An Ode to Sauerkraut

I’ve been digging in some more into all things gut health recently, as I’ve been on my whole gut healing protocol. Sauerkraut was the next logical step on the journey for me.

But, I’ve made sauerkraut in the past, and it was too salty and subsequent tries just didn’t come out right. So as usual, I spent time researching recipes, and talking to the home-cooks I’ve met on social media, and I think I finally figured out the right balance.

I summarise my findings below:

Salt to Cabbage Ratio

You need 2% of the weight of your shredded cabbage in salt. That’s it…simple. Do not trust the recipes that don’t give you this ratio. Your kraut may not come out good: too salty – and the fermentation is hindered, too little salt – and the whole thing becomes a moldy, slimy party of germs. 

My suggestion therefore is to invest in a kitchen scale. The digital ones are cheap. If you are in Jamaica – I purchased my last scale at MegaMart back in the day (and by extension, you can find it at Bashco – sans the mark up. You are welcome…)

Temperature & Time

Based on my research, the best kraut, with the highest amount of vitamin C, and the best flavour is developed at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit after 6 to 8 weeks.

However, I keep my abode much warmer than that (it’s the Jamaican in me) and at 70 to 75° Fahrenheit, my kraut was ready MUCH sooner. I decided it was sour enough for me at the 1 and a half week mark, but could have left it out for 2 or 3 weeks for a very tangy kraut. The fermenting continues (though slowly) in the refrigerator, so I decided to seal my jars and record this as success!

The temperature in my house back in Jamaica would have been around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which meant my kraut would have been fermenting a lot quicker. The flavour may be different at this temperature since the work of the bacteria would change. If you are in a warmer country, and you don’t use central air, then check your kraut at 5 – 7 days, and keep your kraut in the coolest spot of your house (especially when its locked up during the day and the heat becomes sweltering). I wish I knew these things years ago when my ferments flopped!

Should I do it? What does it taste like?

When I first heard about sauerkraut, I was like… no way… this thing is glorified 9 day cabbage water (click me to find out what that is!!) Cabbage sitting out on my counter? This must be foul and disgusting! But alas, it wasn’t – thanks to the preserving effects of SALT. For my Caribbean skeptics, it reminds me of a tangy relish – with a hint of vinegar tones (similar to a good escoveitch sauce). It is lightly salty and has a nice crunch. You either like it, or you don’t. 

If you’re interested in the science behind lacto-fermentation and the beneficial bacteria you get from a good kraut, then I suggest checking out Cultures for Health to nerd out on their fermentation resources. It certainly is a cost-effective version to the expensive, imported or sugar filled yogurts, or probiotic capsules. 

Here’s a picture of my kraut on a bacon wrapped hot dog, on my paleo “waffle” bun. Perfect low carb, paleo lunch! Yummy!! 

Ok, I’m Sold, How do I do it?!

Here’s a great video I found showing the process I basically followed for my kraut. 

As usual you can just skip to the written recipe below. I use alil carrot in mine, and used maybe just 2.5 lbs of cabbage to make 2 small jars. At the end, I cut up a few pieces of scotch bonnet pepper, and added it to one of the jars to make one a spicier pickle (I call this one Reggae Kraut!).

Simple Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a simple, probiotic rich condiment that pairs well with meats, hotdogs and meaty sandwiches

  • 2.5 lb Fresh Green Cabbage
  • 23 grams Salt
  • A few slivers of carrot
  1. Remove outer leaves and core of Cabbage. Peel Carrot and cut off the ends.

  2. Slice or shred cabbage and carrots finely. Transfer to a clean bowl.

  3. Weigh your shredded cabbage and carrots in grams (I gave some estimates of my amounts in the Ingredients). Remember to tare your scale to take into account the weight of the bowl!

  4. Calculate how many salt you will need by multiplying the weight of your shredded vegetables by 0.02

  5. Use the result from step 4 to measure out your salt. Use the scale to be precise! Remember to tare your scale to take into account the weight of the container holding your salt!

  6. Sprinkle the salt on the vegetable

  7. Massage the salt into the vegetables until it springs its own water (approximately 5 – 7 minutes)

  8. Pack your massaged cabbage firmly into your sterilized jars.

    Don't fill it all the way to the top, as the liquid may bubble over during the fermentation process. I like to fill my jars only 3/4 ways full.

    Ensure the water from the massaging process covers your cabbage completely (cabbage above the water line will go moldy!)

  9. Use a clean cabbage leaf to "smush" down your cabbage below the water line. Add a weighted object like a plastic bag of water, or a smaller jar on top to keep everything below the water line.

  10. Get your cheese cloth and cover the mouth of your jar. Secure with a rubber band

  11. Label your jar with the date (so you'll never forget how long it's going for!), and set in an area of your kitchen that is visible for the recommended time (see details in the blog post section "Temperature and Time")

  12. Check your kraut using clean hands and utensils as the days go by. When it is at the desired "sourness" remove the cheese cloth, weight and extra cabbage leaf, put the lid on your jar, and transfer to the fridge.

Image Credit: Photo by ELEVATE

Video Credit: Joshua Weissman

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