Sauerkraut, straight up

Sauerkraut. You either have fond memories of dancing the Polka at Oktoberfest or your grandma opening up a can (with a can opener) of the most foul-smelling concoction you’ve ever let your nose experience. What if I told you that the canned stuff, the stuff we’ve become accustomed to isn’t the same stuff that our ancestors ate… and that what they ate actually tasted good? Well, I’m telling you. It’s delicious. And the probiotics are even better than what you can get in yogurt (which only has a few strains, wild fermentation has many many more stains of good bacteria in it). See? Here’s a fancy chart to illustrate it:

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I’ve had a hankering for some good Polish hunter’s stew. Unfortunately, the main ingredient is sauerkraut and I have none… so this hankering is going to have to wait. Oh well – in a few weeks, you’ll see a post for the best stew that will get your blood flowing again. Seriously. It’s that good. And it has 3 kinds of meat in it – mostly bacon.

I outlined the necessary supplies on my fermented red potatoes post so check that out before you start. If you want more information about why sauerkraut is good for you, check out my Latin American sauerkraut recipe. Also, when you go and buy your cabbage, don’t waste your money on the organic stuff – cabbage is one of the Clean 15. Going to WinCo or some other bargain grocer and spending $.50 per pound is perfectly acceptable and it’s what I do! That makes two liters of finished sauerkraut cost me about $5 total. I can buy a pint and a half of raw sauerkraut at the store for $10. Umm – yea. I’ll take my deal any day.

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Sauerkraut

  • 2 heads cabbage, washed and shredded, with two whole leaves set aside
  • 3 tbsp sea salt, non-iodized (iodine kills bacteria… which is not what we want)
    1. In a large bowl sturdy bowl (I use a massive stainless steel bowl), mix all of the ingredients.
    2. Now comes the fun part: Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes, until the cabbage starts juicing well. You will see it becoming more and more wet as the time goes on and when it is finished, you will be able to squeeze some in your hand and have the juices run between your fingers.
    3. Place in 1- or 2- quart, wide mouth mason jars and press down firmly until juices come to the top of the cabbage. Do this in small increments, making sure to have all of the air bubbles pressed out.
    4. Stuff one of the saved whole leaves down around the cabbage, being careful not to rip the leaf, to get out all air bubbles and to keep the mash down below the juice level.
    5. Using a clean, round and flat river rock (not bigger than the mouth of the jar) or a glass dunker, place on top of the whole leaf and push down. This will keep the mash below the juice level for the whole fermenting process. It is okay if the top of the rock or dunker is above the juice a little bit.
    6. With a clean rag, clean the lip of the jar and place the lid on the jars and let sit on the counter for 14 days (after three days, there will be bacteria growth and after 14 days, there is a more complete panel). A cool place (65 degrees Fahrenheit) is best as the warmer temperatures help bad bacteria grow.
    7. Place in the refrigerator and let sit for an additional week – do not open during this time. So, your kraut will have fermented for three weeks total.
    8. Open jars once a day during the sitting-on-counter phase to allow gas to escape. 
    9. Sauerkraut will keep indefinitely in the fridge. Enjoy!

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    Note: If the sauerkraut doesn’t smell sour, pickle-y, or kraut-y or is growing black sludge, toss it out! You’ll know if it smells bad (as in going to kill you). Lacto-fermentation, what this process is called, is very very safe. However, there are times where the tools are not clean and bad bacteria gets in. The best way to prevent this is to use a clean workspace and a clean jar. As always, wash your hands thoroughly prior to beginning.