I first tried wild, unpasteurized sauerkraut at a farmers market in the Castro district of San Francisco. A local artisan offered me a free sample, and I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. Almost completely convinced it would be terrible. But I’m not one to turn down a new taste experience, so I agreed. “I’m not so sure I’m going to like it,” I told the nice man holding the jar of kraut. “That’s the best reason to try something new!” he said. I was completely surprised by what I tasted. It was tart, bright, crunchy, and scented with seeds of cumin and coriander. It really didn’t taste anything like cabbage, or what you might think sour cabbage would taste like. I bought the biggest jar they had, and devoured it in under a week.
If you’re truly interested in fermenting your own foods, I highly recommend reading Sandor Katz’s book, Wild Fermentations. I used this book as a guideline in formulating my recipe.
To make sauerkraut, you’ll need:
- About five pounds of fresh cabbage.
- About 5 TB Good quality, pure sea salt
- 3 TB Cumin Seeds
- 3 TB Coriander Seeds
- Distilled water – about 1 cup
- A fermentation vessel. Glass jars work really well for this. You can use mason jars if you only want a little sauerkraut, or you can buy a gallon sized fermenting jar or an even larger ceramic fermenting crock. It’s really nice to have weights and an airlocked lid. You can find supplies like this at your local brewing store, or at Cultures for Health. This recipe is sized to fit a gallon sized fermenter.
- A cocktail muddler (optional)
Step 1: Prepare your supplies and ingredients
Gather and clean your fermenter, weights, cabbages, hands, knife, and a tamper if you’re using one.
Measure out your salt and spices into separate bowls. You’ll be reaching in many times with wet fingers, and this step not only measures, but protects your leftover spice.
Step 2: Chop and Knead
Step 3: Salt and Flavor
Step 4: Pack The Cabbage
Step 5: Repeat steps 2-4 until your fermenter is full
Step 6: Add your weights, lid, and airlock
Step 7: Wait.
Every week or so, take off your lid and sniff your sauerkraut. If it smells like cabbage, it’s not done yet. If there’s mold growing on top, skim it off. When your kraut starts to smell sharp and tangy, reach in with a clean utensil and extract a sample. If it tastes good, it’s probably done! Fermentation times vary widely depending on the amount of salt used (more salt = slower fermentation) and the temperature (higher temperature = faster fermentation). A rough timeline is 3-6 weeks, but don’t be alarmed if your batch falls outside this norm. Finished sauerkraut should be yellowish in color (see the photo at the very top of this blog post for an example), it should smell pleasant, pickley, and tangy. A little mold on top is ok, but mold growing everywhere is not. Everything I’ve read on vegetable fermentation confirms that if it smells good and tastes good, it’s perfectly safe to eat. Not only safe, but a very healthy source of nutrients and probiotics. Eat the kraut, drink the brine, and be merry 🙂