The easiest homemade sauerkraut recipe in a mason jar, no special equipment needed.
While every other food blog on the planet is starting off December with a cookie recipe, I thought I would rebel and give you sauerkraut 😉
Do. Not. Worry. I have cookies coming. Plus tons of amazing desserts and holiday recipes.
BUT…I have been thinking a lot about the toll the holidays can take on our bodies and I thought it would be more supportive to spend just a few minutes today (this very first day of December) talking about one of the easiest, and healthiest recipes on the planet.
Sauerkraut is the original superfood, way before that word was even a thing. A traditionally fermented product, consisting of two simple ingredients; salt and cabbage, sauerkraut has been produced for over 4,000 years.
I've been making my own for about 5 years.
Admittedly, I was intimidated to ferment anything at first. I thought it was the type of thing that only matcha drinking Brooklyn hipsters with man buns did. I attended my first fermentation workshop several years ago with the king of all things pickled, Mr. Sandor Katz. Man-bun in place, matcha in hand, I am now a bonafide fermenting hipster. #NoShameInMyFermentingGame
Fermented foods, sauerkraut specifically, is an incredible health tonic due to it's superstar abilities to improve gut health and function. Gut health is vital to overall health.
This time of year it's important to remember that a healthy gut is essential for:
- A healthy immune system
- Reduced anxiety
So if you want to sail into the holiday season with less stress and less illness then this is the recipe for you. I am so in awe of the immense healing potential of fermented foods, I can't give you a recipe for sauerkraut without a little bit of a “Holy-toledo-can-one-food-really-do-all-that” lesson.
Are you ready to try your hand at the easiest sauerkraut recipe ever?? If you aren't interested in any of the health benefits of sauerkraut scroll on down for that recipe.
Benefits of Fermentation
There are 4 main benefits of fermentation:
- Enrichment of the diet – Fermentation enriches the diet, it helps to encourage a diversity of tastes, aromas, and textures.
- Preservation – Fermentation helps to preserve food, which is why fermented foods have been produced for at least 4000 years! Way before refrigeration we had fermentation.
- Biological Enrichment – Fermentation biologically alters food, it improves the nutrient content including protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins. For instance, the vitamin C content in cabbage is increased by 600% after 7-days of fermentation. WHAT?? This fact blew my mind.
- Breakdown of anti-nutrients – Fermentation helps to breakdown toxins and anti-nutrients that may be found in food including phytates and agricultural chemicals,
Benefits of Sauerkraut
The benefits of sauerkraut are simply a health-promoting cascade stemming from the benefits of the fermentation process. A few additional standouts to know (basically so you can brag to your friend, who is currently eating Christmas cookies, that you just made your first batch of sauerkraut and here is why that makes you a better person ?)
- Low glycemic index – due to the content of organic acids which help to delay gastric emptying i.e. delayed gastric emptying = less impact on blood sugar levels
- Rich in probiotics – Typically we consider the healthy bugs in sauerkraut of the wild variety. Wild as in they haven't all been studied. However, studies show that sauerkraut is rich in the strain Lactobacillus plantarum.
- Contains indole-3 carbinol and glucaric acid (glucarate) which helps to improve estrogen metabolism
- Contains anti-fungal compounds
- Supports gut health via reducing increased intestinal permeability
How to make the easiest homemade sauerkraut
Read full instructions below (with step by step photos) but here they are in a nutshell
- Start with shredded cabbage and salt
- Massage salt into cabbage
- Place massaged cabbage into wide mouth mason jars
- Place a weight on top of cabbage (I use pickle pebbles, but you can also just use a smaller mason jar filled with dried beans)
- Cover jars with cheesecloth
- Check for 24 hours
- Ferment for 3-10 days
- Remove cheesecloth, replace with mason jar lids. Place in fridge. Eat every day.
Two ingredients, a little bit of muscle, and some patience. You can totally do this!
I must also mention, my favorite store bought sauerkraut is nearly $14 at Whole Foods, I still love it and buy it when I don't have homemade, but a head of cabbage costs a few dollars and will make several large jars of sauerkraut. My frugal mind LOVES that!
More recipes and posts about gut health:
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Thanks for reading Abra's Kitchen! If you make this recipe tag #abraskitchen on Instagram 🙂
Easy Homemade Sauerkraut
- 1 medium head cabbage (about 3-4 lbs.)
- 1.5 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- Start with a clean surface including hands and all equipment you are using.
- Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. DO NOT WASH THE CABBAGE. The beneficial bacteria is in the cabbage, don't wash it all away. I prefer to use organic cabbage as to avoid pesticide exposure.
- Slice the cabbage by first slicing in half, then in quarters. Remove the core and slice the cabbage lengthwise into thin ribbons
- Place the cabbage into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Using clean hands, massage the salt into the cabbage. Continue to massage and squeeze the cabbage for several minutes. This requires putting a little muscle into it. Gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp. This should take 5-10 minutes.
- Your cabbage should begin to look like this once you've properly given it a good rub down.
- If you are using caraway seeds or any other spice add it now.
- Pack the cabbage into your wide mouth mason jars. Really punch the cabbage down with your fist to attempt to pack the cabbage in and allow the liquid to rise to the surface. Ideally you want the cabbage to be fully immersed in liquid (the liquid that you have produced by rubbing the salt into the leaves). Pour any additional liquid from the bowl into the jars with cabbage. Fill the jars a little more than 3/4 full.
- Optional - Use one of the larger reserved outer cabbage leaves over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help to keep the cabbage submerged.
- Once all of the cabbage has been placed into jars, use either a pickle pebble or another smaller mason jar filled with pebbles or dried beans to weigh down the cabbage and allow the cabbage to remain submerged in liquid.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth and a rubberband or twine. This will allow air to pass in and out of the jar while still keeping creepy crawlers out.
- For the first 24 hours of fermentation you will need to open the jars and press the cabbage down every so often. I call this step "punch the cabbage". This is to ensure that the cabbage stays submerged and over time the cabbage will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise to the surface.
- If after 24 hours you find that there isn't enough liquid, dissolve 1 tsp salt into 1 cup of water and add more liquid to the cabbage.
- Ferment the cabbage for 3-10 days. After 3 days taste the cabbage, I tend to like cabbage at the 7 day mark, but if you like a milder ferment you can stop the fermentation process at 3 days. Keep in mind that you reach peak nutrition around day 7.While the cabbage is fermenting you may see bubbles rise to the surface, this is ok! That is fermentation working. If you see scum rise to the surface you can skim that off and if any mold begins to appear remove it and do not eat that bit.
- Once you have reached your desired level of fermentation, remove the cheesecloth, and weights from the jar and close with regular mason jar lid. Store in fridge for 2 months or longer. My rule of thumb is as long as it still tastes good, it's good to eat.
- Type of cabbage - you can use napa cabbage, red cabbage, green cabbage, or really any kind of cabbage. They all work!
- Temperature - try to keep your sauerkraut at a relatively cool room temperature while its fermenting. I just leave mine on my kitchen shelf away from sunlight or any direct heat source.
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