Sauerkraut is a great first fermentation project because it is so easy to make and the results are pretty fool proof. All you need to do is shred a head of cabbage and an onion and add salt, caraway seeds and dill to a mason jar, and cover with the method I outline below, and voilà!
Why add an onion to this recipe? Well-known fermentationist Summer Bock points out that raw onion is pre-biotic. Pre-biotic foods feed probiotic bacteria, so your lactofermentation process will be helped along by this prebiotic addition.
- 1 medium head green cabbage
- 1/2 yellow onion peeled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or pink Himalayan salt (using a non-iodized salt is important as iodine is a disinfectant and we don’t want to kill the good bacteria!)
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- handful of fresh dill
- Remove any wilted, limp outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into half and core it. Slice into thin ribbons.
- Peel your onion and cut it into thin slices as well.
- Add cabbage and onion ribbons to a large bowl.
- Add salt, caraway seeds and chopped dill to the mixture.
- Work the salt into the cabbage mixture with your hands, and you’ll notice that the water from the cabbage will start to extract from the cabbage. The salt is pulling the water out of the cabbage leaves and this will be your brine.
- Grab handfuls of the cabbage mixture and pack it tightly into the Ball jar (see photo). Using a wide-mouth Ball jar is helpful for this.
- Tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your hand. More brine will be pulled from the cabbage as you tamp the mixture down into the jar.
- Once the large Ball jar is full (leaving about an inch of space at the top) slip a smaller (4 ounce) jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with your hands to push the cabbage mixture all underneath the liquid brine. This will help keep the cabbage submerged beneath its liquid.
- Keep the smaller jelly jar pressing down your sauerkraut and cover the mouth of both jars with a cheese cloth or paper towel and secure it with a rubber band. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents dust or insects from getting into the jar.
- You can keep your sauerkraut for up to 21 days in a cool, dark place or even in your refrigerator. Best to keep the it away from direct sunlight and at room temperature for 2-3 weeks — ideally 65°F to 75°F — and then refrigerate once it tastes sour enough for you.
- If it ever smells rancid, discard it.
- Be sure everything stays beneath the brine line to keep bad bacteria out.
- After it’s sour enough for you, cover with an airtight lid and refrigerate.