I go through phases where I like to spend an embarrassing portion of my free time reading blog posts and articles about health and nutrition and fitness…and no, we don’t have cable. In the past few years, gut health, the microbiome, probiotics and prebiotics seem to have become very popular topics. Apparently, keeping our resident bacteria population happy and healthy is super important for overall health. Personally, I’m not into taking a bunch of supplements, so I like to try and maximize my health with real food whenever possible. Luckily, a whole bunch of delicious fermented foods are big promoters of a happy tummy – foods like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles!
We were already eating a decent amount of yogurt (I’m a fan of full fat unsweetened Greek, if you were wondering – especially with a topping of berries, chia seeds, hemp hearts and a sprinkle of cinnamon!), so I went in search of some grocery store fermented sauerkraut and pickles. These naturally fermented types are the ones you will find stored in the refrigerated section and they are typically a lot more expensive than regular vinegar pickles or sauerkraut.
I started eating my fancy expensive sauerkraut in salads, on my eggs at breakfast and sometimes right out of the jar. Until my husband suggested we try making our own at home…
Now I assumed that this would involve tricky ingredients, elaborate sanitizing procedures, some kind of massive ceramic crock, stinky off gassing, potential poisoning and maybe a root cellar. Ha! Turns out sauerkraut is incredibly easy and cheap to make at home! And you can do this in small batches on your kitchen counter. So without further ado, here’s the process we used:
- Buy a few mason jars, pickle pipe lids and glass weights. You may be wondering what a ‘pickle pipe’ is. It is basically an air lock style lid that fits on a standard mason jar. We ordered these and some glass weights from amazon. Note, the special lids and weights aren’t totally necessary, but make the process so simple. Alternatively, you can simply open the lid regularly to vent it. A smaller jar or carefully placed whole cabbage leaf to weigh down the cabbage can stand in for the glass weights.
- Wait anxiously for your amazon order to arrive…
- Prep your supplies. You’ll need one cabbage and some coarse kosher salt. I ran the jars, weights and lids through the dishwasher prior to using.
- Slice the cabbage thinly and weigh it using a kitchen scale to figure out how much salt you’ll need. I used a tablespoon of salt per 800g of cabbage. Or, if you’re up for some calculations, the weight of your salt should be around 2% of the cabbage weight.
- Put your shredded cabbage in a big bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Try to distribute the salt evenly and use your hands to knead it into the cabbage. After kneading a bit, let it sit for 30-60 minutes while you
check social media…umm meditate.
- After achieving enlightenment, it’s time to check on your cabbage! You should now see a decent amount of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Knead the salt into the cabbage a final time. The aim is to have enough liquid to entirely cover the cabbage in the jars. You can also mix in any additional flavouring or ingredients. We used a sprinkle of caraway seeds in one jar and a sliced clove of garlic in the other.
- Divide the cabbage and liquid into two mason jars and pack down the cabbage as you go. I used the end of a wooden rolling pin to push the cabbage down into the jar.
- Add your glass weights on top of the cabbage and put on the pickle pipe lids. I also labelled the jars at this point with the date and flavour. Leave your jars to sit for 24 hours.
- Check the next day to see if the brine is covering the cabbage. If not, you can make a 2-3% brine solution (salt & water) and add to cover. Make sure to push down any floating bits. You don’t want the cabbage exposed to air.
- Wait! Our fermenting sauerkraut lives on the kitchen counter, mostly so that we remember to taste it occasionally. Keep tasting until you’re happy with it. Ours took about 2 weeks to start tasting like sauerkraut.
- Once it tastes good, remove the pickle pipe lid, put a regular lid on it and store in the fridge – eat daily!
That’s it! My instructions may seem a bit involved, but honestly it is super easy.
A Few Tips:
- I was super concerned about mold growing on the surface and obsessively washed everything and tried to get every morsel of cabbage submerged. Probably overkill. Cleanliness is important, but the pickle pipe lids seem to do a great job keeping contaminants out to prevent mold.
- Slicing the cabbage was the most annoying part. I did it by hand, but a food processor would be a good call.
- Make sure to start a new batch as soon as your first one is in the fridge – this stuff is tasty!
- Be careful not to accidentally spill all the precious cabbage brine on the floor as you’re filling the jars…
Do you like fermented foods? Ever tried making them at home?