Sauerkraut has become a staple in my kitchen. Once you learn how to make this easy homemade sauerkraut you will see how simple it is to start reaping the benefits of fermented vegetables in your everyday diet; for pennies might I add!
What are the benefits of fermenting foods?
If you are new to the world of fermenting foods, there are so many benefits! Your gut health, hormone health, and overall wellbeing can benefit from fermented foods, making it a favorite among health enthusiasts. Fermenting is the process of “souring” a food item.
This souring process develops probiotics in the food you are souring. Probiotics help your gut break down foods more easily. Probiotics are necessary in our bodies, not only to process food but maintain a good pH balance. There are other things like yeast infections, acne, irregular bowel movements, and anxiety that probiotics can help with and restore us to health.
Most of us have had antibiotics at some point in our lives to fight off an infection. Antibiotics are so helpful, and I am grateful I have been able to have access to them throughout my life. However, prolonged use or excessive use of antibiotics can deteriorate our gut lining, making it harder to digest food. Also, unknowingly eating foods that irritate us can contribute to our gut health being poor.
Since I am not a doctor I am going to stray away from giving medical advice. However, I will share with you my experience.
For so many years I took medication (an antibiotic type medication) for acne. I also ate lots of foods that irritated my body, which I wasn’t aware of. When I was diagnoses with a polycystic ovarian syndrome I started researching hormone health. What I learned changed my life. Our gut health is tied much to our overall health. Things like our hormones, cortisol levels, and liver function. Working to restore my gut health after years of antibiotics and irritating foods allowed my body to be restored to a healthier state. Probiotics are a part of that restoration process.
How to make your own sauerkraut.
This process may sound daunting, but if more people knew how easy it was to do, I believe most of us would be a normal part of cooking rhythms. All you will need is some cabbage, salt, a fermenting jar, a food processor, and a big bowl.
- Wash the outside of your cabbage well.
- Remove the outermost cabbage leaves and set them aside for later.
- Chop your cabbage into small quarter sizes (or whatever size will fit into your food processor)
- Shred, shred, shred. Take your food processor, making sure you use your “shred” blade or function. Shred up all your cabbage.
- Put the cabbage in a big bowl or stockpot. I use my soup pot.
- Massage about 2 tbsp of sea salt per head of cabbage into the shredded cabbage in your bowl until you see salty water coming up to the top of your fingers. This salty water is called brine.
- Put all the brined cabbage into a large mason jar.
- If you are shredding 2 cabbage heads you will need at least a half-gallon jar
- Take the outermost cabbage leave that you saved at the beginning and fold them up. Place them in the jar at the top of the cabbage and push down until you see the brine coming out the top.
***This is an important part! These leaves will keep your sauerkraut from molding during the fermenting process.
Next you will need something to weigh down the leaves and keep everything submerged underneath the brine. I use a fermenting weight, but I have also used whatever I have had on hand. Other things you can use are whisky stones or rocks from your yard and place them in a ziplock bag. Place your weight on to of the leaves and push down so the brine is coming up to the weight.
- Lastly, you will put the lid on your jar. Do not screw it tight. I usually leave mine half screwed on. This is another crucial step. As it ferments on the counter to ferment gasses will need to escape the jar by coming out the top. If the lid is screwed on tight the gasses won’t be able to escape and your jar will explode!
- Leave your jar of sauerkraut on the conter to ferment for about 7 days. The amount of time can vary from person to person based on the flavor you are going for. Some people let their ferment for only 4-5 days, but I personally prefer 7 days.
Enjoy your sauerkraut! Your kraut is now complete! Keep in the refrigerator to freeze the fermenting further. My sauerkraut has never gone bad if I keep it in the refrigerator. Remember, fermenting is another way of preserving your food! This should keep for quite a while.
Pro tips to easy homemade sauerkraut.
A few pro tips will help you make your first homeade sauerkraut making experience an enjoyable one:
- When using the food processor to shred the cabbage, make sure the middle blade is taken out. Most food processors have a blend feature that allows you to blend your ingredients, as well as a separate blade you insert to either chop or shred something. If you leave the blending blade in while you use the shred blade you will have a very mushy cabbage texture. Make sure you take out the blender blade and only use the shred blade.
- Instead of regular table salt, use sea salt. This will give the fermenting process a cleaner and healthier aspect to your sauerkraut.
Ways to enjoy your Sauerkraut!
There are many ways to enjoy our sauerkraut.
- Brats are a classic dish and a favorite around our home.
- As a side dish! Adding just a spoonful or two to your plate is a great way to ensure you are getting some healthy probiotics in your diet daily.
- Mixed with some fried-up kale. This makes a great warming salad to any main dish. My husband and I call this Kalekraut. Stay tuned for the recipe!
- Add it to a soup! The sour flavor blends in with any savory broth for a smooth warming soup! Again, stay tuned for another one of our favorite sauerkraut soup recipes!
Sauerkraut is one of the most inexpensive foods to make or keep on hand! It is usually inexpensive in the store, but it’s even more inexpensive when you make it at home.
A head of cabbage runs for about 59 cents up here in the northern midwest. The recipe I listed above is based on two heads of cabbage. Also, salt is an ingredient that most of us have on hand. Making a half-gallon jar of homemade sauerkraut is about $1.18.
We have found a jar of sauerkraut lasts us a few weeks when we use it regularly. But if you are someone who only has sauerkraut a few times a year this batch will last you a very long time!
Other fermented foods?
There are many other fermented foods you can enjoy to get those probiotic benefits if you are not a fan of sauerkraut. Among the most common fermented, probiotic-rich foods are:
- sourdough bread
- fermented cheeses
Once you understand the process of fermenting there are so many things you can ferment. I have even known people to ferment peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and other vegetables.