A fermented sauerkraut recipe and directions for home canning.
Canning sauerkraut involves several separate steps so you might think it will be hard, complicated messy!
Totally wrong impression.
It is actually pretty easy. Just take one step at a time.
It is a lengthy process, it won't be over in a day. But when you are done..... oh my! The best sauerkraut you can imagine. Doesn't even compare to the stuff in the cans from the store.
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage. It is the only way it has been tested as safe for storage in jars on a shelf. Remember this is not plain cabbage, don't skip the fermenting part.
Find some nice fresh healthy green cabbage. Remove any outer leaves that are damaged or are wilty. Core the cabbage. The easiest way to do this is to first cut the cabbage in half just to one side of the stem. Then cut the piece with the stem in half again just to one side of the stem. One more cut down the side of the stem should take the core right out.
Next you will need to slice the cabbage into sliver thin shreds. I use a mandolin slicer, you can just use a knife, a food processor or what ever tools you have.
Weigh this cabbage. If you have more than 5 pounds, separate out 5 pounds and place in a large bowl. Mix in 3 T salt. Mix well, tossing and getting the salt spread out as evenly as possible. Do this again with your next 5 pounds of cabbage. You want to mix in 3 T salt for every 5 pounds of cabbage.
Let this salted cabbage sit for a few minutes. This will cause it to wilt and soften. It also makes it easier to pack into your jars for fermenting.
Pack tightly into jars. I had 3 heads of green cabbage and ended up with 2 half gallon jars and one gallon size jar. Pack it tightly with a wooden spoon or a kraut pounder.
I recently got a kraut pounder. It is so much easier! I've used a spoon in the past. It does work. But the flat end of the pounder pushes the kraut down much better. It is called a pounder... but if you let the cabbage wilt before you try to pack the jars, you really don't have to pound. Just a solid pressure down packs it nicely.
As you press the cabbage, juice should be rising to cover. Stop packing when you are 4 inches or so below the top of your jar. If you don't have enough cabbage juice to cover, add some brine to the jars so the cabbage is completely covered with a couple inches of liquid.
Brine Recipe - 1.5 Tablespoons salt to 1 quart water. Just bring this to a boil and let cool.
Now for the fun part. The wait.
Cover your jars. This time around I tested out a new fermenting lid, my airlock (which I've used before) and simply covering in cheesecloth. I've got a review of the 3 lid methods and my favorite here.
Weight your cabbage down with something to keep it below the brine level. To do this place something over the cabbage to keep the floaters down. Cheesecloth works, I've also used a saved leaf from the cabbage itself. Pickle Pebbles are another product that I have that work pretty slick. If you are using a crock, often a plate will fit just inside covering most of the top.
The simplest method if you don't have handy weights, is to place a small water filled jar inside the fermenting jar on top of the cheesecloth or cabbage leaf or plate.
This needs to be stored in a cool place for 3 to 6 weeks. As it sits and ferments bubbles will form, that is normal. You may need to press down on the cabbage again to keep it from floating and peeking out above the brine. Keep it covered. This prevents oxygen from getting in.
Scum may form on top. That is also normal (though icky). This scum should be skimmed off daily. It should not smell 'bad'. It will smell ferment-y-ish, and well.... like sauerkraut.
This is why I would recommend you consider using one of the choices of fermentation lids that are available. When I use these, I don't get any scum. To me that makes them worth the purchase. See the link to my review of a couple different kinds above.
Once your kraut is done you have two choices.
I do both. I have jars in my storage and I have a gallon of kraut in the fridge. (well last I checked it was down to the halfway mark.)
It is a simple matter to can it so you can store it on the shelf. You can also just place the jars in the fridge.
To can it simply heat your sauerkraut to a simmer. This is not boiling. It is just under a boil. 180 degrees is the temperature you are looking for. Hot but not boiling.
Pack the kraut into pint or quart size jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe your rims clean and place your lids on the jars with the screw bands.
Process in a waterbath canner. This cabbage product is safe for the waterbath only because of the fermenting you have done. Please don't adapt this to unfermented cabbage!
If you need more instruction on how a waterbath canner works check out this page.
Process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes. Be sure and adjust that time for your altitude.
This sauerkraut recipe is based off of the NCFHFP website.