Day 5 - Making Sauerkraut at Home
Here at Firefly, we believe in the pure, probiotic brilliance of fermented foods. We want to make sure ferments are an accessible part of everyone’s diet, which is why we are passionate about empowering and educating folks on how to make their own sauerkraut at home. A significant portion of our cookbook, Fresh & Fermented, is dedicated to kraut making, and we also offer classes at our kitchen in Ballard to let folks take fermentation into their own hands.
We wanted to provide a simple guide here as an encouragement to anyone thinking of taking on the process at home. Making sauerkraut really is simple, and you can do it! Just a little practice can go a long way in building your confidence, and once you get started, we’re sure you’ll find yourself experimenting with different ingredients and flavors in no time.
The main thing we want you to know is fermenting sauerkraut is not scary! Fermented foods are incredibly safe, due to the low pH environment created by the salt. Bad bacteria are unable to grown in the salty brine solution, which means the ferments are very unlikely to make you or anyone you know sick. With that knowledge in hand, experimentation with ferments seems less risky — and becomes more fun!
To make great sauerkraut, you won’t need any pricey ingredients or starters, just good quality cabbage and sea salt. And though there are many products and tools out there sold to make home fermentation a little more precise, no fancy supplies are necessary! A sharp knife and cutting board, large mixing bowl, and a wide-mouth mason jar with a lid are the only things in your kitchen you’ll need to make your first batch.
This recipe is a bare-bones outline on how to get started. For more detailed guidance with handy tips and trouble-shooting advice, please refer to Fresh & Fermented.
For a quick online resource, we also love this simple recipe and tips from The Kitchn.
What you’ll Need:
- 1 head medium cabbage - about 1 3/4 pounds fits nicely (We always suggest organic ingredients.)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt - approximately (Err on the higher side.)
For the brine:
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 cup water at room temperature (filtered or boiled and cooled to remove chlorine)
- Clean everything. Make sure all your work surfaces and tools have been washed with hot, soapy water.
- Get the cabbage ready. Peel off any discolored outer leaves, rinse the cabbage head, remove the core (saving it for later), and chop it into thin strips.
- Make the brine. Use 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt with 1 cup water at room temperature, and make sure the water is filtered or boiled to remove the chlorine
- Work the cabbage. Combine the cabbage strips and salt in your bowl and thoroughly knead/massage for a few minutes until some brine starts to pool.
- Taste for salt. Compare the saltiness of the cabbage to the brine you’ve made, adding more sea salt or non-chlorinated water until they’re comparable.
- Pack the cabbage into the jar. Make sure to fill the jar tightly, wedge in the core to keep the kraut pressed down, and make sure the cabbage is completely covered with brine.
- Cover the jar — and wait! Leave the jar at room temperature, outside of direct sunlight, and let the microbes start the magic. If the lid starts bulging, unscrew it slightly to let the carbon dioxide escape.
- Taste the kraut. After two weeks, start tasting. How long the final product ferments is entirely up to your preference. At Firefly, our products ferment for 4-6 weeks.
- Store the kraut. Refrigerate your sauerkraut once it reaches your desired taste and texture. This will slow the active fermentation and will keep your kraut ready-to-eat.
You’ve got this!
Have you made your own sauerkraut at home? Share your tips below!
*(c)2014 By Julie O’Brien and Richard Climenhage. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Fresh & Fermented: 85 Delicious Ways to Make Fermented Carrots, Kraut, and Kimchi Part of Every Meal by permission of Sasquatch Books.
Photography by Charity Burggraaf