Fermented foods is one of the best ways to get powerful probiotics into your diet, and this Easy Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe is likely the most frugal and the simplest way to do it. Follow the step-by-step instructions in the post and start your gut healing today!
Sometimes there are things that I want to do, that I know are good for me, and yet it can seem like such an overwhelming step to actually do it.
I wanted to make sourdough for years, and it was only when I was walked step by step (online) through it that I was able to actually do it, and it was easier than I thought.
Lactofermenting vegetables is like that. If you haven't done it, it can seem overwhelming.
Questions About Fermenting Vegetables
There can be many questions:
- Is it safe?
- How do I know if it's gone bad?
- What should it look like?
- Smell like?
- What will taste good?
- What recipe should I start with?
It's hard to get started making fermented foods when you have all of these questions, so I'll do my best to address them.
How Long Does Homemade Sauerkraut Last?
Once cabbage has been fermented, the combination of salinity, acidity, and preserving bacteria prevent spoilage. It can keep almost indefinitely, although cooler temperatures are better.
After the initial stage, warm temperatures cause the cabbage to become soft and more sour.
What is the History of Sauerkraut?
Cabbage has been fermented into sauerkraut for at least 2,000 years, brought over to Europe from China. Both the Tatar and Roman soldiers considered it valuable enough bring it when traveling (maybe it was part of their secret?).
Sailors also took it with them to prevent scurvy, a lack of vitamin C.
And, crazy enough, fermenting the cabbage actually increases the amount of vitamin C and K. Yes, the same amount of sauerkraut contains more vitamin C and K than the same amount of cabbage.
Sauerkraut is also full of probiotics; bacteria that are vital to health. These beneficial bacteria heal and strengthen the health of the gut, which in turn impacts everything from immunity to food allergies to mental health.
There are too many benefits of probiotics to list here, but I've written A Scientific Look at the Benefits of Probiotics, which is full of references to a slew of studies.
Basically, probiotics are absolutely necessary to good health, and fermented foods are the cheapest and freshest way to consume them.
I call this lazy sauerkraut because I let the cabbage sit with salt a while before massaging it and the salt brings out the water on it's own.
All you need is cabbage and salt--other spices and vegetables are optional.
For salt, make sure there is no anti-caking additives or iodine added. This means that your regular table salt is not the best. Unrefined sea salt is the best, but there are other (cheaper) salts available. I use a rough sea salt from an Asian food store.
As well, make sure all vegetable matter is under liquid, or it will mold.
It is useful to have a fermentation weight to ensure the cabbage stays down.
You can lay a cabbage leaf over top and weigh down with a small jar filled with water, a clean rock, or purchase pottery weights which are basically disks with a hole.
There is some debate over whether ferments should be in special airlock jars. My own opinion is that if you are just starting out, do not let that be a deterrent to beginning to ferment vegetables; the benefits of fermented veggies far outweigh the harm of delaying making them, or not getting around to it at all.
Start out with mason jars, and as you delve into the world of fermenting you can do more research.
If you are looking for more super easy ways to ferment vegetables, a delicious one is cauliflower, one of our favourites. Just break up florets, pour over salt water, and wait. Another super simple one is fermented red onions, which can be done just with onions and salt.
I don't like raw onions, but I am continually impressed with fermented ones. They are so versatile, and I can throw them in a salad, spread, or sandwich to add a dash of probiotic goodness. Mixed with other foods, you can't taste any sourness - it fact, the onions turn almost sweet.
If you are afraid you won't like the sourness of sauerkraut, try my fermented spiced apple chutney. It's so good, I've eaten a whole quart on my own at one sitting. In the name of health, of course. Kimchi, originally from Korea, is another great ferment of napa cabbage. I have a recipe for baek (white) kimchi that doesn't have any hot pepper in it, and I can barely keep up with our family's consumption. The red onions are also a good choice for a non-sour ferment.
What You Will Need
Knife, Mandoline Slicer, or Food Processor with Slicing Attachment
Large Bowl or Sauerkraut Crock and/or Large Jar
Fermentation Weights (optional but very helpful)
Bay Leaves (optional)
Caraway Seeds (optional)
Special Diet Notes
THM: This is a fuel pull for those on the Trim Healthy Mama plan.
Keto / Low Carb: Homemade Sauerkraut is naturally low-carb and works for the keto diet as well.
Aerobic or Anaerobic Fermentation
Note that there are several schools of thought about fermenting.
Some say that easy is fine - as in this post. Others say that anaerobic fermentation is the way to go.
The method outlined in this post is super easy wild fermentation.
Easy Homemade Sauerkraut
- Mandoline Slicer
- Food Processor
- Sauerkraut Crock (optional)
- Slice cabbage thinly. This can be done with a knife, a mandolin slicer, or the slicing attachment on a food processor.
- Add salt and mix.
- Toss cabbage and salt with your hands so it is well distributed. Let rest about one hour.
- Knead/massage the cabbage with your hands to encourage more juice to come out.
- Add optional bay leaves (about 1 per lb) and/or caraway seeds (about 1 tsp per lb).
- Pack tightly into a jar. I usually grab a handful, drop it into the jar, and then use my fist to push it down well. You can also use a pounder, or something like a thick stick.
- Once all the cabbage is in, make sure there is enough liquid (from kneading) to cover the cabbage by about an inch. Weigh the cabbage down, as discussed above.
- Put a lid on the jar. Be aware that you will need to occasionally let the C02 out that will accumulate.
- Set it out of direct sunlight and let sit for at least 4-6 weeks. 4 weeks is the minimum required for the full cycle of probiotics to develop. Exact fermenting times will depend on ambient temperature and your tastes. The sauerkraut pictured has sat for a month, and it could use a little more time.
- Put in the fridge to slow fermentation. Enjoy probiotic goodness!
If you are interested in learning more from someone whom I consider to be a real fermentation expert, Lisa's Counter Culture is the way to go.
Here is where you can get a physical copy of her fabulous book:
Have you ever made sauerkraut?
Got any tips to share?
Naomi is originally from Canada but is now a wife and mom in Slovakia. She tries to live each day as a follower of Christ in the chaos of caring for children. Using real food and creating an environmentally-friendly surrounding for her family is a priority. She dreams of a little farm while living in an apartment, enjoys handmade creations, and still doesn’t like brussels sprouts. Naomi shares her food creations and photos of Slovakia at Almost Bananas. She looks forward to connecting with you on Pinterest, and Facebook.