It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of fermented foods. Did you know that some homemade fermented products that contain something like 600 different strains of probiotics? That makes my store bought, proudly-advertised 34 strains seem pretty darn measly, doesn’t it?
Besides the probiotics, you get enzymes and nutrients in a very concentrated and filling form…by making fermenting foods, you’re essentially just making them more bioavailable to you, the eater.
Last but not least, fermenting foods is much cheaper than buying them from the store and you can make enough in one sitting to last you quite a while. (I go through those $11 tiny bottles of sauerkraut from Whole Foods in just a couple days…that’s ridiculous to buy!)
- 1 large organic cabbage head (I say organic because fermenting concentrates whatever is in the cabbage…so don’t make part of that chemicals! But it’s not a deal-breaking if you absolutely can’t afford it. I like purple cabbage because it looks fun but all types of cabbage work just as well)
- 1 big jalapeno (2 if you’re a spicy-food junky)
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 2-3 tablespoons salt (I use Redmond Real Salt for the trace minerals and because I think it looks fun)
(Note: I apologize that I don’t have pictures for every step but your hands get so messy that I couldn’t take any besides for at the beginning and end!)
1. Peel the outside couple leaves of your cabbage and compost (or toss). Then take off 1 or 2 more layers and set aside. You’ll be using it/them as a “lid” for your sauerkraut when it ferments.
2. Cut up your cabbage into small slices (it’s easier if they’re fairly skinny but it doesn’t have to be anything exact). Here’s what mine looked like:
2. Place 1/3 of the cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1/3 of your salt and use your hands to crush the cabbage. After a few minutes, you’ll see the cabbage releasing a water, that’s what you want! Keep going until all of the cabbage leaves look crushed and are releasing a liquid. It takes about 5-8 minutes.
3. Repeat step 2 with the rest of the cabbage and salt, 1/3 at a time until you’ve crushed all of the cabbage leaves and you’re getting quite a bit of liquid pooling at the bottom of your mixing bowl.
4. Once your cabbage is ready, get out a small grater and grate the jalapeno and garlic into the cabbage/salt mixture.
5. Stir until everything is combined and work it a few minutes more with your hands. By now, you’re probably kind of tired of doing this but you’re almost done!
6. Transfer the entire mixture into a quart (or so) can. Punch the cabbage down so that the water rises to cover all of your sauerkraut-to-be. If you need more water, you can add some salted water until absolutely all of the cabbage leaves are covered with water (underwater is where the magic happens).
7. Take your outer cabbage leaves that you can set aside and cover the sauerkraut mixture like so:
8. Fill a ziplock bag with salted water (in case the bag rips, you don’t want to put just pure water into your saurekraut). Double ziplock bag that bag (it’s best if it doesn’t rip). Place the ziplock bags to weigh down the cabbage leaf “lid” that you created and to not let the water level get too low.
Now you’re ready to leave your sauerkraut to ferment. I place it on a counter top far away from my kombucha and kefir (they can cross-contaminate each other). You’ll want to leave it anywhere from 7-14 days…after 7 days, taste it/smell it and see what you think. The longer you let it ferment, the more potent the probiotics will be but it’s no good if you don’t want to ever eat it.
You’ll want to check your sauerkraut every day or two to make sure the water level is still covering all of the cabbage leaves. If it ever gets too low, add a little more salted water to make sure everything is covered.
If you see a little bit of mold growing on anything sticking up out of the liquid, get a spoon and fish that part out. Just throwing that part away…the rest will be ok! If you’re worried about it, you can take off the top layer after you’re done fermenting and throw it away.
Once your sauerkraut is done, place a lid on your jar and keep it in your fridge (that’ll stop the fermenting process). It’ll stay a remarkably long time in your fridge which is just delightful when you need a quick meal that is nutrient dense!