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Easy-peasy sauerkraut.

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cooking time n/a
  • Serves 12 side portions
  • Skill level Easy, Medium
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cooking time n/a
  • Serves 12 side portions
  • Skill level Easy, Medium
  • Vegetarian, Quick & Easy
I have tricked you with that title because, the thing is, all sauerkraut is easy. It’s just cabbage and salt left in a jar to ferment. How it ends up being one of the healthiest foods on the planet is an interesting story, one I will explain here alongside instructions on how to make your own.
  • Ingredients
  • Method
1 white cabbage, preferably organic
1 dsp flaked sea salt
2 tsp black peppercorns (optional)
½ tsp caraway seeds (optional)
  • Remove any tired leaves and wash the outside of your cabbage.
  • Quarter it, remove the core and slice it thinly.
  • Put it in a clean bowl with half the salt. Using clean hands, squeeze it for several minutes. It will become limp and wet. Add more salt if water isn’t being released by the cabbage.
  • Add any flavourings, in this case caraway seeds and peppercorns. Squeeze a little more.
  • Transfer it to a very clean jar, pouring in the juices. Press it down with your hands/ a clean rolling pin.
  • Lay cling film or a leaf from the outside of the cabbage over the sauerkraut, and put a clean weight on top. The cabbage should be submerged in the juices.
  • Cover the jar with a clean cloth and secure the cloth with elastic. This allows gases to escape while preventing germs getting in.
  • Leave it out of the sun but not in the fridge. Most of the fermentation takes place in the first 3-4 days. You will see tiny bubbles rising – this is fermentation taking place. It might overflow if you don’t keep an eye on it (push the veg down to release the bubbles.) Once fermentation slows down you can put a proper lid on it to preserve it.

When can you eat it?

We have eaten ours after 4 days but longer is better – try 20 days for a more mature flavour.

Storage.

Unopened it will last for many months, especially if it’s refrigerated. But once you start eating it new bacteria may be introduced so finish it off within 2 weeks.

Signs your sauerkraut hasn’t worked-

If instead of smelling like sauerkraut your cabbage smells off, you should discard it. It should taste sour and should not be pink, grey, black, or mouldy. However, many experienced sauerkraut makers are happy to scrape off a little scum or even mould from the surface knowing the submerged cabbage beneath will be OK. Follow your gut and if in any doubt, throw it away.

Quite a narrow range of foods contain live bacteria, and sauerkraut is perhaps the easiest of them to make at home. Your gut micro-biome will thank you for it, and it only takes a few minutes to prepare. Just make sure that all your equipment is very clean before you start.

How do you grow a healthy gut?

A healthy gut is alive with a wide diversity of good bacteria. These bacteria digest our food for us, and you would not believe how many other benefits they bring to our overall health (Everything from our immune function to our mental health. I’ve written more on the subject here.)

But how do those good bacteria get inside us in the first place? It’s simple. We eat them, and then we feed them the right food to help them thrive. In a healthy gut, good bacteria are crowding out the bad ones. Remember this difference-

  • Foods that contain good bacteria are called probiotic foods.
  • Foods that nourish good bacteria are called prebiotic foods.

Quite a narrow range of foods contain live bacteria, and sauerkraut is perhaps the easiest of them to make at home. (Click here for a list of probiotic food.)

Remember- once you have consumed some good bacteria (in the form of this delicious sauerkraut) you should help them to stay alive and multiply. This is where prebiotic food comes in– you need to remember to eat some. Otherwise it is a little bit like going to the garden centre to buy some lovely golden carp, then sticking them in the pond and forgetting to feed them.

Not sure where to begin?

All dietary fibre is good for you, but only certain types of fibre are pre-biotic. This website explains the difference and provides a list of foods. Many of the recipes on our website contain pre-biotic ingredients. One of my favourites is Smoked Mackerel and Celeriac Salad (it contains fennel and apple.) Another winner is Tahini Lentils with eggs and red onions (contains lentils, garlic and red onion.)

It only takes a few minutes to prepare sauerkraut, but you do need to take care that all your equipment is very clean before you start, especially the storage jar. Squeezing cabbage with your fingers is messy but satisfying.

The jar in the photo has a valve which allows the gases released by the fermentation process to escape while not admitting any air. I bought mine from Lakeland but traditionally people made sauerkraut without this. Another way of achieving the same thing is to put a clean cloth over it and secure it with elastic during the fermentation stage (4-7 days) and then replace it with a real lid to preserve it once it’s ready. Alternatively, loosen (and then re-tighten) the lid every few days to allow the gas to escape.

Salt is used to draw out the liquids inside the cabbage – the cabbage should be fully immersed in liquid. You could press it down with a rolling pin and then weigh it down with a clean heavy object. For the batch pictured here I didn’t need to because there was plenty of liquid. Remember that more liquid will be released as fermentation progresses.

My sauerkraut has never failed to ferment – the only issue I’ve had is saltiness. I now use salt with caution, adding a little at a time and seeing how squeezy and wet the cabbage gets. I use as little as I can get away with and seldom use as much as most recipes recommend. You’ll have to use some salt but obviously the less salt you use the healthier your sauerkraut will be.

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