Dill was prized all over the ancient Near East and Mediterranean regions for its medicinal uses and positive impact on health. It also symbolized good luck.
Dill is one of those herbs that just seems to work so well in all kinds of fermented and cured foods, from pickles, to kraut, to gravlax and more. I love it in all kinds of unfermented foods too, like soups and salads. This sauerkraut has that sour+dill combo knockout punch we love about kosher dill pickles.
Besides its distinct flavor, dill is also a nutritional powerhouse, with vitamin A, C, fiber, folate, riboflavin, calcium, manganese, iron and more. What’s more, dill is already well-known as a digestive aid and nausea-reducer; when we combine it with the probiotic health benefits of lacto-fermented sauerkraut, we have a remarkably gut-healthy (and delicious) food.
Although this recipe just utilizes a few simple ingredients, I’ve made dilly kraut with mandoline-sliced sour dill pickles added into the ferment and it’s simply delicious. If you want to add a previously-fermented sliced pickle or two to this recipe, you’ll be able to fit it into the jar if you stick to the basic weights and measurements I’ve provided below. Make sure to mix it up with the shredded cabbage before putting into the jar so it’s evenly distributed.
This recipe includes both fresh dill and dried, as they each have a distinct flavor profile. That said, if you only have one or the other, it will still make an excellent kraut. Just follow the conversion suggestions below. The other spices like caraway and black pepper are kept in small quantity just to deepen the flavor profile without overpowering the dill theme.
This recipe is for a half-gallon jar of kraut.
You will need:
- Half-gallon mason jar
- Knife & cutting board (or food processor shredding blade)
- Large mixing bowl
- Fermenting lid and weight (recommended)
- Garlic press
- 4.5 – 5 lb. cabbage (before peeled and cored); if adding sour dill pickles to the recipe, you can go on the lower side of the weight range)
- You may either a.) use 2 TBSP non-iodized salt, or b.) weigh the cabbage in grams after it has been peeled and cored and multiply the amount by 0.02. This will likely be somewhere around 30 grams of salt and is 2% of the cabbage’s weight in salt. This is good for a faster ferment; for a slower ferment go for 3% (multiply by 0.03) or even 3.5% (x 0.035).
- Bunch of dill (~35-45g), sliced every 1/2″ (or substitute with 2 tsp dried in addition to the 0.5 tsp below)
- 1/2 tsp dried dillweed (or substitute with a few more grams fresh)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 5 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
- Alternately: Instead of using crushed garlic, I had fresh garlic scapes from my garden and used 25g of those cut very thing (featured in the photos)
- Optional: 1/4 tsp caraway seeds (I like the depth of flavor but too much can mask the dill flavor)
- 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
- Peel the garlic and crush in a garlic press (or mince); add to bowl
- Add the salt, dill, and spices, mix and gently massage so that it is evenly distributed. (If you prefer not to crush the fresh dill to maintain larger pieces, it can be added later after the brine has been released from the cabbage.)
- 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 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 ~3% brine by adding a tsp salt to each cup of water. You will probably just need one cup or less but making extra isn’t a bad idea.
- Apply a fermentation weight or tuck a large exterior cabbage leaf down over everything, to make sure nothing is exposed to air. Then add the airlock lid or otherwise burp every day for a week then every other day for the next week.
- 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. Flavor wise for me, I am ready to start eating it at 4-6 weeks but it improves with time from there. 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).