This sauerkraut recipe 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.
I'll divide this page into a couple parts, first a fermented sauerkraut recipe and how to ferment. And then how to store it... which means in the fridge or canning.
Canning is totally optional. Heat processing does reduce the health benefits you'll get from the fermenting process. The probiotics that are produced while fermenting are so very good for you. But home canned sauerkraut is still much better than commercially processed. I can't even eat the store variety any more.
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. If you use a knife be sure and get your slices very very thin.
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 down juice should be rising to cover it. Stop packing when you are 4 inches or so below the top of your jar. Right around the shoulder of the jar.
If you don't have enough cabbage juice to fully cover, add some brine to the jars so the cabbage is completely covered with a couple inches of liquid. Be generous.
Brine Recipe - 1.5 Tablespoons salt to 1 quart water. Just bring this to a boil and let cool.
Weight your cabbage down with something to keep it below the brine level.
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 fermenting lid methods and my favorite here.
Now for the fun part. The wait.
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.
If you have covered your jar with cheesecloth or a cloth, 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 sauerkraut recipe 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.
processing time source: NCFHFP
If you are interested in fermenting your food for health reasons and don't want to process your food in jars for shelf storage, you must check out Traditional Cooking School. Here is a cheat sheet download she created to help you with a variety of fermeting projects.