into the cabbage for 5 minutes to break down the juices. This step is very, very important.
- Let the mixture set for a minimum of 10 minutes to 1 hour.
- Pack the cabbage mixture into 5 sterilized quart-sized wide-mouthed canning jars. Push the mixture down as best you can and pack it in tight. Pour salt-water brine into each of the quart jars filled with cabbage or veggies. I like to use a small jelly jar with beans in it to weigh the kraut down and keep it submerged in the brine. Make sure the kraut is covered with brine and stays submerged for the 10 days for quart jars and 3 weeks or longer for larger batches.
- Place the jars in a cake pan or on a cookie sheet so that when it starts to ferment, the juices will spill into the dripper pan. Cover the tops of the jars with a cheesecloth or breathable dishtowel to keep the flies from getting into the jars.
- Leave the jars in the dripper pan for 10 days to two weeks. It is very important to keep the kraut at about 70 degrees F so it will ferment. If it is more than 75 degrees, it will go soft and mushy. If it is less than 60 degrees, it may not ferment at all. Room temperature in a kitchen is usually fine.
- The kraut must remain submerged under the brine. Check it every day and push the cabbage or veggies down under the brine with the jelly jar, wooden spoon or non-metallic lid.
- When you notice that the bubbling stops, remove the jelly jar and skim off the top layer of white foam or scum. If you see mold, just skim it off. It will not hurt the veggie kraut. It just shows that the fermenting process is working well.
- For making a large batch, use a clean food-grade 5-gallon bucket with a lid and mix (16 teaspoons of salt per gallon of water). If you are watching your salt intake, you can adjust the salt to a lesser amount. It usually takes about 2 to 3 gallons of brine to make 5 gallons of kraut. I have a 5-gallon batch fermenting right now, and I put a Tupperware type lid inside the bucket so I can push the kraut down and keep it submerged. I add weight with a glass plate on top of the plastic lid. Cover the bucket with the lid it came with, but leave it loose so it can let off gasses. Leave it for 3 weeks in the brine. You will know it is finished when the bubbling stops and it tastes delicious.
- You can transfer the kraut into quart canning jars. Add the brine to about ½ inch below the lid. Place the lids and rings tightly on the quart jars of kraut. Place in the refrigerator until it is eaten. If you have a root cellar, you can keep the kraut in a crock with a lid for a year if the temperature stays cold like a refrigerator.
- I keep the leftover brine water and add more vegetables and cabbage to keep it going. The brine has all the great probiotics and has already been fermenting so you will have a jump start on the next batch.
- Kraut will keep in the refrigerator for several months. If you want to keep the kraut for longer than a few months or if you don’t have enough room in the refrigerator, it can be bottled using a water bath method. Once the scum has been removed from the top and brine added to fill each jar to ½ inch below the lid, place the lid and ring on tight and process in a water bath canner:
- 0-1,000 feet above sea level for 15 minutes.
- 1,000 to 3000 feet above sea level for 20 minutes.
- 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level for 20 minutes.
- Above 6,000 feet for 25 minutes.
It is best to use it fresh and then make another batch when you run out of kraut, because canning the sauerkraut will kill the enzymes, which defeats the purpose of making fermented fresh food. However, it does preserve the food for later use.
This recipe and many other wonderful recipes can be found in my book Cookin With Home Storage.