Sauerkraut might not be the national dish of Germany, but in the U.S., it is the quintessential German food. This easy recipe produces 1 quart at a time by fermenting it in a Mason jar.
Sauerkraut came to Europe via Asia, where people have been pickling cabbage for thousands of years. Because of its high vitamin C content, it was useful in preventing scurvy and keeping people healthy throughout the winter when no fresh food was available.
To make your own sauerkraut, you will rely on the bacteria found on the cabbage leaves. The salt draws out the water and kills off the spoilage bacteria. You will need between a 0.6 and 2 percent salt concentration, which equals 3/4 to 2 teaspoons of table salt per pound of prepared cabbage.
- In a clean, non-metallic bowl, mix together cabbage, juniper berries, caraway seeds, mustard seeds and pickling salt.
- Stir the cabbage to release juices.
- Let it rest 10 minutes and then mix again. You might let this rest longer, as much as 1 to 2 hours, if needed.
- Sterilize a 1-quart wide-mouthed Mason jar and lid by boiling for several minutes in water and draining on a clean dishcloth.
- Pack the cabbage and seasonings into the sterilized jar, pushing down with a wooden (not metal) spoon.
- Add filtered or non-chlorinated salty water (1 teaspoon pickling salt per cup of water) up to the rim of the jar and cap loosely with a sterilized canning lid.
- Place the jar on a tray to catch overflowing juices.
- Keep the jar between 65 and 72 F for 2 to 3 weeks.
- After bubbling stops, check the container and top off with salty water (1 teaspoon pickling salt per cup of water, warmed slightly to dissolve completely) if the level falls below the rim.
- Skim any (harmless) white spots or film from the top, close the jar tightly the with a sterilized canning lid and ring, wipe off outside of jar and store in the refrigerator until you use it up.
German sauerkraut is made using salt, whereas Kimchi is made with rice wine. Both create a favorable environment for fermentation. Canned sauerkraut should be rinsed in a colander before eating to reduce the briny flavor, but fresh sauerkraut does not have to be. Sauerkraut can be eaten raw, as a garnish or salad, or cooked, with apples, bacon and onions. It is low in calories, too.