Three Methods for Making Sauerkraut


Sauerkraut is probably the most well-known lacto-fermented vegetable. It has a long, rich history starting most likely in Europe, and extending into America.

Like any traditionally homemade food, sauerkraut is made in a variety of ways and each mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather will tell you that their way is the best way. And they are probably all right.

There are a few basics you need to remember, though, in order to make a good fermented sauerkraut

  1. Use fresh cabbage. The better your ingredients, the better your food will be. This is universal and especially important when fermenting vegetables. Fermentation is a preservation process so you you won't get the best results with cabbage heads that are past their prime.
  2. Use at least some salt. If you are concerned about salt then first of all realize that salt has been eaten by man for thousands of years because it is necessary for normal functioning. Additionally, it is better to be concerned with the type of salt you are taking in rather than the amount. Finally, know that salt is a traditional ingredient in sauerkraut because it increases shelf life, texture, and flavor. 
  3. Create an anaerobic environment. This is an absolute essential in the sauerkraut-making process. You must submerge the thinly sliced cabbage underneath a brine in order for the lactic acid bacteria to proliferate and preserve your sauerkraut.
  4. Give it time. You can ferment sauerkraut for only a few days before moving to cold storage, as in the Mason jar method. But giving sauerkraut a lower temperature and longer fermentation time seems to develop the flavor and texture a little better than the fast-ferment method.

Different Methods

Mason Jar Method. In this method for making sauerkraut you thinly slice the cabbage, salt it, then pound it with a mallet or potato masher for about 10 minutes. In this way the juice is released by the cabbage to create a brine under which the sauerkraut will stay.

You then move the sauerkraut to mason jars and press the cabbage down into each jar to keep the brine above the cabbage. Once filled, the jars are sealed with tight-fitting lids and allowed to ferment for 3 to 5 days, depending on the temperature. They are then transferred to cold storage.

Open Crock or Bowl Method. In this method a very large vessel is used: either a crock or a non-reactive bowl. Just as in the Mason jar method, shredded cabbage and salt are added to the bowl. Then instead of pounding, the cabbage is weighted down. This is generally achieved with either a crock lid or stone, or a large plate that fits just inside of the vessel. These are then weighted down even further with (clean) heavy bowls or stones.

This weighting process naturally draws the juice out of the cabbage in order to create a brine. This saves you the time and effort of the pounding process in the Mason jar technique. After a day or so the cabbage will have accumulated a fair amount of liquid at the top and some impurities may be present on the surface of the brine. These can be scraped off every day. Many sauerkraut enthusiasts prefer this method because they are able to ladle off the impurities thereby creating a purer texture and flavor.

Whole Cabbage Method. This is a variation of the crock method in that instead of shredding the cabbage you take whole or halved cabbage heads and ferment them as is. A brine is generally used as whole cabbage heads cannot form their own brine fast enough to protect them from mold and unwanted yeasts.

Obviously with this method you will need a very large vessel such as a crock or a bucket.

This may be the easiest method for making sauerkraut as it does not involve all of the labor-intensive chopping or slicing that other methods utilize. However, this method also takes much longer to ferment during that first stage. Four weeks or more are necessary before moving to cold storage because of the size of the cabbage heads.

Whichever method you choose be sure to adhere to the four necessities for good sauerkraut as listed above.


Sauerkraut in Glass Jar

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