I remember being offered sauerkraut as a condiment to hot dogs as a kid. I’d plug my nose, squench up my eyes and gasp “No thank you!” What I really wanted to say was “Who would be so cruel as to do that to a hot dog?!” But I was taught to be a polite child. 🙂 So when I first got acquainted with the Weston A. Price Foundation years ago, and their idea that foods that our ancestors ate were waaaay more nourishing and healthy than our pre-packaged food like substances today, I had a hankerin’ to try probiotic rich sauerkraut. I never dreamed that I’d now be teaching others how to make sauerkraut!
Click the arrow in the image above to watch my video instructions.
Just as with wine, beer, and well, maybe all things fermented (aka, “rotted to perfection” as my husband says) one must give themselves the time and flexibility to acquire a taste for these delicacies. One must also have the fortitude to try, try again, as much of it has been mangled so badly that it tastes nothing like it should. If you’ve only ever tasted poor quality wine, then you’ve never given your palate a chance to fully appreciate, and thus mature. This is true with sauerkraut as well. If you’ve only had the vinegary, slimy white stuff that comes from a store shelf, then you’ve never truly tasted sauerkraut.
The first time I ever really liked sauerkraut was when I happened upon the fresh fermented brand Bubbies, that I found on my co-op store refrigerator shelf. It contained no vinegar, and with each forkful that I’d down before a meal (for it’s probiotics, not because I liked it at this point), I liked the stuff more and more. In fact I craved it.
And truly that’s where my love affair with fermented foods began.
Since then I’ve made my own kombucha, pickles, various kinds of kraut, sourdough, and more. In fact, I’ve put so many pickles and jars of kraut away for the winter, that I am now in desperate need of a second refrigerator for my garage!
It’s easier than you think, way more cost effective than spending $6 a jar for Bubbies, and once you get the basics down, you can do what I did in the purple picture above, and add things like jalapenos, garlic and purple cabbage to make “kraut” truly tantalizing.
If you’re more of the visual type, click the arrow in the purple cabbage image above to watch my video instructions.
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How to Make Sauerkraut
Recipe type: how-to
4-5 lbs cabbage, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. sea salt
Halve and core cabbage and finely slice/shred using knife, mandolin, or food processor (I prefer cutting by hand with a sharp knife).
Add sliced cabbage to the bowl, about a half cabbage at a time, sprinkle with some of the salt, and massage with hands. Repeat until all cabbage and salt has been sliced and massaged.
Secure with lid and off-gas daily for 4 weeks, or until cabbage changes colors, ferments, and tastes like sauerkraut.
Store in refrigerator for up to a year.
*I don't show this in the video, but airlock lids are inexpensive and quite effective at keeping mold at bay.
How to keep that 4 letter word -MOLD- out of your sauerkraut
Let’s start by talking about how to keep mold from growing in the first place. As Lea from Nourishing Treasures says in her informative post The 3 Biggest Fermenting Mistakes You’re Already Making. “Oxygen is the enemy when it comes to ferments.” So, in order to keep mold from growing, you must keep the environment anaerobic, or free of oxygen.
There are only three ways (that I know of) to keep oxygen out of your ferments. #1 Luck #2 Airlock #3 Oil
I personally don’t seem to have much of #1 and I haven’t gotten around to #2. The truth is that #3 works so beautifully that I’m not sure I’ll bother with any other method.
Oil Method: After following the instructions to pack the cabbage in the jar and cover with brine and weights, pour a small amount (a teaspoon or two) of olive oil on top. Swirl it around with a toothpick so that it covers, and essentially seals, the ferment from air. Close the lid, and off-gas daily.
Q: But what if I want to reach in and taste the sauerkraut to see if it’s done?
A: Go right ahead. I got a little oil on my fingers, and there may have been a small amount on the sauerkraut I ate, but I could not taste it, and did not have a slimy coating at all. I honestly could not even tell there was oil anywhere to be found, other than there was a slight coating on my fingers. I did not need to reapply the oil to the top of the ferment either. The oil was a thin layer, but it did the job very effectively.
Q: Should I try to remove the coating of oil from the top of my ferment when it’s done fermenting?
A: Since the sauerkraut is refrigerated after fermenting, the oil hardens at the top and can easily be removed at that point.
That takes us to the part of this post where I talk about what to do if mold appears.
The good news here is that white mold is non-toxic. The sauerkraut is still good tasting and safe to eat. However, when any kind of mold appears on my ferments it’s game over. I’ve tried to remove the thin layer of mold and let it continue to ferment on the counter, but mold is persistent and once it takes hold it doesn’t go away. Also, if I let it go much longer than a day or two, I’ve had it turn into unsafe mold (see below). Therefore, if my ferment is anywhere near being “done” I remove the mold as best I can, put the whole thing in the fridge and eat it ASAP. If it’s not quite done, then I still refrigerate it and use the non-fermented cabbage and brine to my soups and stews.
When mold is NOT safe
There are times when it is not safe to eat your ferment. When mold is black, red, orange, pink or has fuzz, throw the entire ferment out. Do not try to save any part of it! These kinds of molds have legs and they’ve already gotten to the finish line way before you.
Let me know if you have questions or tips of your own in the comments below. There’s always more to learn when it comes to fermentation!