Ah, October. The month for German food, beer and polka … and the smell of sauerkraut! Back when I was in school, my dad used to make his own sauerkraut in a wood keg. I never really paid attention to how he made it, I just remember the awful smell emanating from the laundry room where the keg was kept. I feared it would saturate all my clothes. It didn’t, but I think the smell was what kept me from ever liking sauerkraut. I have always wondered how hard it was for my father to make it (I knew the only ingredients he used were cabbage and salt) so did research and found out it wasn’t that hard after all.
Want to learn how to make sauerkraut at home? Here is a simple recipe to a make a small batch of sauerkraut at home brought to you by thekitchn.com.
Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar
- 1 medium head green cabbage (about 3 pounds)
- 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional, for flavor)
- Cleaning: When fermenting food, you want to give the bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with a clean environment. Clean your mason jar and jelly jar, and then rinse off all soap residue. Make sure to wash your hands too.
- Cabbage: Cut the cabbage into thin ribbons, discarding any wilted outer leaves. Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first, it may not seem like enough salt, but after approximately 5-10 minutes, the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut with caraway seeds, mix them in now.
- Packing: Pack handfuls of the cabbage into the canning jar. If you have a canning funnel, this will make the job easier. Every so often, tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid from the bowl into the jar. (Optional: Place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.)
- Weight: Once the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, slip the smaller jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. This will help keep the cabbage packed down and submerged beneath its liquid. (Another way to weigh down the cabbage is to fill a baggie with water or clean stones.)
- Cover: Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine.
- Press: Over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often with the jelly jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
- More Liquid: If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.
- Ferment: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F. Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid. Because this is a small batch of sauerkraut, it will ferment more quickly than larger batches.
- Taste: Start tasting it after 3 days. When it has a flavor you like, remove the weight, screw on the cap, and refrigerate. You can allow the sauerkraut to ferment as long as you’d like – it’s just a matter of taste.
- Store: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be. If you like, you can transfer the sauerkraut to a smaller container for longer storage.
Don’t get your sauerkraut for your brats from a can at the store, take a little time to make your own. Homemade always tastes better than store-bought.