1 medium cabbage (about 21⁄2 lbs./1.1 kg)
1.5–2 tsp. salt per lb. (0.45 kg) of cabbage

Step by step
As with any ferment, the better the ingredients, the better the end result will be. Sauerkraut, however, is a little more forgiving than some others. Sauerkraut (and other similar cabbage ferments), are one of the most common fermented foods on the planet for a variety of reasons. Cabbage is cheap, ubiquitous, and hardy. Sauerkraut is versatile and can be adapted to utilize a variety of ingredients that you may have on hand and wish to use up. It’s also more forgiving, since even winter cabbage from the grocery store can still be transformed into a respectable sauerkraut. Just about any variety of cabbage can make for a good kraut — red cabbage kraut is especially tasty. Small amounts of other veggies, like carrots or jalapeños, make for a nice twist, as do spices like caraway or rosemary.

While kraut is more forgiving once fermentation is underway, the preparation stage demands a bit more grunt work than other ferments. Like other veggie ferments, sauerkraut needs an anaerobic environment. But kraut is generally made without adding brine, as cabbage itself already contains plenty of water. During the preparation stage you’ll have to get rough with it. A good kraut requires aggression, and you’ll need to really work to pack it all into the jar. The harder you pack, the more liquid will be released, and you’ll have to compel the cabbage to release enough of its water to form a brine that covers the top of the veggies.

First, remove the outer leaves of your cabbage as well as any that are damaged. Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the solid core. Rinse the cabbage well with cold water, allowing the water to flow between the cabbage leaves. This will remove any dirt and bugs that may be along for the ride, but will not affect the microbes that you’ll need for fermentation. Set one broad, thicker outer leaf to the side. Shred the remaining cabbage with a knife or food processor. The chopped bits have to be fine enough that the whole jar of kraut can be packed down relatively densely, but before you transfer to a jar, place the cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle the calculated amount of salt over the cabbage, then toss well. Allow the cabbage and salt mixture to rest about 15–30 minutes so the salt can be absorbed.

After about half an hour, the cabbage should have released a good bit of its moisture. After this, pack the cabbage into a clean glass quart jar. Pour any liquid left in the bowl into the jar — although this likely won’t be enough to cover the cabbage just yet. Keep packing the cabbage down until enough juice has been released to submerge the vegetables almost all the way. You should be able to get close, though some may struggle to get all the way to complete submersion. If needed, top off with a 2% solution of salt water (1 teaspoon salt per cup of water). If using a weight system to keep the veggies under the brine, take the reserved cabbage leaf and cut or fold it so that it covers the rest of the cabbage at the top of the jar. This extra leaf can be held under a weight to create an additional buffer between the veggies and any attacking mold. 

Issue: September 2022