Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making Sour Kraut

Both of our families have a German heritage, but making sour kraut was not something we grew up doing. I know that my great grandparents did. Recently, I have been learning of the importance of eating salt fermented foods. Not a lot, just about a tablespoon or two daily. This helps provide your body with enzymes and digestive help as well as feeding the bowel flora. Kimchee and beet kvass would also work similarly. You also need some water fermented food daily (kombucha, kefir, yogurt, etc.). All traditional diets utilize fermented foods. In the past we had tried lacto-fermented sour kraut, but for whatever reason, this was not a big hit in our family.
Recently, one of our Amish friends had us to dinner and they had kraut on the table. Everybody really liked it. We asked for directions and here is what we were told...

Pick cabbages that are heavy as they contain more liquid. How many you need will be determined by the size of your jar.

We then cut the core out of the cabbage and sliced it in pieces that would easily fit through the food processor.

The children pitched in, Thomas ran the food processor. We did a head of cabbage into a thatsa bowl. The recipe says to add 1 Tbsp of salt per 2# of cabbage. We added that amount per head.

Then the fun begins. You mix in the salt and then pound out all your stress on the cabbage. You pound it until all the cabbage is bruised, there is liquid in the bottom, and it only takes about half the original volume. It will look soft and rather wilted when you are through. You will want to have lots of helpers at this stage. This takes a lot of strength and energy. You use a wooden 'stomper' to beat up the cabbage.

As each head is finished you put the cabbage in the jar and GENTLY stomp it down. You want to eliminate air pockets in the cabbage.

Remember, I said stomp it GENTLY in the jar. T-Bob was a little bit too vigorous and banged the jar too firmly and broke the jar. This was very sad. Fortunately, we had another jar. Unfortunately, It was a LOT bigger, and so instead of being almost done, we still had a lot of work to do.

We overfilled the jar. This was due to our lack of experience. You want to leave about 2" or so between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar. You will need to have a lid on your jar, but not a tight seal. You leave the cabbage sitting out on the counter for 3 days and then refrigerate it. It is ready to use after 3 days. It will work and bubble while it sits there. If you fill it too full it will run over the top and make a mess. We ended up spooning out the extra liquid so it would behave.
It is really yummy! We put out a bowl at dinner now all the time.
There are some variations. Some people will add some grated carrot to their mixture to make it a little sweeter. You could also add some tart apple. Caraway seeds would also change the flavor. This is a good family project.
Can you guess how many heads of regular sized cabbage went into our ~2 gallon jar?


  1. I've come along way. I can't believe I am actually somewhat excited about a recipe for fermented cabbage.
    We have a bunch of college age guys over once a week or so - I am so doing this the night they're over!!
    Do I need to buy a special tool to pound the cabbage with or is there a common kitchen tool that would work?

    And is it ready 3 days after sitting on the counter or after an additional 3 days of sitting in the fridge?


  2. The kraut is ready to be eaten after 3 days on the counter. You refrigerate it so that it doesn't continue getting more/too sour.

    A 'stomper' is just a wooden tool like you would use to push things through a juicer or whatever. It is a round wooden cylinder about 2" tall on a dowel handle. I think ours came with an old juicer. You could also find something like it at a kitchen gadget store. You want it to ba solid and have a little weight. Hope that helps.

  3. Incidentally, it took 8 medium cabbages to slightly overfill a 2 gallon jar.

  4. I'm planning to make some sauerkraut this weekend. I'm going to use a gallon Mason jar - I plan to pick up about 10 heads of cabbage. Hopefully 4 or 5 will be enough to make the kraut and I'll have a few left for halushki and halupki.

    Thanks for the tutorial and recipe.