My husband, Devin, and his buddies got together a few weeks ago to make homemade bratwurst and with summer season upon us now, I see plenty of weekends with the dogs on the grill. For me, the perfect accompaniment is stone-ground mustard and sauerkraut. These days I’m looking at everything I buy and questioning if it’s something I could make instead. We buy very, very little packaged food but I haven’t done a lot of pickling or fermenting so I’m thinking it’s about time I at least gave it a try.
I found these great direction on this website and there’s beautiful step-by-step photos there along with more information on fermenting.
Next time I’ll try mixing red and green cabbage together for a kraut that will add some color to the picnic table but for now throw a brat on the grill and let’s get summer started!
Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar
Makes 3/4 quart
1 small head green cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp caraway seeds (optional)
Large mixing bowl
1-qt wide mouth canning jar
Canning funnel (optional but makes things a lot easier)
Smaller jelly jar that fits inside the larger mason jar
Clean stones, marbles, or other weights for weighing the jelly jar
Cloth for covering the jar
Rubber band or twine for securing the cloth
Clean everything: When fermenting anything, it’s best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean of an environment as possible. Make sure your mason jar and jelly jar are washed and rinsed of all soap residue. You’ll be using your hands to massage the salt into the cabbage, so give those a good wash, too.
Slice the cabbage: Discard the wilted, limp outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into quarters and trim out the core. Slice each quarter down its length, making 8 wedges. Slice each wedge crosswise into very thin ribbons.
Combine the cabbage and salt: Transfer the cabbage to a BIG (it’s good to have a little extra room to work) mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. Bonus, this counts as your arm and shoulder workout for the day. At first, it may not seem like enough salt, but gradually, the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut with caraway seeds, mix them in now.
Pack the cabbage into the jar: Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them into the canning jar. If you have a canning funnel, this will make the job easier. Every so often, tamp down the cabbage in the jar with a spoon. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar.
Weigh the cabbage down: Once all the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, slip the smaller jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid.
Cover the jar: Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevent dust or insects from getting in the jar.
Press the cabbage every few hours: Over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often with the jelly jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
Add extra liquid, if needed: If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.
Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F. Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid.Because this is a small batch of sauerkraut, it will ferment more quickly than larger batches. Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, screw on the cap, and refrigerate. You can also allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting for 10 days or even longer. There’s no hard and fast rule for when the sauerkraut is “done” — go by how it tastes.While it’s fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white scum. These are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The scum can be skimmed off the top either during fermentation or before refrigerating. If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don’t eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.
Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be. If you like, you can transfer the sauerkraut to a smaller container for longer storage.