Freshly fermented cabbage is a wonderful and simple way to add some friendly bacteria to your gut. It is not always easy to find fresh sauerkraut in stores, and people often buy the pasteurized kind you find in the non-refrigerated sections of the supermarket. That type of sauerkraut, however, is not what you want because the pasteurization process destroys the bacteria. You want the bacteria to be fresh, alive and thriving, so you need to make your own sauerkraut regularly. Luckily it’s a very easy process. We often eat sauerkraut with our salads, and nearly always with our mashed potato.
Shred a small head of cabbage, or half a whole cabbage, excluding really white hard sections. Note: Ensure that you have removed any dirty or bruised outer layers before you start. We generally use the purple cabbage, because it also has the very beneficial purple colour (phytonutrients) as well.
Weigh the shredded cabbage and then add 2.25% of its weight in salt.
Stir through the salt, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes, stirring it through with a spoon every couple of minutes.
Then rub the cabbage together, and squeeze it through your fingers and thumbs for 10 minutes, to bruise the cabbage and to release all of the water.
Once the cabbage is much smaller in quantity and a lot softer (with lots of wonderful salty brine water) then pack the cabbage tightly into a clean jar.
Cover the cabbage with the salty brine water (that is left in your bowl), leaving at least 2cms of air space at the top. Then use a spoon to push the cabbage down, and forcing all of the trapped water bubbles to come to the surface. If you have too much cabbage in your jar, then discard some, and use it in your cooking.
Once you have pushed the cabbage down in the jar, and the salty water is at the top, then place a piece of discarded cabbage leaf on top and push it down a little, to ensure that the shredded cabbage underneath is fully immersed and does not come into contact with the air space (oxygen) in the jar. Make sure that the cabbage leaf that you use is not diseased or aged at all. It needs to look fresh, otherwise you may be adding a bacteria or other critter to the jar that you don’t want..
If you don’t have enough brine in your jar at this point, then add some salty water (to taste) to the jar. If you have left the cabbage sit long enough with the salt initially, however, and rubbed it long enough, then you should have plenty of salty brine.
Next, place the lid on the jar and store it in a warm spot for 7 days, away from direct sunlight.
The fermentation process can take anywhere from 5 to 7 days, depending on how warm or cold the air is in the room. After 5 to 7 days, the sauerkraut should have a pleasant tangy flavour with a little bit of crunch still. The longer that you leave the jar out of the fridge, the more sour and softer the cabbage will become.
Whilst you are fermenting your cabbage, you will need to routinely release the pressure that will be building inside the jar. You will notice bubbles forming after 24 hours, and this is a sign that fermentation has begun.
After 24 to 36 hours, ease the lid off momentarily, to allow the pressure out, and to check that the cabbage is still covered with the salty brine. Push the cabbage down in the jar with a clean spoon, if you need to. Do the same thing 12 hours later, and then 12 hours after that as well. After the third pressure release, leave the jar alone for 24 hours, and then ease the lid off to check. There should no longer be any pressure building. If there is still come signs of pressure, then release the pressure in another 24 hours time. Once there is no further pressure, leave the jar to sit with its lid on for the remainder of the 5 to 7 days. Clean the outside of the jar, as needed, if fluid has escaped during the fermentation.
After 5 to 7 days, taste the sauerkraut. If it has a pleasant tangy flavour, and the cabbage still has a little crunch to it, then move the jar to the fridge, as it is now ready to eat. The sauerkraut will keep fermenting in the fridge, but at a much slower rate. It is recommended to ensure that you have eaten it all within 4 weeks. If not, then discard the remaining sauerkraut, and move onto your next jar.
This is a basic recipe, and you can apply this process to other vegetables. You can also add grated carrot or other crunchy vegetables to the cabbage, some garlic, coriander seeds, dill, mustard seeds and/or other spices to make different flavour variations of sauerkraut as well.
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