Lacto fermenting is terrific for your health! You do NOT want to see the word vinegar anywhere around your sauerkraut or pickles! We want probiotics!
- Shred 1 organic cabbage, (like for coleslaw). Or, mix it up! White cabbage, carrot, onion, red pepper, shredded green beans, apples, cucumbers, water, salt, sugar, and spices! You want your cabbage pieces as consistent as possible so they ferment at the same rate. Thread cuts are best because they expose more cabbage cells making more lactic acid that preserves flavor, texture and color.
- Optional Spices you can add: bay leaves, coriander, juniper berries, caraway, garlic, mustard, onion, fennel – your faves, your choice!
- 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt or a good salt, use filtered water (non-chlorinated)
- 1/4 cup liquid whey (not necessary, but even more healthy)
Layer your shredded cabbage in a large container sprinkling with salt and whey as you go. Mash with a pestle (from a mortar and pestle) or whap with a tenderizer pounder, or the head of a clean hammer (!) until the cabbage starts to release it’s juices (about five to fifteen minutes). Cabbage releases liquid, creating its own brining solution.
Put your cabbage in a container, crock, Mason jar, and tamp it down tight. Leave it loosely covered for an hour or so. If the juices aren’t covering the cabbage at this point, add enough filtered water to cover. If you’ll be using more than a 1/2 cup or so, add in another teaspoon of salt per cup (stir to dissolve before adding to cabbage).
Cabbage near the surface tends to float. It’s important that it remain submerged during fermentation. When making sauerkraut in a crock, place a weighted plate over the cabbage to pack it down and keep it submerged. In a mason jar, you need to either tamp down the cabbage a few times a day or place a large outer leaf of cabbage over the surface of the shredded cabbage to hold it down. Put a lid, rubber side up on top of the leaf, a jar on top of that to hold it all down, or put a smaller jar in weighted with a stone or marbles!
Keep the jar covered with a clean cloth or piece of cheese cloth. This will allow airflow, but prevent dust or insects from getting into the sauerkraut. If you are not using a fermenting jar with an airlock, and put a lid on it, make sure to “burp” the container several times a day.
Minimum fermenting time is about three days, though the kraut will continue to ferment and become tastier for many days after that. As simple as it sounds, the best rule of thumb is to keep tasting the kraut. Put a lid on it and refrigerate (or take it cellar temperature) when it tastes good to you. The sauerkraut is safe to eat at every stage of the process, so there is no real minimum or maximum fermentation time.
Bubbles, foam, or white scum on the surface of the sauerkraut, are all signs of normal, healthy fermentation. The white scum can be skimmed off as you see it or before refrigerating the sauerkraut. If you get a very active fermentation or if your mason jar is very full, the brine can sometimes bubble up over the top of the jar. This is part of the reason why I recommend using a larger mason jar than is really necessary to hold the cabbage. If you do get a bubble-up, it’s nothing to worry about. Just place a plate below the jar to catch the drips and make sure the cabbage continues to be covered by the brine.
It is possible that you might find mold growing on the surface of the sauerkraut, but don’t panic! Mold typically forms only when the cabbage isn’t fully submerged or if it’s too hot in your kitchen. The sauerkraut is still fine (it’s still preserved by the lactic acid) — you can scoop off the mold and proceed with fermentation. This said, it’s still important to use your best judgment when fermenting. If something smells or tastes moldy or unappetizing, trust your senses and toss the batch.
Label your ‘Kraut! Ingredients, date. Southport Grocery in Chicago says Grandma really did know best, Eat Your Fermented Veggies!
Wise woman Sharon Kaufman says: Since this is a food with beneficial bacteria, the optimum way to serve it is cold or at room temperature. Heating it kills off all the good stuff, so think of eating it as you would a pickle – cold and crunchy. YUM!
And there, my friends, you have it! Using your cabbages to maximum health benefit! And it is SO EASY!