What is Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut (or kraut, for short) is a delicious, fermented condiment made with preserved cabbage, dating back to the 4th century, BC. It’s available at many health food stores, but did you know you can easily make your own with only a few ingredients and some patience? Keep reading to discover how to make sauerkraut in a jar at home, even if you’re a complete beginner.
But first, why make sauerkraut in the first place?
Benefits of Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut
Fermented kraut is easy to make, and provides a healthy addition to any meal. Here are some of the benefits:
- It’s a great source of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive system and help to maintain a healthy balance of microbes in the gut. Probiotics can help improve digestion, mental health, immunity, and overall wellness.
- It’s a great source of vitamin C, K2, B6, and other vitamins and minerals, which are crucial for healthy immune system function, strong bones, and preventing conditions such as heart disease.
- It’s low in calories and high in fiber, making it a great food to support weight loss and maintenance.
- It’s a great way to reduce food waste by using up excess vegetables that might otherwise go in the trash.
- It’s much less expensive than store-bought fermented veggies.
How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar
To make this simple, delicious recipe for fermented sauerkraut, you’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:
- 1 medium head green cabbage (about 3 pounds)
- 1.5-2 tablespoons non-iodized salt
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (optional)
- Other julienned veggies, such as carrots or scallions (optional)
- 1-quart wide-mouth mason jar with lid (a wide-mouthed jar will make it easier to pack the cabbage)
- 1 smaller jelly jar (or, alternatively, you can buy special fermentation weights)
Note: how much salt to use when making sauerkraut is up to you. But the general recommended amount is 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1.75 pounds of cabbage and/or other ingredients, if you’re including them.
Step 1: Clean and Sanitize Everything
For the best chance of success, it’s important to start with a clean environment that gives beneficial bacteria a place to thrive
Thoroughly wash and rinse your mason and jelly jars, getting rid of any soap residue. Also, be sure to wash your hands well, since you’ll be massaging salt into the cabbage.
Step 2: Prepare the Cabbage
- If you’re adding caraway seeds, garlic, and/or other veggies, place them in a large mixing bowl.
- Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut what’s left into quarters, trimming out the core.
- Slice each quarter of the cabbage down its length, making eight wedges.
- Slice each wedge crosswise into very thin ribbons. You can also use a food processor with a slicing disk for this step.
- Add shredded cabbage to the bowl.
- Sprinkle salt over the cabbage mix, stir, and use your hands to knead it for a few minutes until you see brine forming at the bottom of the bowl.
Step 3: Pack the Cabbage in the Jar
- Pack the cabbage mixture into the mason jar, pressing it down firmly to eliminate any air pockets.
- Pour the remaining brine into the jar until the mixture is completely submerged.
- Optional: place one of the bigger, outer cabbage leaves on top of the sliced cabbage. This can help you keep the cabbage fully submerged in the brine.
Step 4: Weigh Down the Cabbage
Place your smaller jelly jar or fermentation weight on top of the cabbage to weigh it down, release any trapped air, and ensure your veggies stay submerged in the brine.
Step 5: Cover the Jar
Put a cloth over the top of the mason jar and fasten it with a rubber band. This lets air in and out, while keeping out any dirt or bugs.
Alternatively, you can screw the lid on the mason jar loosely enough to allow gasses to escape.
Step 6: Store Your Kraut
Keep the jar in a cool, dark place at room temperature (65°F to 75°F).
Step 7: Check on Your Kraut Daily
- Check on your sauerkraut every few days to make sure the cabbage is still submerged and to remove any scum that may form on the surface.
- Mold floating on top of your kraut doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone bad. You can simply remove the mold and continue fermenting. (Although, if it smells bad, trust your judgment. Your batch may have gotten contaminated.)
- Let your kraut ferment for at least three days at room temperature. But it’s recommended to ferment for at least two weeks for the best flavor.
- During the fermentation process, the sauerkraut will release gas, so it’s important to “burp” the jar daily by slightly loosening the lid or cloth. This will prevent any pressure buildup that could lead to the jar exploding.
Step 8: Store, Refrigerate, and Enjoy!
After your kraut is done fermenting, transfer it to a clean, airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It will continue to ferment, but at a much slower pace. The sauerkraut can be enjoyed immediately and will last in the refrigerator for several months.
Making sauerkraut in a jar is a great, easy way to boost your gut health, immunity, and overall wellness–and for a fraction of the price of store-bought products. Try this easy recipe and start experimenting with different vegetables, herbs, and spices to make future batches even more delicious.
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