Highly nutritious, probiotic, and packed with vitamins, sauerkraut is one of the best and oldest superfoods around. You should make it not only for its health benefits, but also because it’s economical (store-bought sauerkraut tends to get ridiculously expensive) and very tasty. Tangy and juicy, it has a distinct crunchy texture and brackish flavor; it is great on its own, as an add-on to salads, or as a condiment to serve with meat or charcuterie.
The method to make sauerkraut is fast and simple, but I want to point out few practical steps.
If you don’t have a fermenting crock, you can use a large glass jar or similar vessel.
Use one with a wide opening so you can fit a small plate inside, and place something heavy on top of it (e.g., a clean stone or can) to weigh it down; you want the cabbage to stay submerged at all times. Cover it with cheesecloth or a kitchen towel to prevent it from dust.
Find a less frequented place for the crock in your kitchen, with a steady room temperature, where the bacteria can do their magic. I like my sauerkraut the best after seven to eight days of fermenting, but it already tastes good on day five. Some people let it go for longer—10 to 14 days, even—to get a strong, sour, pungent flavor; it comes down to personal preference. Just know that the warmer the climate, the faster the fermentation process works.
The mold that sometimes develops on the surface is part of the natural fermenting process—this is a living thing after all—and isn’t harmful. Scrape it carefully from the surface with a spoon or a sheet of paper towel.
I like to eat my sauerkraut cold. So after it’s ready, I transfer it from the crock to a glass container (jar or Tupperware) first, and chill it for at least an hour. The fermentation will stop in the refrigerator, and the sauerkraut will last up to several weeks.
This recipe uses caraway seeds because that’s what we’ve always done in my family growing up in the Czech Republic. They add a lovely, earthy, anise-like taste. Feel free to make a plain version or experiment with other spices and herbs, such as dill seeds, juniper berries, chili peppers or ginger.
- Makes 4–5 cups
- 1 green cabbage (3–4 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
- Reserve 1–2 outer cabbage leaves, and set them aside. Cut the cabbage in half. With a sharp knife (or using a mandolin), slice it into thin ribbons. Place it in a large bowl, sprinkle the salt and caraway seeds over the top, and toss everything with your hands. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Massage the cabbage with your hands, squeezing well, making sure it releases liquid. This process takes 5–10 minutes.
- Press the cabbage tightly—a small handful at a time—with all the liquid into the fermenting pot. It is important that the cabbage is fully submerged in liquid; otherwise, it won’t ferment. (If you don’t have enough liquid, take out one cup of cabbage, blend it in a blender with one cup of water, and add it back to the pot).
- Place the outer cabbage leaves on top as an extra protective layer. Secure the lid and let ferment undisturbed at room temperature for 5–10 days, depending on how strong you like your sauerkraut.
- Transfer the sauerkraut into a container and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks.