Monday, August 20, 2012

Making Sauerkraut

 Sauerkraut just waiting to be made!

I have to be honest. When I was a kid, sauerkraut was one of the most disgusting things I ever could imagine eating. My dad would eat it on occasion, but I could barely stand the sight of it let alone the smell. Now I was a fairly picky eater. This was partially my own fault, but it was partially how we ate as a family. We ate pretty healthy foods, but we did not eat a wide variety of foods. If my mom would have brought in a bunch of new foods, the chances of us eating them would have been awfully slim.

Fast forward a few decades and I eat everything. I started trying new foods on a regular basis after I started living on my own and started cooking for myself. Now there is not really any food or drink that I will not eat. Well, I take that back. Goat head stew. That is one meal I will never eat... again. I did eat it once, and that was enough. So other than goat head stew, I will eat anything.

I decided to try sauerkraut again a few years ago when I was in Germany. I thought that if anyone could make sauerkraut the right way, if there was any chance that I would overcome my sauerkraut aversion, than it would have to be in Germany. Sauerkraut was offered in every restaurant and deli that I entered. With so many people eating sauerkraut so often, I needed to see what I had been missing. As it turns out, I was missing a lot. There are hundreds of varieties of sauerkraut, all with that characteristic and wonderful sour, tangy flavor which turns out to be the product of lactic acid fermentation.

After getting settled here in the Azores, I finally got up the nerve to try my hand at making sauerkraut. I ferment beer and apple cider, why not cabbage?

As it so happens, making sauerkraut is extremely simple. All you really need is some cabbage and some salt. That's it. I made mine slightly more complicated by adding carrots and onion. The photo at the top shows everything I used.

So here it is. This is the method I used:
  1. Chop cabbage up into 1/8-1/4 inch ribbons (like you are making cole slaw).
  2. Chop the onions the same way - I chopped my even thinner
  3. Shred the carrots
  4. Sprinkle on some salt - roughly 3 tablespoons is what I used for 2 heads of cabbage
  5. Put everything into a large bowl
  6. Mash it all up with your hands... I mean really grab some handfuls and squeeze the juice out of it, literally. Just crush it as much as you can over and over and over, mixing everything up as you go.
  7. Eventually, you will be accumulating fluid at the bottom of the bowl, this is the goal, this is your natural "brine"
  8. Put the cabbage mixture and brine into a crock or large mouth jar.
  9. Press the cabbage down firmly and repeatedly until the brine covers the mix.
  10. Place a smaller plate or lid on top of the cabbage to keep it covered.
  11. Place a weight of some sort (jar of water, ziplock bag of water, clean rock, etc.) on top of the plate. This keeps the cabbage all submerged under the brine.
  12. Taste it every few days. You'll need to repack the sauerkraut everytime you take out a sample, but this takes less than a minute.

The first few days, this sauerkraut was not great. It wasn't bad, but it tasted more like a soggy coleslaw. Then within about a week, the fermentation really got going. There was a layer of frothy bubbles pouring out from the sides of the plate I was using to keep the cabbage submerged. Underneath was a tangy, crunchy, pretty darn good sauerkraut. I am really excited to see how this matures over the next few weeks to months.


  1. Ok...interesting. This is one of those...I will never eat it again foods for me. But, just maybe I will give it a try with our Red Mammoths this year.

  2. I suggest for a batch this summer trying Daine SanFillipo's recipe for Jalapeno Kraut in the book Practical Paleo. I made 4 batches of kraut last summer, the jalapeno is the best (and too spicy for my kids, so more for me!)