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My Favorite Sauerkraut Recipe

Kraut is king.

 

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One of the best things I eat for my health right now is fermented foods.  Things like kombucha and kefir have become very popular.  But for some reason, other lacto-fermented products have remained obscure.  To read more about the lacto-fermentation process and the benefits of consuming fermented foods, see this post.

For now, we’ll be focusing on sauerkraut and why it’s much tastier than the stuff you’ve eaten on a hot dog (or hopefully you haven’t had the misfortune of that experience).  Most store-bought sauerkraut is packed in a vinegar-based solution.   The strength of the vinegar will preserve the cabbage but will not create live cultures like a homemade lacto-fermenting solution.  And I’ve found that the vinegar degrades the cabbage much more than I’d like.  Plus, why eat something as off-putting as store-bought sauerkrat when you’re not getting much nutritional benefit from it?  You can find jarred sauerkraut with live cultures made in an authentic way but it’s generally just specialty markets or small-batch companies (aka, pricey).

Homemade sauerkrat has a distinctly different taste than most store-bought versions.  You get the crunch (probably more-so) and the tangy edge.  But it’s a milder edge and you can control the strength of the tang.  You can also flavor your sauerkraut with any spices you like.  It’s a very diverse food.

My favorite recipe is listed below.  Garlic, cumin, and celery seed add a flavorful, savory profile.  Warming the fermenting solution before pouring over the cabbage will bring out the flavors of the spices.  This sauerkraut goes well with steak, chicken, eggs, or in salads.  You can see an Instagram shot below from a recent breakfast.  Kraut and eggs is one of my favorite combos!  Plus it starts the day with beneficial gut bacteria right from the get-go.

Read more about the benefits of lacto-fermentation on the gut in this recent post.

sauerkraut

Garlic Cumin Sauerkraut

Yields:  5 quarts

10 garlic cloves, peeled

2 T. whole cumin seeds

2 T. whole celery seeds

1 t. ground black pepper

2/3 c. sea salt*

13-15 c. filtered water (will vary depending on size of your cabbage)

2 heads organic green cabbage

dry goods:  5 quart jars, coffee filters (optional) and rubber bands

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine the garlic, cumin seeds, celery seeds, black pepper, sea salt, and filtered water.  Heat over medium heat until the water just begins to simmer, whisking occasionally to help dissolve the salt.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Peel the outer leaves of the cabbage and rinse well with a veggie wash.  After cleaning, peel 2 large leaves from each head of cabbage and set them aside.  Chop the remaining cabbage into managable bite-size pieces (I like to use the shred or blade attachment on my food processor, saves A LOT of time).  Pack the chopped cabbage very tightly into 5 sanitized glass quart jars.  2 heads of cabbage should fill 5 jars, give or take.

From the cooled saltwater mix, move two garlic cloves into each of the jars.  Then portion the liquid between the 5 jars, tapping the jars once or twice to make the jars are filled.  Tear a section from the reserved outer leaves (you’ll need to make sure you have 5 pieces total) and press into a jar, allowing it to submerge the chopped cabbage completely.  Using your fingers, press the large piece down on the chopped cabbage until it’s submerged and you see bubbles rise to the surface.  Do this once or twice until you no longer see bubbles rising.  Repeat with remaining 4 jars.

Cover each jar with a coffee filter and seal with a rubber band, as shown above.  Leave at room temperature for 5-7 days to ferment (or longer if your house is on the cooler side).  Test for taste at 3 or 4 days and press the top cabbage layer to remove bubbles that have formed from the fermentation process.   The longer the jars are left out, the stronger the soured taste will be.  Once it’s fermented to your liking, seal well with regular quart lids and move to the refrigerator.  Fermented veggies keep for 3-6 months (sometimes longer!) when refrigerated because the cold slows the fermentation process dramatically.

Notes: 

1.  A thick layer of cheesecloth can be substituted for the coffee filters but coffee filters are cheaper!  You can also seal them with the regular jar lids instead but you’ll need to make sure the lids are not screwed on tight.  Fermenting foods creates natural gases from the chemical reaction happening within the jar.  These gases need room to escape and I’ve found that a coffee filter works best, while still keeping critters out.  Also-using jar lids makes it hard to tell how much room there is for the gases to escape, occasionally resulting in too much pressure build-up and a consequent leak in the solution.  AKA, a wet mess on your counter!

2.  The amount of salt looks very high but trust it, it’s necessary for the fermentation process.  The resulting sauerkraut will barely taste salty at all, as much of it is used up in the fermentation.

sauerkraut Arugula, sauerkraut, poached eggs, and roasted cherry tomatoes from the farmers market.

  • I am heading to the farmer’s market now, and will be picking up cabbage to make this – thank you!! I miss my mom’s sauerkraut, and love the idea of adding cumin and celery seed!

    • Angela Gallardo

      Jenn, thanks for sharing! I hope it’s very satisfying 🙂

  • Jessica

    I just made this from fresh cabbage out of our garden. It is delicious but a couple of the jars had tiny fuzzy spots on top of the cabbage and some turned darker than the others. This was the very first time I’ve made kraut so I have no idea why that happened.

    • Angela Gallardo

      Hey Jessica! Thanks for sharing your experience with it. Fuzzy is usually not good. If it’s just at the top leaf that is exposed to air, chuck it and you’re probably fine. Best advice for avoiding fuzz is to try and get it as submerged as possible next time. They even sell glass weights you can place at the top of the jar to weigh things down.

      Dark spots on the cabbage or dark color liquid? Liquid-ok, spots on cabbage-not ok. Again, I’m guessing air exposure.

      Also, they shouldn’t be exposed to much light and preferably a room temperature 70-75F. Sun and heat will make the process go quicker and sometimes lead to mold. It should be ready in 5-7 days, if it takes less or more time than that, you need to adjust some variables. 🙂

  • Cheryl

    is there a way to copy the recipe so I can put it in my recipe file

    • Angela Gallardo

      Hi Cheryl, I replied to your email about this. 🙂

  • Hi there! Reading you from Spain, I just found this wonderful recipe… I am willing to try as soon as possible 😉 But I have a (probably) silly question… What do you mean when you write 2/3 c. sea salt or 15 c. water? Cups? For water it seems logical to me, but for salt I am not so sure…is that two thirds of a cup? Is it not much?

    Thanks a lot! Cheers!!

  • Oh, ohhh, I have just read again the whole recipe, and found that you say that all that salt is necessary for the fermentation process… Sorry for my other comment ;-/

    I have my shopping list ready! Let’s start fermenting 😉

    • Angela Gallardo

      No worries, Nadir! 🙂 You are not the first to ask that question so I’m going to add some clarification next to the ⅔ c. measurement so others don’t have the same problem in the future. Good luck with your fermentation!

  • Mike

    Actually you only need about 1-2 Tablespoons of salt per head of cabbage. So 2/3 Cup does sound like a lot. I have never had a problem with a lack of fermentation using this ratio.

    • Hey Mike, I actually always use the ratio of 2-3 tablespoons of sea salt per quart of water. I don’t gauge it by the amount of veg I’m using or I may have different salt:water ratios all the time depending on how small I’ve chopped and how tight I pack the veg.

  • Helen

    This is a great sauerkraut recipe, Angela. A friend of mine tasted it and said, "You knocked it out of the park with this one!" Second opinion from a text, "Holy shit that kraut is good."

    • Helen, that is the biggest compliment I think I could ask for!

  • Jenny

    Hi Angela from Melbourne Aus 2T 2 tablespoons or 2 teaspoons ???

    • Hi Jenny, capital T. is tablespoons (lowercase t. would be teaspoons).

 

Your Perfect Paleo
Build-a-Meal Formula

Take your Paleo meals up a notch with my tried-and-true formula for balanced meals that will leave you satisfied & full for hours.

It's free!