Lacto-fermented sauerkraut is one of my favorite traditional foods and it is so easy to make at home! My recipe includes only 2 ingredients and can be assembled in just minutes. The hardest part is waiting for the fermenting to do its magic.What’s the Big Deal About Lacto-Ferments?
Lacto-fermentation of vegetables, such as cabbage, is a time-honored method of food preservation which relies on naturally present beneficial bacteria (lactobacilli) to convert carbs and sugar into lactic acid. According to Sally Fallon Morell in her classic book Nourishing Traditions, traditional cultures typically included a small amount of lacto-fermented foods or beverages with their meals and relied on the helpful enzymes and probiotics to aid digestion.
1 head cabbage, local and organic preferred 2 tablespoons unrefined salt (see notes below)
Start with a fresh head of cabbage. Remove the outer leaves and the core, then slice into evenly-sized pieces.
Continue to shred, including the larger pieces. These are about 1/2 inch width.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons unrefined salt on the shredded cabbage and massage in with your hands to evenly distribute. Let rest for 30 to 60 minutes. This will allow juices to release from the cabbage.
As for which salt to use, I like Celtic Sea Salt when making sauerkraut but I keep Redmond Real Salt and pink Himalayan salt on hand for other uses.
Press and pound the cabbage to further release juices. I use this tart pounder given to me by my sweet mom gave me years ago. You can find a variety of pounders here.
Place cabbage in sterilized jar(s) and press down with fingers, fist, spoon, or wooden pounder. As you press on the shredded cabbage, more juices will release. Insure the brine comes up above the top of the cabbage but leave at least 1-inch of head space. If your cabbage did not exude enough moisture (perhaps it was not super-fresh), you can add filtered water.
Note: I had extra cabbage and placed it in a small Mason jar to ferment alongside this cute Weck jar.
You can add glass weights such as these to keep the level of the brine above the cabbage. You could also use one of the outer leaves, folded or cut to fit, as a “topper” just under the weights. It helps to keep the shredded cabbage from floating up in the brine.
Add lid and then place in a cool spot out of direct light. Over the first few days, check the level of the brine and add a little filtered water, if needed, or remove extra brine to avoid overflowing.
Allow to ferment for at least 3 days. I prefer to allow my veggie ferments to sit 21 days for the best flavor and probiotics. You can taste-test your sauerkraut and decided when you are pleased with the flavor.
Check the sauerkraut for any possible mold that may develop. If any develops, you can spoon it off and discard. If the mold returns the next day, I recommend discarding that entire batch, cleaning your jars well, and starting over.
Move the sauerkraut to cold storage and consume within 6 to 12 months. I keep my sauerkraut on the top shelf of the refrigerator.
Looking for more lacto-fermentation tips and recipes? Check out the classic book of traditional foods, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell, or the great introductory book, Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin. Other suggestions can be found on my Recommended Reading page.
Shared at these great REAL FOOD blog carnivals: Real Food Forager, Richly Rooted, The GlutenFree Homemaker, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Coping with Frugality, Natural Family Today, Laura’s GlutenFree Pantry, Food Renegade, The Nourishing Gourmet, Girl Meets Nourishment