Sauerkraut, traditionally, is a finely-sliced cabbage dish made using a process called lactic acid fermentation. This uses the beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus) present on the surface of the cabbage. When submerged in brine, it begins to convert the sugar (glucose) in the cabbage into lactic acid. This is a natural preservative that restricts the growth of harmful bacteria. It is also what gives a sour (sauer) taste to the cabbage (kraut)! Check below for the best sauerkraut recipe.
Sauerkraut originated from China over 2000 years ago. Eventually, it made it’s way into Europe with a little help from the Mongols, as well as the various migrating tribes. Due to it’s long shelf life, and various health benefits, it was quickly adapted in various European cuisines. It become particularly prominent in Germany and Eastern Europe, before making it’s way over to America.
From the introduction of Sauerkraut into the European culture, there have been many variations and adaptations of this delicious lacto-fermented dish. Traditionally it was made simply by using the head of a green/white cabbage. Combined with a touch of salt and pressed to create a brine from the naturally released juices of the cabbage. However, now, the world is your oyster in picking a Sauerkraut recipe that best suits your taste buds!
You can experiment with the different types of cabbage. A Savoy cabbage will produce a much firmer textured Saurkraut compared to a Napa cabbage. A red cabbage will give out a lovely pink colour. You can also mix and match with different ingredients. Some popular variations include carrots, apples or turmeric. Different spices and herbs, i.e. caraway/mustard seeds or chilli flakes, can also produce great flavour combinations. In other words, as long as you stick to the fermentation method, you can pretty much ferment anything you like. So let your imagination run wild!
Here’s the best sauerkraut recipe I have come up with so far!
1. Wash your ingredients.
2. Remove the outer leaves and Chop the cabbage into quarters and peel the garlic.
3. Grate your carrot and cabbage into a large bowl.
4. Crush and finely chop the garlic and mix in with the carrot and cabbage.
5. Add in the salt and caraway seeds and massage it into the mixture.
6. Fill your pickling jar with the mixture, squishing it down with a wooden spoon to create space, as well as begin to release some of the natural juices from the cabbage.
7. Once you’ve fit the mixture into the jar, give it another good squish down with the spoon to release as much of the liquid as you can. It should completely submerge the Sauerkraut mixture. If not, you can make a little extra brine by mixing a teaspoon of salt and a splash of water into a glass then pouring it over.
8. Cover your jar with a thin cloth and tighten with a rubber band. This will allow your Sauerkraut to breathe, and the fermentation to take place without any unwanted insects or bacteria creeping in.
9. Leave at room temperature, out of reach of any sunlight, for about 2 weeks. The Sauerkraut will naturally begin to float, so every other day, squish it down with a wooden spoon to make sure it stays covered in the brine. Otherwise you can weight it down by placing an object (like a smaller jar) on top of your Sauerkraut to make sure it stays submerged. A good sign of a healthy fermentation is to see some bubbles beginning to appear at the top of your mixture! Also don’t be afraid to taste during the fermentation process. This will give a you a greater understanding of the timings and the process.
9. Once you are happy with the level of sourness, take off the cloth and seal tight with a lid. Refrigerate and consume at your convenience.
Note – If you add too much salt in to your mixture the Sauerkraut will not ferment. The conditions will become uninhabitable even for the good bacteria while the Sauerkraut will taste really salty without any of the sour flavour. If this happens, take your mixture out and rinse it under cold water before putting it back in and squishing it down until its covered in brine again. Conversely, if you add too little salt, it will allow for bad bacteria to grow and your Sauerkraut will begin to grow mouldy. This is not edible and should be thrown out! Try to stick to about 1 ½ tablespoons of salt per a medium sized cabbage. Experiment with the flavours and soon you’ll have your own best sauerkraut recipe!
Here’s another favourite of mine. Red Cabbage and Beetroot Kraut!
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