Sauerkraut Caraway Recipe:
Sauerkraut is one type of fermented vegetable, and is a wonderful way to get some probiotics in your diet and to improve your intestinal, as well as mental health. Yes, mood and anxiety have been shown to be effected by the quantity and variety of the bacteria in your gut! I recommend that my patients add a little bit of sauerkraut to one or two meals a day, whether as a garnish to eggs, or as part of a sandwich, or on a bowl of rice and meat. If you are going to purchase sauerkraut, look for ones that are in the refrigerated section, just like with yogurt, we are looking for a food with live bacteria. Bubbies is a common brand, but I’m not so sure there’s much live bacteria in those jars. I recommend Farmhouse Culture brand sauerkraut, as they consistently make a great tasting and probiotic-robust product. But if you really love kraut, and just can’t get enough of it, I strongly recommend you make your own, it’s really easy to do, almost fool proof, and you can fine tune the fermentation length to meet your taste buds’ desires.
- Fermenting crock: either a classic German fermentation ceramic crock, or a glass jar with an fermenting air lock, as offered by wonderful Pickl-it company. I have both a large German crock, as well as a number of 3 and 5-Liter jars from Pickl-it, and the 3-Liter is definitely my favorite. I like being able to see the cabbage through the glass, and the 3-Liter is a great size unless you have a big family that goes through sauerkraut very quickly.
- Food processor can really speed things up but is not necessary
- Very large bowl or a large pot, like a 16 quart stockpot.
- Other than that, just the usual kitchen utensils, and a cloth to wrap your glass fermentation jars to reduce breakdown of nutrients caused by light.
Recipe for a 3 Liter Pickl-it Container:
6 lbs of green or purple cabbage.
1 ½ Tablespoons of salt (the ratio of Salt to cabbage should be at least 1T to every 4lb, but 1:3 or even 1:2 will still work, final product will just be much saltier.)
2 Tablespoons of caraway seeds (this provides a nice nuance to the flavor of the final product, but you can just as easily skip this ingredient)
Peel off outermost layer of cabbage. Rinse lightly. Then chop cabbage either manually, or with mandoline set to 3mm, or in a Cuisinart food processor. Relatively thin, uniform slices will ferment at the same rate, and lead to the best tasting product; however, even the most casually chopped cabbage usually turns out fine.
Mix cabbage, salt, and caraway in the large metal bowl or stockpot, and pound vigorously with a meat tenderizer, or your fists, or other sturdy object. With a small amount of cabbage like this, a few minutes is usually sufficient. There should be plenty of juices in the bottom of the bowl by this point.
Pack the cabbage with juice into the container, doing your best to avoid stray bits of cabbage stuck to the glass above the bulk of the cabbage. Close the jar, fill the airlock with tap water to the fill line, and put it in place. (Or if using the german fermenting crock, place stones firmly on top of the cabbage, cover, and pour water into the moat). If you can’t fit all your cabbage into your fermenting container, I suggest saving the remainder, adding a bit of olive oil and a good amount of lemon juice, and enjoying this as a fresh salad over the next couple days – delicious!)
If, after 24hrs, the level of brine has not risen to the top of the cabbage, then you MIGHT consider adding extra liquid to the tune of 1 cup of water to 1 tsp of salt. One reason there might not be enough liquid is if you didn’t pound the cabbage enough in the stockpot. However, even if you don’t add some salt water at this point, the sauerkraut usually turns out fine, as long as the jar remains sealed and the air lock is in place.
When you are ready to harvest the sauerkraut, anywhere from 2 weeks for a very mild kraut, to 6 weeks for a very tart kraut, with 4 weeks being the norm at room temperature, the top layer of cabbage will often look faded in color, and will not be crunchy. Some people discard this layer, though it is still edible. Refrigerate after opening your container and harvesting your kraut!
The basic premise is that you add salt, provide a protected environment that is oxygen-poor, and let the naturally occurring bacteria do their thing, aka fermentation. You can add ginger, garlic, and other spices. You can play with lowering the salt content by adding more garlic, though there is a limit to how little salt you can use before you end up with mold.
I strongly recommend using a specialized fermentation container, both for the most consistent results as well as for safety. A container where the kraut is exposed to oxygen on top, will increase the amount of mold contamination and carcinogenic mycotoxins that you might be exposed to, yuck!