Making a delicious, healthy, probiotic-rich sauerkraut is within your reach. Don’t go for the vinegar preserved so-called kraut on store shelves, and you can skip the pricey fermented kraut at natural food stores. This is something you can make inexpensively (even organic cabbage is usually around $1.49/lb.), and with a little practice, you’ll be able to tailor it to your exact tastes.
This sauerkraut recipe isn’t just cabbage and salt but it still has a pretty traditional profile. I’ve played around just adding one or a few of these items at a time and all of them are very good. But I have to say this combo is a favorite of mine. Apple adds a wonderful dimension to the texture and flavor. The recipe will call for: juniper berries, shredded or matchstick cut apple, ground mustard powder, ginger powder, and a pinch of ground cloves.
However, let’s not forget sauerkraut at its heart is just cabbage and salt, and possibly a little brine added if it doesn’t produce enough of its own, which is rare. If you just want to start with a basic sauerkraut, then ignore the additional ingredients, or just pick one, like garlic. It is great for your health and has an awesome flavor in kraut.
This recipe is for a half gallon jar of kraut. Adjust quantities as needed for smaller or larger ferments.
You will need: a knife & cutting board or food processor to shred cabbage (I normally do this by hand but it is time consuming); half gallon jar (or two quart jars) with airlock/fermenting lid (recommended); a large non-reactive bowl to combine all ingredients; garlic press (preferable); mortar & pestle or spice grinder if grinding down any ingredients such as clove.
These pictures show the steps taken to make this kraut. Four pounds of cabbage will get you closer to the shoulder of the jar, the picture shows about 3.5 pounds which I grew in my garden. To reduce head space, some brine was added. It was also topped with some mustard leaves, and a brine filled bag and weight to keep everything fully submerged. if you don’t use a fermenting lid/airlock, then you will need to burp the jar once a day for at least a week.
- ~4.5 lbs. cabbage (before peeled and cored)
- 1 large apple, any variety (organic suggested)
- 2.5 TBS non-iodized salt
- 50 juniper berries (I love this organic option on Amazon)
- 6-8 large cloves garlic, crushed or minced (around 1.5-2 TBS)
- 1 rounded TBS ground mustard
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 5-10 cloves, ground (1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
- Wash all produce thoroughly (cool water only)
- Remove the tough exterior leaves of the cabbage
- Cut cabbage in half and remove the core with a V-shaped cut (that is my practice, but you may opt to retain it by shredding, matchstick cutting, or using in another dish like soup)
- Quarter the cabbage, cut the quarters in half and thin slice; add to bowl
- Cut four sides off of the apple and matchstick cut; add to bowl
- Peel the garlic and crush in a garlic press (or mince); add to bowl
- Wash the juniper berries and add to bowl
- Add the salt and spices, mix and gently massage so that it is evenly distributed
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and wait a couple hours for brine to form
- Alternately: massage the cabbage for about ten minutes to release the brine more quickly (some people use a wooden beater for this but I prefer not to; it’s up to you). It is normal for the cabbage and apple to get soft.
- Once you see plenty of brine released into the bowl, begin adding everything to the jar a handful at a time and firmly pressing down as you go so that everything is well compacted; also add a little brine as you go (if you add it all at the end it will have a harder time seeping down to cover everything)
- The cabbage and other ingredients should be fully submerged. (Note: if there isn’t enough brine, or if you want to add a little extra to ensure it stays submerged, you can make your own brine (~3%) by adding a tsp salt to each cup of water. You will probably just need one cup but making extra isn’t a bad idea. You can also put some of the extra brine in a small ziploc to place at the top as a weight to keep everything submerged.)
- The ferment should be kept in a dark, room-temperature environment anywhere from several weeks to several months.
Notes on length: Some diehards won’t touch cabbage until it is three to six months old. It’s up to you, but waiting at least three weeks is strongly recommended. Three week old kraut is delicious to me – it is crunchy, salty, and flavorful – but doesn’t have a fully developed sour flavor or the full probiotic health benefits kraut is capable of. In my experience, flavor wise it is excellent at one month. There is a 4th, final phase of lacto-fermentation which takes about three months for kraut, so if you are making it for gut health benefits, this is the best recommendation. It will be incredibly stable at this stage for long storage in a refrigerator and still will have a good crunch (less so for kraut fermented six months, but some prefer this).