Sauerkraut: Real Pickled Cabbage

Add a Comment / March 13, 2015

Photo by William Brinson

My recipe for classic sauerkraut from Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen starts with just two ingredients: cabbage and salt, making it a simple ferment and perfect for those new to the craft of culturing. Then the mix-in and seasoning options are infinite, and this is where you can get really creative with your kraut; see below for some of my favorites, and watch for an upcoming post where I share the recipe for the masala sauerkraut we serve at our South Indian food truck, Dosa Kitchen.

What happens to cabbage when it’s fermented? It becomes more digestible, more nutritious, and full of probiotic goodness–three good reasons to start a fermentation habit!

Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen is filled with suggestions on bringing this cultured crucifer into your everyday dishes, from salads, to slaws, to soups and more. Click here to purchase a copy, and let me know some of your favorite ways of enjoying your kraut! 

To get ready for fermentation, you’ll need a few tools: 

  • Large nonreactive bowl
  • Chef’s knife, food processor, mandoline, or grater
  • Kitchen pounder, meat mallet, large pestle, or other kitchen instrument you can pound with
  • Weight that fits in the fermentation vessel to keep the sauerkraut in its brine (drinking glass or small ramekin with a rock for smaller vessels; plate or bowl topped with a zip-top bag filled with bring, jug filled with water, or large rock for larger vessels
  • 2-quart wide-mouth jar with plastic lid or ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket if you are scaling up the recipe
  • Clean dish towel
Sauerkraut: Real Pickled Cabbage, with Variations
  1. 5 pounds cabbage (1 large or 2 small heads)
  2. 2 to 3 tablespoons fine sea salt
  3. Your choice of seasonings (see below)
  1. Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half and remove the root end from each half (you can include the core in your sauerkraut).
  2. Chop or grate the cabbage in any thickness you like. I like a crunchy kraut, so I'll quarter my cabbage, slice it into lengthwise strips, then chop the strips.
  3. Put half the cabbage along with half the salt in a large nonreactive bowl. Massage the salt into the cabbage very well to release water from it and start to create a salty brine. To speed up the process, you can finish by pounding your cabbage with a kitchen pounder. Repeat with the remaining cabbage and salt in the same bowl.
  4. Pack the cabbage into a 2-quart jar a little at a time with at least 1 inch of space remaining at the top; after each addition, pound it down with your pounder to release more water, until the brine covers the surface of your cabbage.
  5. Set up a weight for your fermentation vessel to keep the cabbage covered in brine. Place the vessel on a rimmed plate to catch any potential overflow, cover with a clean dish towel to keep out insects, and set aside in a cool place away from sunlight to ferment.
  6. Check every day to make sure the cabbage is covered with brine, pressing down on it and adding a little extra brine if it isn't. If any mold develops, remove it, clean your weight if it came into contact with the mold, and don't worry; you've created an anaerobic environment in which it is almost impossible for bad bacteria to take root.
  7. Your sauerkraut will be ready in 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the season and kitchen temperature and how tangy you like your kraut. Taste it along the way to check for doneness and consider eating from it at various stages for some cultural diversity.
  8. Cover and place in the refrigerator, where it will last for at least a year.
  1. Pink Sauerkraut: Use half red cabbage and half green cabbage or all red cabbage. Or use green cabbage and add a shredded beet
  2. Cumin Sauerkraut: Add 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds.
  3. Caraway Sauerkraut: Add 1 tablespoon toasted caraway seeds.
  4. Killer Chile Sauerkraut: Add a handful of dried chiles, your choice of heat level; crush them to release their seeds for extra spiciness.
  5. Juniper Berry, White Pepper, and Arame Sauerkraut: Add 1 tablespoon juniper berries, 1 tablespoon white peppercorns, and a handful of arame seaweed.
  6. Yellow Beet, Beet Green, and Sichuan Peppercorn Sauerkraut: Add 2 julienned yellow beets; chop the stems and greens and add them, too, along with 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns.
Adapted from recipe from Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation by Rizzoli
Adapted from recipe from Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation by Rizzoli
Leda's Kitchen