We make lacto-fermented sauerkraut throughout the year, it is part of our diet including other pre and probiotic food. People around us have noticed that our daughter is no longer eating gluten-free, and that my neurological problems appear to be a thing of the past (see last paragraph for more details on that), Due to an influx of requests from friends and family, we decided it was time to document the process. There is a waiting list for a class to be held in our kitchen, so if you are local (Nesodden / Oslo) and want to join us, send us a message.
Ingredients: Cabbage and salt – pretty simple!
Spring is not the ideal time of year to make sauerkraut, having fresh produce at peak quality makes for the best brine. Cabbage that has been stored over the winter will have lost much of the vital liquid needed, but as in any situation, make do with what you have. You can use any kind of cabbage, experiment with different varieties, but opt for local, unsprayed organic whenever possible. Use sea salt that is non-iodized, we purchase 25 kg bags of organic sea salt from a wholesaler, it clumps but is worth it.
- cutting board
- knife or mandoline/vegetable chopper
- large bowl (if making a large batch like we did, use a food grade bucket)
- mason jars or fermenting crock
- wooden pounder
- something to weigh down the kraut under the brine
Clean/sterilize your equipment (we do not want to promote the growth of the wrong bacteria) Remove outer leaves and save some to cover your kraut, they will help keep the small pieces under the brine.
Cut the cabbage in wedges and remove the heart (you can use it if you prefer, but it will take longer to ferment due to the density)
Weigh your cabbage and establish how much salt you will need. 2-2.5% is good, it has been said that in summer you need more due to the extra fluid in the cabbage and that in the winter you can do the same with less. Simply multiply your cabbage weight in grams by the percentage and you will know how many grams of salt you need for each batch.
Slice or grate the cabbage (by hand, using a mandoline or vegetable slicer) we like ours circa 4-5mm. For small batches we cut by hand, but today we took out the food processor as we were not in the mood to chop more than 6 kilos of cabbage!
Put your sliced cabbage in a large container. We used our 30L food grade bucket that we use when making apple cider. It was perfect, because it gave us the space needed to toss the cabbage and evenly disperse the salt. The salt extracts the water from the cabbage (via osmosis) this produces the brine in which the cabbage will ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the added benefit of keeping the cabbage crunchy by protecting it from enzymes and organisms that would make it soft and slimy. Allow it to macerate for 10 minutes, it will save you the elbow grease. Start working the cabbage with a wooden pounder to release the brine, you can see in the photos how compact it becomes.
Start packing your fermentation vessels with some kraut, adding and packing it down as you go.
If you want to experiment with other flavours, now if the time to do so. We made batches with apples and red onion, jalapeños and an experimental ramsløk (wild garlic).
Once packed, the remaining brine gets topped up, sauerkraut needs an anaerobic environment in order to ferment and not rot.
Use the clean outer cabbage leaves (that you previously set aside) to cover and push down the small pieces, ensure that everything is submerged in brine, you can also weight it down with a sterilized rock, plate, ceramic weight or glass jar top (nothing metal)
Press down on the weight to add pressure and help force the water out, do this regularly (once daily at first) as bubbles that develop will increase the volume and cause a potential overflow. Leave the crock to ferment out of direct sunlight. NOTE: a sealed jar will build up pressure! burp them regularly or use one with an airlock to allow the gases to release.
Remember to keep everything submerged, if spots, mold or brown pieces float on top, remove them with a wooden spoon. It is only on the surface and caused due to the direct contact with air. The sauerkraut below is protected by the brine. Taste the kraut, it will develop a tangy taste that develops with time.
When it is ready to consume, use a wooden spoon or chopsticks to remove the portion required and repress to submerge the remainder. You can fill a jar and put it in the fridge if you want to let the main ferment continue.
Why lacto-fermented sauerkraut?
If you have read this far, maybe you want to read the last part 😉
Gut health (our microbiome) is one of the many reasons that our family relies almost solely on homemade food made from scratch. Preservatives, antibiotics and synthetic emulsifiers wreak havoc on ones health, resulting in a multitude of issues ranging from food intolerance, dermatological problems, autoimmune issues and depression. For over a year now, we have focused on boosting the breadth of our microbiome’s spectrum by introducing pre- and probiotics. Including raw apple cider vinegar, fermented food such as sauerkraut, miso, ‘salsa brutale’ our own concoction 😉 kombucha, oatmeal and more (blog posts to follow). The results have been beyond our dreams; our daughter no longer needs to avoid eating gluten, our son reacts less and less to casein and my auto-immune and neurological issues have disappeared! Not many people are aware, but over the last decade, I have suffered from mysterious neurological problems that have come and gone and I have been tested for everything from lupus to multiple sclerosis. It has not been easy and no doctor could give us an answer, hence my husbands quest to find an answer. The microbiome was it, and he has become quite the geek. This has been a game changer for our family, and so many have come to us asking for advice. We will gladly share our knowledge, and hope that others can also be helped. One thing we can say for certain, is that introducing these items to your diet will not hurt you.