Homemade Sauerkraut: Never Buy This Gut-Loving Ferment Again!
Making your own fermented foods has so many benefits, I could go on forever about them (but I won't, don't worry!). Among them is a huge financial saving - commercial small-batch traditional products are certainly worth their higher price, but are simple to recreate at home for a small fraction of the cost if you know how! When you make homemade ferments like kraut, you also know exactly what's in them, can create the flavours and combinations you like best, and enjoy the experimentation (the best bit!). Sauerkraut, the unpasteurised kind, is a microbe-rich brew that preserves cabbage and other veg for many months while supporting a healthy gut microbiome (it's alleged, as research into this is very new). With only an organic cabbage, salt, and 30 minutes, you can make a delicious, sour and crunchy kraut at home!
Choose a green or red cabbage as your base vegetable (personal preference). Strip off any yellow/rotting outer leaves and compost. Strip off another two good quality leaves, wash and set aside for later.
Weigh your desired amount (500g minimum is recommended) and slice finely. Place in clean bowl/bucket. Leave as is or add small amounts of additional grated vegetables, such as carrot, garlic or beetroot, for flavour – up to but not exceeding 50% of cabbage weight.
Sprinkle roughly one tablespoon of fine mineral salt per kilo (adjust to your needs, using a pinch more if you added grated vegetables). With clean hands, massage contents very well (use a towel or nonslip mat if your bowl moves) for at least 10 minutes or until a significant amount of juice is in the bottom. If this is taking a long time, you might sit your salted cabbage on the bench for half an hour to extract more water. Mix in any spices after massage.
Finally, pack kraut tightly into very clean jars, leaving at least one inch of headroom. Top up with leftover cabbage water until kraut is submerged (add some extra 2% brine if you need extra) and cover with part of a leaf you reserved in the beginning. Add a follower or weight (such as a chunk of carrot, a fermenting weight or a boiled rock), screw on lid gently and sit away from direct sun at room temperature for around five days, burping each day to release gases.
A white film on top, sulphur smell and some colour change are very normal and not to worry about. An acidic, sulphur smell will signal your ferment is active, as will lots of bubbles! When bubbling slows down after a few days, taste your batch. Leave out for longer if not to taste/not acidic enough. When you’re happy, compost the follower and packing leaf/remove weights, tightly screw on lid and refrigerate. Will last months in your fridge.
Kraut growing coloured mould or white film on top:
- Common problem due to oxygen exposure and not a major issue. Scrape off affected area and top of kraut if discoloured – submerged kraut should be OK to consume (judge smell, colour and taste for yourself but don’t be too afraid! If really unsure, compost it).
Kraut smells strongly of eggs/smelly:
- Normal! The first gases to escape when you open your kraut will smell a bit sulphurous, but don’t let this deter you. Your kraut will taste infinitely better! If, however, it smells off, remove the top layer and compost. If underneath looks and smells good, eat this. If not, toss the batch and begin again.
Kraut is too salty:
- Too much salt added at the beginning. Rinse if you really need to and try less in your next batch (add to taste).
Kraut smells/tastes slightly alcoholic:
- Not uncommon as any sugars present can be converted by yeasts to ethanol (very small amounts). This is lessened if you cover your kraut with a cloth rather than a sealed lid.
Kraut too acidic/too soft:
- This is the result of a longer ferment, which is fine, but may not be to your personal taste. Next batch, refrigerate your kraut after a few days if you prefer less a acidic/more crunchy product.
Kraut is not acidic enough/too crunchy:
- Wait longer! You can shelf or refrigerate (the latter will be slower) for a few more weeks or months for deeper flavour and fermentation.
- Green cabbage, carrot + cumin
- Red cabbage, beetroot + ginger
- Red cabbage, spring onion + wakame (seaweed)
- Green cabbage + fennel seed
- Green cabbage, chilli + black pepper
- …or invent your own!
- The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz 2012, Chelsea Green Publishing Co (US)
- Ferment For Good, Sharon Flynn, 2017, Hardie Grant Books (AUS)
- www.wildfermentation.com (Intl)
- The Clever Guts Diet, Michael Moseley 2017, Simon & Schuster Australia (AUS/NZ version)
*No sponsorship or affiliation with any resources
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