Using the right amount of salt makes for consistent, repeatable batches and establishes an environment for fermentation to unfold properly.
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).
When making sauerkraut, you first prepare the flavoring ingredients – carrots, ginger, garlic – then add sliced cabbage. This allows you to add only as much sliced cabbage as necessary to hit 1¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams) on your scale.
This is the amount that fits perfectly into a one-quart (liter) jar.
Peel and grate carrots, grate or finely mince ginger, finely mince garlic and place in your bowl.
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 weight of vegetables and cabbage is 1¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams).
Salt is the workhorse in your ferment. It pulls water out of the cabbage to create an environment where the good bacteria can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria die off. Just what we want!
Sprinkle vegetables and cabbage with 1 tablespoon of salt and mix well.
To create the brine without a lot of work, let the bowl of salted cabbage rest for 20 minutes to an hour. 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. 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 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.
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.
Insert your 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 other item you're 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.
Time now for the Mighty Microbes to work for you while you watch and wait. Can you wait 7 days to sample 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.
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 tossed into a salad, spread on a hot dog and eaten straight from the jar!
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.