Basic Sauerkraut Recipe
Sauerkraut is a great beginner fermentation project that you can do without any special equipment. We based our method for this distinctively sour fermented cabbage dish on that of fermentation guru Sandor Ellix Katz. Sauerkraut is pleasantly crunchy and tangy, and the science-project aspect of fermenting it yourself is hard to resist. Use it to top sausages and hot dogs, stuff it into a Reuben sandwich, or braise it with spices like juniper and bay leaves for a hearty side dish.
- 5 pounds green cabbage (about 2 medium heads), cored and cut into small wedges
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- Using a food processor fitted with a grating disk and working in batches, finely shred the cabbage. Place in a large bowl, sprinkling some of the measured salt on the cabbage between batches. When all of the cabbage is shredded, add any remaining salt and toss to combine thoroughly.
- Pack the cabbage and any juices it has released into a 1-gallon ceramic crock or plastic food-safe bucket a little at a time, pressing the cabbage down tightly with your fist as you go. Make sure to leave at least 5 inches of clearance between the cabbage and the rim of the crock or bucket to allow for foaming and bubbling during fermentation.
- Place a clean plate over the cabbage (it should fit snugly within the opening of the crock or bucket). Place a clean, sealed, 5-pound container of water on the plate to weight down the cabbage (a large Mason jar works well, but do not use metal or any unsanitary weight, as it will contaminate the cabbage). Drape a clean towel over the top of the crock or bucket to keep out any dust, and let it sit in a spot with a temperature around 70°F—no cooler than 65°F or hotter than 75°F.
- Check back frequently during the first day to be sure the cabbage is releasing enough juices (the salt will pull water from the cabbage to create a brine). Press on the plate and weight if necessary, and add more weight if the liquid doesn’t start to cover the top of the cabbage. After about 6 to 8 hours, there should be at least an inch of brine above the plate. (If there isn’t, you can top off your cabbage with a brine composed of 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt dissolved in 1 quart of water.)
- Check the cabbage every few days, removing the weight and plate to skim away any scum from the top. (The fermentation will cause natural bubbles and foam.) Rinse off the plate and weight thoroughly each time before replacing them. Keep an eye on the brine level; you may have to add more if it’s evaporating (see step 4 for proportions). Keep the plate submerged in at least 1 1/2 inches of brine as the fermentation proceeds.
- Start tasting the cabbage after about a week, and ferment it to the level of tanginess that you like, anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. Some people prefer the milder cabbage-y taste of young kraut, while others like a more assertive fermented flavor.
- When the cabbage is fermented to your liking, transfer it and its brine to clean jars, leaving about a half inch of headspace, and refrigerate. The sauerkraut will last up to 3 months refrigerated and submerged in brine.