Today I’m going to show you how I’ve been making sauerkraut at home in small batches, super easily and super quickly. This is an authentic recipe that my mom used to make when I was a kid. Funnily enough, I used to hate sauerkraut with passion when I was growing up (also potatoes) and I only started appreciating when I left the country. I guess it just proves that you start appreciating things only when you lose them.
So many traditional cultures have been making some kind of fermented veggies for ages, from sauerkraut, kimchi, or kvass (a fermented bread drink) to kefir or yogurt – so many different things that are so good for you for so many different reasons.
Sauerkraut Health Benefits
Here’s why you should consider eating sauerkraut on a regular basis:
- Because sauerkraut is a lacto-fermented food, it is full of bacteria that is so good for your digestion.
- Sauerkraut helps your body produce more stomach acid, which helps you process nutrients and digest things better, have more energy, clear your skin, have a flat tummy, and be happier.
- Sauerkraut is also a great food for the bacteria that you already have in your belly.
- Sauerkraut is a great source of vitamin C – traditionally, in Northern Europe, during the winter months, when it’s really cold and there are no fruits in season, people used to eat sauerkraut and it was their main source of vitamin C. Needless to say, they were extremely healthy.
- Raw cabbage is goitrogenic, which means that it can disrupt the functioning of your thyroid, but this doesn’t apply to fermented cabbage. So if you have thyroid issues, you can feast on sauerkraut without worries.
- Finally, I love sauerkraut because it saves me so much time. Every time I make some kind of meat or fish and want some kind of a veggie side dish, sauerkraut is always there in the fridge, it doesn’t have to be cooked, and it’s just so convenient for those meals when you’re in a hurry, yet you want something really healthy and full of enzymes.
What You’ll Need To Start Making Sauerkraut At Home
You’re going to need just a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your house anyway:
- 2 small cabbages or 1 larger cabbage (around 1.1kg or just around 2.5lb)
- 1.5 tbsp of Himalayan salt or sea salt
- 1 tbsp of caraway seeds (optional)
- 2 tbsp of frozen cranberries (or fresh ones if you’re that lucky, optional)
The two last ingredients are optional. They’re just the ones that are traditionally used in Eastern Europe and in my country (Lithuania), also in Russia. If you want just a very basic sauerkraut recipe for the first try, you can totally omit the two ingredients.
This recipe makes around 1 litre or 1 quart of sauerkraut. You can keep it in the fridge for a few months, but I bet you’ll finish it all within a week or two. 😉
You’ll also need a few simple tools (if I can call them like that):
- one big 2-quart or 2-litre jar.
- a large bowl for mixing
- two smaller jars to be used as weights
- 2 sheets of kitchen paper towel
- an elastic
How To Make Sauerkraut At Home
- The first task is slicing the cabbage really finely and there is a little secret that will allow you to do it really quickly. You need to cut the cabbage in half. Then cut the core out. Take one of those halves and cut it in half again. Then take each of those quarters and cut it lengthwise, so you end up with 8 wedges. Take each of the wedges and slice it really thinly. Bingo! Your cabbage is sliced thinly, ready to be massaged.
- Place all the cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt, and start massaging it, rubbing it, and squeezing it with both of your hands. It’s going to take you exactly 10 minutes. At the beginning, the cabbage is going to be really dry and hard, so massaging is going to be quite difficult. After around 5 minutes I felt like my hands couldn’t go on anymore and I called my husband for help, but by the time he arrived, the cabbage suddenly became much softer, so I simply continued. Just be patient with it, even if it seems like there isn’t enough salt, it will get there by the time the 10 minutes are up. As the time goes on, you’ll see that the cabbage is softer and softer, and there is more and more liquid. As a side effect, your nails are going to be extremely clean and really, really nice after this 10-minute enzymatic treatment, so enjoy it while it lasts!
- Once the cabbage is really soft and juicy, you’ll need to add those cranberries and caraway seeds, and mix everything well.
- Next, take that big 2-quart jar and start stuffing all the cabbage in, pressing it in with your knuckles as you go to make sure that by the time you finish all of the cabbage, there will be a layer of juice at the top. The cabbage should always be covered by a layer of juice while it’s fermenting or else it will get mouldy (you definitely don’t want to find mould in your precious sauerkraut). If by some unfortunate chance you find mould on top of your sauerkraut, don’t throw it away! Just carefully remove the mouldy layer from the top and keep the rest. It’s perfectly safe to consume.
- Take the two small jars and fill them with water. Place them on top of each other inside the jar with sauerkraut and press them in to squeeze out even more juice (these mini weights will make sure that your cabbage stays covered).
- Cover the jar with 2 layers of kitchen paper towel and secure it with an elastic. That’s it!
- Place the jar on the worktop and leave it there for at least 3 days to ferment at room temperature. After those 3 days, taste it to check if it tastes right for you. I personally ferment my sauerkraut from 4 to 5 days. It really depends on the temperature in the house as well: the warmer it is, the less time it needs to sour. That’s why you really need to try it for yourself every day until it’s good enough for you. It might even take 7 days, but as soon as you feel that its acidity level is right for you, put the sauerkraut in the fridge and leave it there for 7 more days: it’s going to keep developing the taste and it will become much softer. After those 7 days, you can finally enjoy your homemade sauerkraut!
- Once the fermentation is done, I like transferring the sauerkraut to two smaller half-litre jars, just because I find they take less space in the fridge and I really like serving it from these smaller jars. If you do use smaller jars, make sure you pack the sauerkraut in really tightly and squeeze it to make sure that the top is always covered by juice (same rules as above apply).
How We Eat Sauerkraut
We love eating it with any kind of fish or meat dishes, eggs, or anything really. We don’t eat a lot of it at each meal because sauerkraut is just a garnish that enhances what you’re eating, but it’s not a meal of its own. We eat just one or two tablespoons with each meal.
Sauerkraut makes the digestion so light after a meal, especially if you’ve eaten something heavy like sausages or red meat.
I absolutely love sauerkraut and I really hope that you’re going to enjoy it, too. As you can see, the recipe is incredibly easy. There is a lot of waiting, but not a lot of labour involved. There’s really no need to be intimidated by the idea of making sauerkraut at home.
I have a question for you: would you like to see a recipe for my version of kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage)? I know there are lots of recipes, lots of versions, and I make a really good one. If you want to see the recipe for kimchi, let me know down in the comments!
Tomorrow at this time I’ll be getting on a plane in Paris on the way to see my family in Lithuania. I’m so excited! I have a few videos prepared for those couple of weeks, so I should stick to the regular schedule (yay, I’m finally getting into some sort of a schedule). I’ll also try to vlog while I’m there because I’d love to share my country and roots with you. Talk to you soon!