I began eating fermented foods on a daily basis when I started macrobiotics, and sauerkraut was a welcome addition to my plate. Over the last few months, I’ve expanded my cooking skills to include fermented foods like amasake, natto and sauerkraut. I’m excited to share with you my experience in making sauerkraut, and I’m pleased to say that it is delicious!
Sauerkraut has many benefits including providing enzymes that are helpful in digesting food as well as supplying the gut with probiotics–bacteria that inhabit the intestines and support many functions in the body. One 4-6 ounce serving of sauerkraut has 10 trillion bacteria. To put this in perspective, one over-the-counter probiotic capsule usually has 4-40 billion bacteria.
2-3 heads of cabbage (amount depends on the size of your container)
1-2 T Sea Salt
Mason jar or ceramic crock (something with a wide lid)
Smaller jar that fits inside the mason jar (if using mason jar)
Clean stones, marbles or any other weights for the smaller jar
Cloth for coving the jar
Rubber band for securing the cloth
First, wash your cabbage well, and remove the external leaves. Set the leaves aside as you will need them later. Cut the cabbage in half and then in quarters.
Next, shred the cabbage by cutting it into thin pieces.
Next, sprinkle salt on the cabbage and begin to massage it in with your hands.
Massage the salt thoroughly into the cabbage and continue to do so until a small amount of water comes out of the cabbage, and the cabbage is slightly wilted.
Place the cabbage in the mason jar or crock, and press it down firmly with a fork or wooden pestle. Make sure you pack it down to remove any air from collecting between the cabbage pieces.
Continue to fill the jar or crock, packing it as you go. When you are finished, there should be a small amount of water on the top of the cabbage. If there is not, continue to break down the cabbage with pressure from the fork or pestle until water accumulates.
Fold the external cabbage leaf, and place it over the shredded cabbage so all of the shredded cabbage is covered, and submerged in water.
Place a weighed object on top, and cover with a cheese cloth. Secure the cloth on top of the jar or crock with a rubber band. If using a crock with a lid, then you won’t need to a cloth.
Place in a dark, cool area and let ferment for 3-6 weeks. Fermentation time will vary depending on the temperature of the room. Warm temperatures will cause the sauerkraut to ferment quicker. After 3 weeks you may taste the sauerkraut to see if it’s ready. If it has a nice, sour taste, then it is ready. If not, replace the cabbage leaf, weight and cloth and continue fermenting. When the sauerkraut is ready, remove the external leaf, seal the jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator.
Photos by Jan Kassay.