As homebrewers most of us are interested in other forms of home beverage fermentation: wine, cider, mead, kombucha. But don’t forget fermented foods! There are a lot of foods you can make at home that are equally interesting and engaging as far as the fermentation process, and delicious to enjoy and share. Making home-fermented sauerkraut is one such project. It’s extremely easy and makes a delicious food packed full of probiotics, Vitamin C (due in part to the fermentation process), and salty-tart flavor that can be used as a topping or eaten as a side dish like a slaw or salad. The basic sauerkraut recipe below is literally just cabbage and salt – how simple is that? – but you can also jazz kraut up with just about any culinary flavor you like. Working in grams makes things a bit easier to add 2% by weight of salt to the chopped cabbage and/or other ingredients. This also makes it a breeze to scale up or down depending on how much cabbage you use.
Let’s Make Some Sauerkraut!
Before trying your hand at home-fermented sauerkraut with our recipe below, check out this video where you’ll see the process from start to finish on two different krauts (basic and Curtido-style), and we share some of our own tips and techniques.
Home Fermented Sauerkraut Recipe
Yield: Approximately ¼-½ gallon. (Large head of cabbage probably makes closer to ⅓-½ gallon)
For Basic Sauerkraut
- 2 heads of cabbage (5-6 lbs)
- Sea salt (2% by weight of cabbage, see process note below)
- Omega Yeast Lacto Lactobacillus Blend (optional, see process note below)
For Curtido-Style Sauerkraut
- 2 heads cabbage (5-6lbs)
- 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced 4 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp chile flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2% sea salt by weight (by weight, see process note below)
- Kitchen knife
- Cutting board
- Fermenter (large jar, crock, or Little Big Mouth Bubbler®) with lid fitted for airlock
Basic Sauerkraut (left) and Curtido-style Sauerkraut
Remove outer leaves off the head(s) of cabbage. Set leaves aside for topping off cabbage in the fermenter later. Quarter cabbage and remove core. Fine chop cabbage or consider slicing different size slices for a more textured sauerkraut. If you want that classic thin-sliced, almost shredded kraut texture, use a mandolin. You could also use a few quick pulses in a food processor.
Place cabbage in a large bowl or pot and note the weight of the cabbage with holding vessel weight tared out. If making the Curtido-style version all prepared vegetables, spices, etc. go into the bowl or at this point.
Calculate what 2% of the total weight of the cabbage is; this number will be the amount in grams of sea salt that you’ll use. For example, if you have 2,000 grams (2kg) of cabbage, you’ll want 40 grams of salt. (2,000g x 0.02 = 40g)
Measure salt and sprinkle onto cabbage in several increments as you toss, twist, and massage cabbage mixture. This will work the salt into the cabbage, distributing it evenly, and start to break the cabbage down. Continue to massage and work the cabbage until briney liquid forms at the bottom of the bowl or pot and drips from the cabbage when lifted out of the vessel and squeezed. This can take upwards of 10-15 minutes depending on how vigorous you approach it.
If adding the optional additional lactobacillus (like we did to the batches in our video), do it now. But, tread lightly! If you’re using a commercial lacto pitch such as Omega Yeast’s Lactobacillus Blend you only need a small splash or two – do not use the entire pouch!
Transfer cabbage to a clean fermentation jar, crock, etc. and pack it tightly using your fist or other device to tamp it down into the fermenter. Make sure veggies are covered in their own brine. Placing a cabbage or horseradish leaf (or leaves) on top will create a barrier to protect the wet cabbage below. You can also add glass weights on top of the leaves to help weigh it down to keep cabbage submerged.
Put a lid with an airlock on the fermenter. Place the fermenter out of the way and keep at room temperature for 1-2 weeks. If need be you can punch cabbage down to help keep it submerged. After a week or so, taste the sauerkraut and gauge the flavor. If you’d like it to be more tart leave it for a few more days. Fermentation usually takes about two weeks at the most. If you do add the optional additional lactobacillus you might find the process happens much quicker.
Once you are happy with the flavor and believe fermentation is complete, transfer the sauerkraut to a separate serving/storage container and refrigerate. This will help to halt the fermentation process. Homemade sauerkraut will keep for many months when refrigerated. Consider transferring it to smaller containers as you use it so that the amount of headspace in storage is always as minimal as possible.
Suggested uses: topping for brats or sausages, ingredient in other sauerkraut dishes, side dish or salad