Homemade Saurkraut (raw)
Making saurkraut for the first time can be a little scary – most of the recipes call for at least two cabbages and a special fermenting crock. I wanted to try making it with just one cabbage using equipment that I already had, and this is what I came up with:
I found out about the ‘leave it alone’ technique of releasing juice from the cabbage through The Nourishing Gourmet, in this link she also provides directions for creating a weighted saurkraut without a special crock. The ‘leave it alone’ technique reminds me a little of making slow rise bread, where the slow rise does the job that a time-consuming knead would normally do. Salt is sprinkled on the cabbage and left for at least fifteen minutes, or as long as two hours, and this draws the liquid out in the same way that pounding it with a mallet would normally do.
Really fresh cabbage is important for this – it will make the best tasting saurkraut, and will keep longer in the fridge. I get really fresh local organic cabbage from a market and make this saurkraut on the same day, or the day after.
Quality salt is also essential. I use Himalayan crystal salt, which has larger grains than some other salts. If you’re using a more powdery salt then use less than I do. The best salts for kraut making are raw ones like the Himalayan one I mentioned above, along with Celtic Sea salt, Fleur De Sel and Victorian lake salt. Pure sea salt or pure rock salt will also do, but be sure to check the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain any “anti-caking agent” or any other additives.
•1 litre (1 quart) wide-mouthed glass or ceramic jar (this is just big enough to hold kraut made from a 1.2kg (2.6lb) cabbage)
•a glass, ceramic or plastic bowl with at least a 3 litre (3 quart) capacity
•1 or 2 wooden spoons, for placing the saurkraut in the jar and tamping it down
•A bowl or plate, for placing under the jar as it ferments
•1.2kg (2.6lb) cabbage (this will just fit in a 1 litre (1 quart) jar, if in doubt, get a smaller cabbage or a bigger jar)
•salt – I use 2 teaspoons per 300g (10 oz) of cabbage before slicing, plus an extra teaspoon sprinked on top.
Remove the damaged outer leaves from the cabbage and weigh it. Note down the weight as this will determine how much salt to add.
Cut the cabbage into four wedges. Remove the core from each wedge as shown:
Thinly slice the wedges one at a time, add the first one to the bowl and sprinkle with salt (2 teaspoons per 300g (10 oz)), tossing around with a spoon or two to evenly distribute the salt. Repeat for the other three wedges, then sprinkle with an extra teaspoon of extra salt, for good luck.
Cover with a plate or some other non-metallic cover and leave to sit for at least fifteen minutes, or up to two hours.
Preferably using two wooden spoons, pick up some of the salted cabbage and press it into the jar. Keep adding more and tamping it down with each addition, to get the juice to come out and remove oxygen. Add more and more – the jar will fit a lot of cabbage in it when it’s pressed down, and finally if there is any cabbage juice in the bowl, pour this over the top. There should be a decent layer of brine on the top now, if there isn’t, try tamping it down more, or mix some salt into some water (maybe 2 teaspoons for half a cup) and pour this over the top so that the cabbage is covered.
Put the lid on the jar, place it in a bowl or plate and leave it in a cool dark place (but not too cold) to ferment. After the third day, open and close the lid of the jar every day to let the gas escape. I like how it tastes after four days of fermentation, when the saltiness has mellowed and there is a slight sweet lacto-fermented taste to it, but it is not too pungent. The saltiness mellows more after it’s in the fridge. Many kraut-makers prefer a longer fermentation time (usually around 10 days) but I find with vegan food 4 days of fermenting is fine. When it’s as fermented as you’d like it, move it to the fridge and it will keep well in there for quite a while.
After making one batch of this you might begin to understand why other recipes make such big quantities – it is really tasty, and healthy. Lacto fermented foods such as saurkraut are incredibly healthy and good for digestion. I like to serve saurkraut with shallow fried patties like the mushroom rissoles from Triumph of the Lentil, and a new chickpea patty recipe I’m working on (in the photo below with some red cabbage saurkraut, sweet potato oven chips, salad and homemade vegan mayonnaise). I imagine it would also be awesome with some seitan bratwurst like these ones, maybe served up with some kartoffelpuffer (my recipe is in Triumph of the Lentil).
I am always keen to hear new suggestions on recipes to enjoy saurkraut with, if you have a favourite soy-free vegan dish to serve it with please leave a comment so I can try it!