Hi, my name is Holly, and I’m so glad you’re here, because that means you have an interest in naturally fermented sauerkraut and its many health benefits and want to learn how to make sauerkraut! If you’re new to the world of fermentation, this page is for you. It contains the information you need to get up to speed quickly and start making your own flavorful lacto-fermented sauerkraut confidently and successfully.
But before you learn how to make sauerkraut, some basics about fermentation, the tools you’ll need and a quick overview of the benefits of eating sauerkraut.
What is Fermentation?
Fermentation is awe-inspiring. Mind-boggling. Mysterious! Wild! It’s a process that changes grapes into wine, barley seeds into beer, milk into cheese (or yogurt or kefir), flour into sourdough bread, soybeans into miso (or soy sauce), cacao beans into chocolate, pig into prosciutto, cucumber into pickle, and cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi. For thousands of years, humans have used this ancient method to extend the shelf life of their foods, without the use of freezers or canning machines.
Making sourdough bread is the art of fermenting grains. Flour and water are stirred together and left out in the kitchen to capture organisms in the environment. This creates a “starter” that causes the dough to rise and contributes marvelously complex sour flavors to the finished product.
Making yogurt is the art of fermenting (or culturing) milk. A dollop of yogurt (from a previous batch) is mixed into warmed milk and left in to culture for 8 to 24 hours in a warm place. During this time, the bacteria present in the yogurt go to work for us, growing and multiplying, to turn the milk into a thick, creamy product with a soured tang – more yogurt.
Making Kombucha, a popular health drink is the art of fermenting tea. Sweetened tea is mixed with a culture (Kombucha from a previous batch of the fermented tea) and a SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that grows in the fermenting tea) and fermented for a week to produce an effervescent drink said to help the digestive system and detoxify the body.
Fermentation is a traditional way of preserving and improving foods. Virtually, every early society ate and enjoyed fermented foods. However, with the advent of industrialized food processes, many fermented foods either were lost or were made using vinegar and high-heat pressure processing or pasteurization.
These modern foods are missing all the powerful probiotics and beneficial enzymes of traditionally fermented foods.
How Does Natural Fermentation Turn Vegetables into Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is the term for a type of fermented vegetables. It is made by a process called lacto-fermentation.
Beneficial bacteria are present on the surface of all fruits and vegetables, especially those growing close to the ground, like cabbage. One species of bacteria is lactobacillus, and it’s that bacterium that the “lacto” in lacto-fermentation refers to.
Through fermentation, we capture these surface bacteria and trap them in the brine of our sauerkraut. There they get right to work, eating the sugars in the cabbage, multiplying furiously and releasing copious amounts of lactic acid that acts as a preservative and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
This natural lacto-fermentation process allows vegetables to retain more vitamins and minerals than happens with other types of canning or preserving.
What Equipment Do I Need to Make Sauerkraut?
This is the list:
- a 1-quart canning jar and lid
- a little jar to fit inside the first jar to serve as a “weight”
- cabbage and a few other vegetables to add “punch” to your sauerkraut
- ideally, a small kitchen scale to get the salt-to-cabbage ratio correct.
That’s it! For full coverage of equipment and supplies, see:
How Do I Make Sauerkraut?
Slice cabbage, mix with salt and pack into a jar. Let it sit on your counter for at least a week. Enjoy! Make more!
That’s it in a nutshell, though I share many tips to ensure you are able to successfully ferment tangy, delicious, probiotic-rich sauerkraut with ease.
First, get competent at single-jar batches – as I teach with my SureFire Sauerkraut Method… In a Jar: 7 Easy Steps – and then try out my different recipes, maybe even creating your own flavors.
Once that becomes second nature, switch to the triple-batch process. After that, it might be time to consider treating yourself to a fermentation crock and making large batches seasonally.
Safe, Inexpensive, Delicious and Simple!
Some people are afraid to leave a jar of vegetables on their kitchen counter for a few days let alone a few weeks. And then to eat what’s been sitting there: can that be safe? Surely it would full of all sorts of nasty things that could make you and your family ill.
In the case of fermented vegetables, such fear is unfounded.
As far as I know, there has never been a documented case of food-borne illness from fermented vegetables. Risky is not a word I would use to describe vegetable fermentation. It is one of the oldest and safest technologies we have. – Fred Breidt, microbiologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture
And, unlike with canning, fermenting does not require you to spend hours in the kitchen dealing with a hot-water bath and worrying about seals and acid levels. Fermentation is one easy, inexpensive undertaking – a shortcut to “joy-in-a-jar.” Slice some cabbage, sprinkle it with salt and stuff it into a jar. Seven days later, voila: you’ll be eating mouth-watering, so-good-for-you sauerkraut.
So, What Is Sauerkraut and Why Should I Eat It?
Sauerkraut is ANCIENT.
Sauerkraut has ancient origins extending back more than 2,000 years. Legend tells us that fermented cabbage was a staple food for the workers constructing the Great Wall of China.
Sauerkraut is HEALTHY.
Sauerkraut will improve your digestion, boost your immune system and increase your energy levels.
Sauerkraut is a LIVING FOOD.
Sauerkraut is filled with probiotics, a variety of tiny microbes that enhance your digestion, immune system and energy level.
Sauerkraut is POWERFUL.
The natural fermentation process used to create sauerkraut has been shown to enhance and create nutrients in food and break food down to a more digestible form.
Various strains of probiotics, vitamin C, B-vitamins, beneficial enzymes, Omega-3 fatty acids and lactic acid that fights off harmful bacteria.
Sauerkraut is BUDGET FRIENDLY.
Many artisanal brands of naturally fermented sauerkraut can now be found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. They’re pricey! You can make your own and save money.
Learn to Make Sauerkraut
Head now to the SureFire Sauerkraut Method… In a Jar for more information on what you need, step-by-step photography and lots of tips to make things extra easy.
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