Using a scale to make your sauerkraut will ensure that you add the correct amount of salt for a safe fermentation environment.
You don’t want to include the weight of your bowl in your measurements, so either zero out the scale (usually done with a button on a digital scale or a knob under the tray on a mechanical scale) or write down the weight of your bowl (tare).
You will need 1¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams) of vegetables and cabbage in your bowl.
When making sauerkraut, you first prepare the flavoring ingredients – carrots, ginger, radish, caraway seeds or whatnot – then add sliced cabbage. This allows you to add only as much sliced cabbage as necessary to hit 1¾ pounds on the scale.
Peel and grate beets, mince garlic and place in your bowl along with the caraway seeds.
Discard the limp outer leaves of the cabbage, setting aside one of the cleaner ones for use during the SUBMERGE step.
Quarter, then slice cabbage crosswise into thin ribbons. I leave the core in because I find it helps to hold the layers of cabbage together making the slicing job easier.
Add sliced cabbage to your bowl until the weight of your vegetables and cabbage is 1¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams).
Salt pulls water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create an environment where the good bacteria (mainly lactobacillus) can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria die off.
Sprinkle vegetables and cabbage with 1 tablespoon of salt and mix well.
If you want the salt to do some of the work for you, you can leave your salted and well-mixed bowl of cabbage sit for 20-60 minutes.
Then, massage the vegetables with strong hands until moist, creating the brine. You should be able to tilt the bowl to the side and see a good-sized puddle of brine, about 2–3 inches in diameter - see the picture below. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes.
Now that you have a puddle of brine, it’s time to pack the cabbage mixture into your jar.
Grab handfuls of the salty, juicy cabbage mixture and pack them into your quart-sized (liter) wide-mouth canning jar, periodically pressing the mixture down tightly with your fist or a large spoon so that the brine rises above the top of the mixture and no air pockets remain.
Be sure to leave at least 1 inch of space between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar. Because we weighed out just the right amount of cabbage to fit in your jar, this should happen automatically.
Pour any brine left in your mixing bowl into the jar and scrape out any loose bits stuck to the sides of the bowl or to the side of your jar.
Lastly, wipe down the outside of your jar and posh down any loose bits stuck to the sides of the bowl or the side of your jar.
Now make sure your fermenting mixture is in a safe anaerobic (no air) environment. This means that you need to keep the cabbage mixture submerged in the brine while it ferments.
Floaties Trap. Take that cabbage leaf you saved during the SETUP step, tear it down to just fit in the jar, and place it over the surface of the packed cabbage.
Forgot to save a cabbage leaf? No problem. You can fold a narrow piece of parchment paper to size or even cut an old plastic lid to size.
Place the 4-ounce jelly jar - or whatever you are using as a weight - on top of the cabbage leaf, right side up with its lid removed.
Lightly (to allow for escape of CO2 gases), screw on the white plastic storage lid. I like to label my jars using green or blue painter’s tape and a permanent marker. I note the flavor of sauerkraut I made and the date I started fermenting.
I like to label my jars using green or blue painter’s tape and a permanent marker. I note the flavor of sauerkraut I made and the date I started fermenting.
In these pictures, I'm using a Pickle Pusher to hold the ferment below the brine and Trellis & Co. stainless steel airlock lid..
Time now for the friendly bacteria to do their work while you watch and wait. Can you wait 7 days to taste the tangy crunch?
Place your jar of fermenting sauerkraut in a shallow bowl (to catch the brine that may leak out during the first week of fermentation), out of direct sunlight. Wait for 1 week before opening to sample.
The jar on the left is Day 1; right, Day 5.
For what to expect as your sauerkraut ferments, see SALTY Cabbage to SOUR Sauerkraut: Fermentation Signs to Monitor
Should the brine level fall (very unlikely) and remain below the level of the sauerkraut during this first week,
dilute 1 Tbsp of salt in 2 cups of water
and pour some of this brine over the sauerkraut (removing the little jar first) until it just covers the mixture. Put the little jar back in, screw the lid on lightly and let the fermentation continue.
Don’t worry if the brine disappears after the 7- to 10-day mark. By this time, you’ve created a safe environment in which the bacteria that would cause mold or slime has been chased away by the beneficial bacteria produced during the fermentation process.
You can ferment your sauerkraut for up to 4 weeks. The longer you ferment it, the greater the number and variety of beneficial bacteria that can be produced.
After fermenting your sauerkraut, it’s ready to go into the refrigerator and ready to be eaten.
Rinse off the outside of the jar. You can take the little jar out. Clean the rim if necessary (sometimes it can get sticky from the brine that overflows), and screw the lid back on tightly.
Add to your label how long you fermented the contents.
Enjoy a forkful or two of your sauerkraut with your meals. It will continue to ferment – aging like a fine wine – but at a much slower rate that before.
If the flavors are too intense, leave it the jar for a month or two and then eat it. You will be amazed at how the flavors have changed.
If successfully fermented (tastes and smells good), your sauerkraut can be kept preserved in your refrigerator for up to a year.