Sauerkraut - The Basics

1. So lets start with the cabbages.....

Firm, fresh heads with some of the outer leaves still on. You want as much of the the bacteria that is present naturally to drive the ferment. If the cabbages have been trimmed and has been hanging around drying out in a shop for a while your sauerkraut may not work!


Trim the base and peel them to remove any dirt or insects. DO NOT WASH - you will rinse away most of the fermenting bacteria! 



   The cabbage should be moist, heavy, fresh and densely packed inside, like this lovely one!   

Next slice it finely or a bit more chunky if you like. It's more about being a consistant size so it all ferments at the same time. Also the more surface area, the quicker everything will ferment. Mine is done by machine on 2mm (I make alot tho!), it's totally fine to use a knife or mandolin also. 


The last thing is the salt, and just salt, you shouldn't need any water only the juices from the cabbage. I use fine Himalayan pink salt, you can also use Kosher or Sea salt as long as is fine grind. NEVER USE TABLE SALT, it has additives like Iodine and free flowing agents that will totally mess with the fermenting.



2. A Bit Of Chemistry.....

So why does the fermenting work, turning a lovely little cabbage into an even lovelier pile of gut friendly funkiness with only two basic ingredients - the salt and the cabbage? 

Well its all to do with taking advantage of the naturally occurring lactobacillus that lurks in the soil and consequently the cabbage, and giving it it's most favourite environment and growing conditions. Then pretty much stand back and wait for it to have a party. As it grows and spreads and gets happier, it makes everything more acidic and pretty much impossible for anything nasty to hang out there. Then 6 weeks later you have sauerkraut.

What does it need to party? 

       ~ lots of food and easy access to it (finely chopped cabbage)

       ~ a slightly salty environment (2% is my recommended)

       ~ no air (anaerobic - needs to be covered in the briney, cabbagey liquid)

       ~ temperature of about 18-21 is the best, but will tolerate bit higher or lower as long as is not sudden, a spot in the middle of the house is great as is gradual changes and fairly temperate. If you are comfortable your sauerkraut will be too.

       ~ time. About 6 weeks but this can be bit less or more depending on the temperature, how coarse or fine is sliced, natural sugar content of veg.