Sauerkraut is a delicious and healthy fermented food that has been enjoyed for centuries. It’s easy to make at home using just a few simple ingredients and a mason jar. Fermenting your own sauerkraut not only saves you money but also allows you to control the quality and flavor of your kraut. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of making your own sauerkraut at home using a mason jar.
How Is Sauerkraut Fermented?
Sauerkraut is made by fermenting finely shredded cabbage with salt. The salt draws out the natural juices from the cabbage, creating a brine that the cabbage ferments in. During the fermentation process, bacteria break down the sugars in the cabbage, producing lactic acid, which gives sauerkraut its tangy flavor and preserves it.
Why Should Sauerkraut Be Fermented?
Fermenting cabbage to make sauerkraut has several benefits. First and foremost, it is an excellent way to preserve cabbage so that it can be enjoyed for months. Additionally, the fermentation process breaks down the cellulose in cabbage, making it easier to digest and increasing the bioavailability of nutrients. Sauerkraut is also rich in probiotics, which promote a healthy gut and immune system.
What Do I Need to Make Sauerkraut?
Making sauerkraut at home is a simple process that requires just a few key ingredients:
- Cabbage: You’ll need one head of cabbage to make a quart of sauerkraut. You can use green or purple cabbage, or a combination of both.
- Salt: Use high-quality sea salt or kosher salt. Do not use iodized table salt, as it can inhibit fermentation.
- Mason jar: A quart-sized mason jar with a lid and ring is ideal for fermenting sauerkraut.
- Optional flavorings: You can add spices, herbs, or other vegetables to your sauerkraut for added flavor and nutrition.
How Long Does It Take to Make Sauerkraut?
The time it takes to make sauerkraut depends on the temperature and humidity of your environment. Generally, it takes 1-4 weeks for sauerkraut to ferment. The ideal temperature for fermentation is between 65-75°F (18-24°C). Warmer temperatures can cause the cabbage to ferment too quickly, resulting in a mushy texture and a sour flavor. Colder temperatures can slow down the fermentation process, resulting in a milder flavor.
How To Make Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar
Step 1: Prep the Cabbage
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and set them aside. Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core. Finely shred the cabbage using a sharp knife or a mandolin slicer.
Step 2: Salt the Cabbage
Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle it with salt. Use your hands to massage the salt into the cabbage, breaking down the fibers and drawing out the natural juices. You should see a pool of liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
Step 3: Pack the Cabbage into a Mason Jar
Transfer the cabbage and its juices to a quart-sized mason jar. Use a wooden spoon or your hands to pack the cabbage tightly into the jar, making sure there are no air pockets. The cabbage should be submerged in its own juices.
Step 4: Add Optional Flavorings
If you want to add any optional flavorings, such as spices, herbs, or other vegetables, this is the time to do it. Some popular options include caraway seeds, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and shredded carrots. Simply sprinkle them over the top of the cabbage and press them down into the jar.
Step 5: Cover the Jar
Place one of the reserved cabbage leaves over the top of the packed cabbage in the jar. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its own juices. Screw the lid onto the jar tightly.
Step 6: Ferment the Sauerkraut
Place the jar in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or a cupboard. Check on the sauerkraut every few days to make sure it is still submerged in its juices. If needed, use a clean spoon or your fingers to press the cabbage down into the liquid. You may notice some bubbles forming on the surface of the cabbage – this is a sign that fermentation is happening.
After 1-4 weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity of your environment, the sauerkraut should be fully fermented. Taste it to see if it has reached your desired level of tanginess. If it’s not quite there yet, let it continue to ferment for a few more days.
Step 7: Store the Sauerkraut
Once the sauerkraut is fully fermented, remove the cabbage leaf from the top and discard it. Screw the lid back onto the jar and store it in the fridge. The cold temperature will slow down the fermentation process and help preserve the sauerkraut for up to six months.
Can I use a different type of cabbage?
Yes, you can use green cabbage, purple cabbage, or a combination of both to make sauerkraut.
What kind of salt should I use?
Use high-quality sea salt or kosher salt. Do not use iodized table salt, as it can inhibit fermentation.
How do I know if my sauerkraut has gone bad?
If your sauerkraut smells foul or has mold growing on it, it has gone bad and should be discarded.
Making your own sauerkraut at home is a fun and rewarding process that yields a delicious and healthy food. With just a few simple ingredients and a mason jar, you can enjoy the tangy goodness of sauerkraut whenever you want. Follow our easy DIY guide and experiment with different flavorings to create your own signature kraut.