It’s interesting that the big-name brands of sauerkraut you find in mainstream supermarkets are never purple. These brands aren’t normally fermented, but rather are vinegar brined. Even when they are fermented (or at least saltwater brined), they’re later pasteurized and consequently lose all their healthy probiotic activity and become mushy to boot. Add to this the artificial preservatives and talk about insult added to injury.
Not only do the big name brands of kraut, even if you like them, turn something potentially super healthy and exceedingly delicious into something potentially unhealthy. (If you’re just getting into fermenting, we can say this about so many things, like pickles and hot sauce.) They also don’t offer purple kraut, which is a mainstay in many cultures and countries and has advantages to the more common white kraut.
I love seeing the dramatic increase in stores of all sorts of artisanal fermented foods, oftentimes organic, but what I’m here to show you is how you can make your own delicious, healthy ferments, easily and affordably, and suited to your exact tastes.
This brings us to today’s topic: purple sauerkraut. I sometimes see the question posed: can I make sauerkraut out of purple cabbage? The answer is a resounding yes. (The fact is we can ferment almost any type of produce in existence, and cabbage was born to ferment!)
I want you to know that not only can you make purple sauerkraut, it’s delicious, it’s considered by many to have a superior texture than regular (green/white) sauerkraut, and most importantly, it packs a considerably stronger nutritional profile. Believe it or not, pound for pound it has more Vitamin C than oranges!
Note that if you don’t have a purple cabbage handy, you can just as easily use your regular cabbage for this recipe, and vice versa with any of the kraut recipes on this site which feature green cabbage. One thing I do like about green cabbage is how it will highlight the colors of whatever spices and other ingredients you add. This recipe, if used with a green cabbage, will show off the attractive color of the ground mustard contrasted with the black specks of the caraway seeds. In a purple kraut, these colors just get lost in that deep purple, which gets even bolder and brighter with fermentation.
This recipe includes garlic, ground mustard seed, black pepper, and whole caraway seeds. However, if this is your first ever kraut, or first ever purple kraut, you may just want to stick to cabbage and salt to see what it really tastes like. On the other hand, you can also swap out or add any other spices you love. I can’t go without at least some garlic in mine. It’s always good to taste as you go along too, before everything gets sealed in that fermentation jar, to make sure you don’t use too much of a good thing.
All this talk of kraut is getting me hungry, so let’s get started.
You will need:
- Knife & cutting board or food processor to shred cabbage (I normally do this by hand but it is time consuming)
- Quart jar with airlock/fermenting lid (recommended); for half-gallon jar just double all the ingredient quantities
- Recommended: Fermenting weight or pickle pusher
- A large non-reactive bowl to combine all ingredients
- Garlic press (preferable)
- Mortar & pestle or electric grinder if your mustard seed is whole (must ground down to powder).
- A canning funnel makes the job of transferring cabbage to a jar more manageable.
- ~2 lb. purple (or any) cabbage (weight before peeled and cored)
- 1.5 TBS non-iodized salt
- Half head of garlic, around 5-6 cloves (optional)
- 1 TBS whole caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 TBS ground mustard seeds (optional)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (optional)
1.) Remove the rough exterior leaves of the cabbage
2.) 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)
3.) Quarter the cabbage, cut the quarters in half and thin slice; add to bowl
4.) Peel the garlic and crush in a garlic press (or mince); add to bowl
5.) Add the salt and spices, thoroughly mix and gently massage so that it is evenly distributed
6a.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and wait anywhere from several hours to a day for brine to form. Then massage the cabbage for a couple minutes to extract the remaining brine and soften it for placement into a jar.
6b.) Alternately: for quicker brine (no wait time), firmly massage the cabbage for about ten minutes to release the brine. (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.
7.) 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 it 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)
8.) Once the cabbage is fully submerged in brine, apply a fermentation weight if available and apply the lid/airlock.
The cabbage and other ingredients should be fully submerged. (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 (~3.5%) by adding a tsp salt to a cup of water. You will probably need less than 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. Probiotic activity will peak at about three months, but the flavor will be great by a month.
Until the kraut is opened, it can be stored in a cool place with a regular lid, or the refrigerator. Once used, store in the fridge.