May 23, 2023

Trying a New Technique for Making Sauerkraut

The best sauerkraut is said to be made in its own juices. The cabbage is shredded and pounded enough to bruise the juice out of it. The requires extremely fresh cabbage, which I don't often have, since cabbage moths make cabbage growing a real challenge for me. Cabbage is an inexpensive vegetable, so I don't mind buying it to make sauerkraut. The trade-off is that it's usually too old to pound out the juices. So, most often, I make sauerkraut by mixing and adding brine

Recently, I ran across a video with a different method for making sauerkraut. It's a four-part series with the first video here. Instead of shredding the cabbage and adding the brine, the cut cabbage was salted first and allowed to sit overnight. Salt pulls moisture from food (through osmosis, I reckon) and so helps the cabbage make it's own juice. I decided to give it a try.

The first step is shredding the cabbage.

After shredding, the cabbage was sprinkled with salt and mixed in. The video didn't mention an amount, so I used the same amount of salt as my old recipe, 2 tablespoons for a medium head of cabbage. I covered it with a clean dishcloth and let it sit on the counter overnight.

I use Himalayan pink salt for the minerals.

The next morning the cabbage shreds looked wet and I found that the salt had indeed pulled some juice from the cabbage.

The next step is pounding. In the video, the gal dumped her shredded cabbage into a 5-gallon bucket and stomped it like grapes. I opted to used my pounder.

That squished out more juice. Not enough to cover the cabbage, but the video said in that case, cover it with a light brine. The video used fresh dill and slices of horseradish for flavoring, but I used juniper berries and celery seeds.

After covering the crock contents with more brine, I submerged the cabbage shreds by covering them with a saucer and weighting it with a pint jar half filled with water. 

Then the crock is covered with a clean cloth an allowed to ferment.

I find that three days is good for our taste buds. Then I transferred it to a half-gallon jar with a lid to store in the fridge. 

Then the taste test. We both love sauerkraut and really liked this one. I especially like to use it as a relish on a good hamburger.

Bacon cheeseburger with sauerkraut.

One other really good tidbit I picked up from the video series is that sauerkraut can be frozen without destroying the probiotics. Canning will kill them, but I usually make it one cabbage at a time and refrigerate it after it's soured to the tartness we like. It does keep getting more sour, even in the fridge, so freezing sounds like a good way to go.

Conclusion? This method is a keeper! I'll have to try it with my other fermented vegetables as well.


Retired Knitter said...

I have frozen store bought sauerkraut and it was just fine when I defrosted it.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh - I have done a version of this based on the recipe provided by Lehman's with their sauerkraut crock. Theirs is similar in that they recommend cutting the cabbage and then salting it overnight. Like you, I found that it did not provided sufficient moisture to cover the cabbage - pounding it sounds, although not sure (given my skill level) I could recover enough of the juice. I just use a brine to cover the cabbage and weigh it down with the stones.

I have done 2-4 day fermentations mostly. My next to be tasted batch is 8 days, so I am interested to see the difference.

Ed said...

I've never had any luck with cabbage growing. Generally I never have got it to form heads and gave up on it a long time ago. My MIL planted several this year so perhaps she might be successful. If she is, I'm for sure going to revisit this post and perhaps make up a batch of it for ourselves.

Michelle said...

The only time I made sauerkraut was when one of my husband's clients gave us two HUGE heads of cabbage. It took some muscle, but it produced enough of its own juices to cover it.

DFW said...

I like sauerkraut, hubby not so much unless it's on a reuben we occasionally get when we eat out. Have a neighbor from Slovenia, she just attained her citizenship ... yeah!. Her Mother, who now lives here, has a kraut recipe that she said she would teach me. Can't wait to learn more.

Leigh said...

RT, I'm glad to hear someone's experience. Sounds like a good idea for me too.

TB, I wonder why I hadn't found this method sooner!

I find about three days good for us. I like tart, but longer than that and it gets too sour. I'm sure it depends on the room fermenting temperature. If it gets too sour, I'll rinse it in fresh water, and that seems to help. I'll be interested in what you think of the 8-day ferment.

Ed, there must be some traditional fermenting recipes from the Philippines. Kmchi? I hope the cabbages make it! Mine seem to bolt before they form heads, assuming the cabbage moths don't demolish them.

Michelle, you must have had some good cabbages! I love sauerkraut as a side dish or on sandwiches.

Deb, lucky you! I hope you share what you learn. I haven't had a reuben sandwich in a long time. Sounds good!

daisy g said...

I often add water to the kraut so that it covers the top. I make mine in a quart jar. It's very difficult to pound and massage the cabbage enough to get a lot of juice. I added shredded carrots to this batch because I had salted too much. Turned out great. Enjoy your kraut!

Rosalea said...

We both love sauerkraut. Will have to try this method. Great info as always Leigh.

SmartAlex said...

Horesradish and fresh dill? Mmmm! Sounds great. I season mine with caraway but I may need to try this.

Leigh said...

Daisy, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has this trouble! Makes me wonder if traditionally, certain cabbage varieties were grown just for kraut making.

Rosalea, thank you!

Alex, I would love to make some with caraway seeds, but Dan doesn't like them. I think I recall that the video mentions quince fruits as well. I'll have to take another look, since eventually, my quince trees will bear fruit.

Josepha said...

I’ve made a lot of kraut over the years. Recently, I’ve been making it with thick shredded kohlrabi instead of cabbage. I like it a lot. I don’t think I will use cabbage again (unless I can’t get kohlrabi!). The technique is the same.

Leigh said...

Josepha, I've never tried lacto-fermenting kohlrabi, but it sounds really good. Thank you for mentioning it. I'm actually never grown kohlrabi, so I'll have to give it a try! Our favorites are lacto-fermented turnips or jersulam artichokes, also daikon (which I call kimchi).

Nina said...

While I've never made sauerkraut before, my cousin used to all the time. His recipe was simply layering salt and finely shredded cabbage and a few spices, in a crock and weighting it down until the liquids covered it. I'm wondering though, if cabbage growers have selected for more storage stable veggies, resulting in dryer cabbages. Or perhaps the commercial market, wants this type of cabbage for processing,thus the affecting the rest of the cabbages and seeds available to home growers, grocery stores and farm markets.

Leigh said...

Nina, that's an interesting technique, and I think you're correct about cabbage varieties. I've never seen seeds for specific sauerkraut cabbage, but I'm guessing the existed once upon a time. Dryer cabbages would certainly store better. I'd like to see if I can source some older cabbage varieties to experiment with.

Quinn said...

This is very interesting, and my mouth is watering as I type. Something about this method just sounds like the result would taste so fresh! Haven't made kraut in a while, because I have trouble growing cabbages without devastating bug infestations. I thought I might experiment trying to grow a few under row cover this year, but maybe I'll just buy them at the local farmers market instead so I can try this method. Thanks for sharing!

Leigh said...

Quinn, I have terrible problems with cabbage moths, so cabbage, I've given up on. I give it a try on occasion, but it always requires a lot of spraying (I like a garlic/mint solution).

Anonymous said...

This is similar to how I make my kraut. However I let it ferment 6 days in our air conditioned home. I used a new-to-me variety of cabbage this year called Golden Acre and am very impressed with how juicy it is!