Interested in the flavor and probiotic effect from homemade sauerkraut, but not dealing with crocks, burping, and mold? Try this easy and quick-to-mix sauerkraut recipe that's as set-it-and-forget-it as they come!
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Is it silly to be excited over sauerkraut? Probably - in fact I'd probably roll my eyes at the mention of a "homemade sauerkraut recipe" just a couple years ago.
But that was before my deep dive into gut health and discovering that 'fermented' just meant pickled (not anything weird), only using salt to pickle with the resulting good-gut bugs instead of vinegar.
Between eating a few spoonfuls of fermented foods daily (both these cut vegetables and this yummy corn relish are staples now) and drinking warm lemon water each morning, my digestion issues that spurred the gut health research have pretty much disappeared completely. And that's nothing to roll your eyes at, right?
After dipping my toes into fermenting with the veggies and corn relish - and seeing how easy it can be when you use these lids - I turned my goal to producing a sauerkraut we would love (well, I also experimented with my own kimchi, but that's another story...). I figured it would be just like the others since it's basically fermented cabbage, so it shouldn't be hard.
And maybe "hard" isn't the word I would use now, but it was certainly more complicated than I thought, which is why it's taken me this long to test, tweak, and be able to publish this sauerkraut recipe - a full year after my last fermented recipe.
How long does it take for sauerkraut to ferment?
The thing with most sauerkraut recipes is they'll say something like this:
"Ferment on your counter until done."
Until done? What the heck does that mean to a fermenting newbie?
I guess because actual sauerkraut (not the vinegar kraut you can buy canned in the stores) wasn't part of our diet I had a harder time with this. I wasn't even sure what it was supposed to taste like, other than pickled cabbage.
If the recipes didn't say "until done" then they ranged everywhere from weeks to months of storage, which frankly wasn't any help either.
So the recipe testing began. Which mainly meant us figuring out what we liked because we learned fairly soon that you can have a strong tasting (and smelling) sauerkraut or a mild kraut.
Guess which we preferred?
I tried ferments with lots of added ingredients like onions and hot peppers (we're fans of spicy, it seemed like a good idea), and left them to ferment for a month. Waaayy too strong.
Then I tried only cabbage and left it for 6 weeks. Whew, no.
In the end it was our trip to Leavenworth, Washington (a Bavarian inspired town) that finally steered us in the right direction to a sauerkraut that we loved.
We bought a refrigerated, locally made product that was so good and mild that we could eat it with a fork from the jar. The ingredients were simply cabbage, salt, and water.
And while my sauerkraut isn't quite that spare, we realized that we prefer a mild product with barely a hint of pickling, just like the jar in Leavenworth.
So I've spent the last few months getting just the right ratio of ingredients, time fermenting on the counter, and time in the fridge, to create what I think is the best homemade sauerkraut recipe.
The even better part? Using the Easy Fermenter Lids like my last two recipes takes all the issues with homemade sauerkraut out of the equation!
It's simply a matter of mixing it up, packing it in a jar, adding the lid and then leaving it to work it's magic with no more work on your part at all.
Pretty cool, right? Let's make some!
How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut
Step 1: Dump shredded cabbage into a large bowl
I'm going to start with a confession: I used to buy a head of cabbage and shred it myself, but now I just buy a couple bags of shredded cabbage (or coleslaw mix with carrots and purple cabbage like pictured). At .99 to $1.30 each, the price is similar and the time savings is worth it to me!
Also, some people only ferment with organic produce, but that would make this pretty expensive and cabbage is always on the "clean 15" list for pesticides, so I stick with the more cost effective version. You do you.
TIP: I sometimes shred one peeled apple into the mix like pictured above because I read that it helps keep the sauerkraut mild. It's optional of course.
Step 2: Add the other ingredients, stir and press together
Use a potato masher (or a cabbage pounder if you're fancy like that) to press and mash the cabbage as you stir it for a good 2-4 minutes.
You should see it start to break down and release a bit of juice.
Step 3: Let cabbage mixture rest for 30 minutes
At the end of the resting time, the mixture should be one-third to one-half the volume of where it started, like pictured above.
There will be anywhere from a couple teaspoons to a couple tablespoons of liquid at the bottom.
Step 4: Pack cabbage mixture into a wide-mouth mason jar and attach lid
Pack: Use a wooden spoon (or that cabbage pounder) to press the cabbage down firmly (like really pack it down) as you add it to the jar, removing as much air as you can. The liquid should cover the cabbage - if not, pack it down a bit more to release the juices (you shouldn't need to add water, but if you do add only a tablespoon or so to cover the top).
Weight: Set a glass weight on top to keep the cabbage under the liquid (I really want to get these, since I'm tired of fishing out the slippery regular weights with my fingers).
Seal: Screw on an Easy Fermenter Lid. Move the dial on the top to the day of the month.
TIP #1: I also add a sticky note to the side with the date I need to put it in the fridge and the date it will be ready so I don't have to think about it later.
TIP #2: Sometimes the liquid gets absorbed in the first couple of days and the cabbage is exposed to air. You'll notice that the top of the cabbage starts to discolor a bit. You can leave it or remove the lid and weight, stir up the cabbage, and press firmly down again before replacing the weight and lid. There is a large syringe-type tool included in the Easy Fermenter Lid kit and this is when you'd use it (or anytime you open the lids on a ferment for some reason). Hold it over the center air lock and pump the air out one time. You'll feel a give and if you try and pump again, there shouldn't be any air left.
Step 5: Ferment "until it's done"
Ha! Just kidding. Leave on the counter 2 weeks, take off the fermenting lid and replace with a mason jar storage lid and put the jar in the refrigerator for 1 week.
I've found this timing to give us the best, mild homemade sauerkraut, though you could taste test it at the 2-week mark to see if you'd like it then. The week in cold storage seems to temper it just a bit more for our tastes.
And believe it or not, this is a quick sauerkraut recipe!
Step 6: Eat and enjoy
Some people have asked how we eat sauerkraut (no, we're not eating sausages everyday...).
Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy this fermented cabbage recipe:
- Topping a salad.
- Next to any kind of grilled or roasted meat or poultry.
- On a sandwich, especially grilled paninis made with roast beef.
- Topping pulled pork, alone or in sandwiches or tortillas.
- As a Tex-Mex condiment, especially pork or fish tacos.
- On top of a Triscuit cracker (surprisingly good).
- Right out of the jar!
Easiest Mild Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe
- Large bowl
- quart jar
- Easy Fermenter Lid
- 2 pounds cabbage shredded (or 2 1-pound packages of shredded cabbage)*
- 1 apple peeled and shredded (optional, adds more mild flavor)
- 1 ½ tablespoons pure sea salt regular grind (not coarse)**
- 1 teaspoon black pepper we like it, but this is optional, too
- Add all the ingredients to a large bowl. Using a potato masher or cabbage pounder, stir and press the mixture for 2-4 minutes until it starts to break down and you see a bit of juice being released.
- Let the bowl sit, covered, for 30 minutes. You can stir and press again if you'd like or not - it's up to you.
- Press the cabbage mixture down firmly into a wide-mouth mason jar with a wooden spoon, removing as much air as possible and pressing out the juice. You should have enough juice to cover the cabbage, but if not you can add a tablespoon of room temperature water (filtered if on city water). Use a glass fermenting weight to keep the cabbage submerged.
- Attach an Easy Fermenter Lid and set the dial to the day of the month. Let jar sit on counter for 2 weeks. Remove special lid and replace with a regular storage lid before placing in the refrigerator for another week.
- It's ready to eat after the 3 full weeks (maybe before if you think it's okay). It will keep in the fridge for a long time - but our smaller jars never last more than 2 weeks.
More on Fermenting Recipes to Try
Sourdough is good for your gut, too: How To Grow, Keep, & Use A Sourdough Starter
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