DIY Sauerkraut

Another thing I had been procrastinating on for years but always wanting to try was making my own Sauerkraut. I have fond memories of a batch my mother made when I was young that went well with some sausages that my father had bought from the local German butcher. After finding a cabbage at the bottom of the fridge that had no use and was now sprouting, I decided that now was the time to try!

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The first thing you must do is… clean everything! Whatever containers that will touch the cabbage… and of course, your hands. The process of fermentation relies on good bacteria for the process, and this will get ruined by any other bacteria that may reside on your things.

I discarded the outer leaves, cut the cabbage into quarters and removed the core. Then I cut the quarters down again into eights and then gently broke the leaves apart before placing into 2 large mixing bowls. From there, I sprinkled a teaspoon of salt over the cabbage in each bowl (2 tsp total) and gently massaged and squeezed the salt into all the cabbage leaves. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually, the salt makes the cabbage become watery and limp.

Once this is done, I started grabbing handfuls and placing them into my jar of choice. I had recently gone through a 2kg jar of pickled cucumbers and had saved the jar for such an occasion. Every so often, I tamped the cabbage down with the end of a (clean) rolling pin so that the cabbage was all nicely packed. Juices that were released in the bowls were also poured in.

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Everything now in the jar

Once all the cabbage was packed into the jar, I slipped a smaller jar into the mouth of the jar and weighed it down by filling it with water. This was to keep the cabbage weighed down and eventually submerged beneath its own liquid. I then covered the jar with a tea towel and secured it with a rubber band.

Over the next day, I would constantly check the cabbage and press it down with the smaller jar. As the cabbage continued to release its liquid, it becomes limper and compact and the liquid should rise over the top of the cabbage. If it doesn’t after 24 hours, you can dissolve 1 tsp salt into 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage. I, fortunately, didn’t have to on this occasion.

The photo on the left was the result of 1 day of fermenting, the right photo another 2 days later. I had it fermenting for about 10 days when I tasted it… and it tasted good! At that point, I removed the weight, screwed on a cap and moved the jar to the fridge.

Things I’ll do differently the next time: I should have sliced the cabbage down even further till they were strips. The larger pieces were a little more difficult to pack down. And next time, I’ll try adding some caraway seeds and black peppercorns.

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