Sauerkraut is traditionally made in stoneware crocks and in fairly large batches. But a large crock's worth of sauerkraut is more than most people will eat within the time it is at its tastiest. This recipe makes a single quart jar of sauerkraut, but you can double the recipe if you like.
Try making this with red cabbage instead of white for a colorful variation (the flavor is the same).
- 1 small to medium-sized cabbage (about 2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (or kosher salt)
- Optional: 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- Cut the cabbage in half. Cut out the thick core and stem end and compost or discard them.
- Thinly slice the cabbage into shreds or small pieces (think coleslaw).
- Loosely pack the sliced cabbage into a clean, wide mouth glass jars, sprinkling in the salt as well as the caraway seeds and juniper berries (if using) as you fill the jars. It is not necessary to sterilize the jars for lacto-fermented foods, just be sure that they are really clean.
- Pack the cabbage, salt, and spices down firmly as you add them to the jar. Once the jar is almost full, loosely cover it and let it sit for 2 to 4 hours. During this time the salt should draw enough juice out of the cabbage to completely cover the solid food. If it doesn't, top the kraut off with a brine made of 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt dissolved in 1 pint filtered or non-chlorinated water.
- Pour the salt brine, if necessary, over the cabbage and spices. Gently press down on the cabbage and spices to release any air bubbles and to submerge them in the brine.
- Cover the jar loosely with a lid. Place the jar on a plate to catch any overflow that may happen once active fermentation gets going.
- Leave the jars at room temperature for 3 days. During this time, remove the covers at least once a day and check to see that the vegetables are still submerged in the brine (add additional salt brine if necessary). You should start to see some bubbles on top, which is a sign that fermentation is underway.
- By the end of the 3 days, the sauerkraut should have a clean, lightly sour smell and taste. Put the jars in the refrigerator (no need to put plates under them at this stage). Wait at least 5 more days for the flavor of your sauerkraut to develop.
This recipe also works well with red cabbage.
Sauerkraut will keep in the refrigerator for at least 6 months but is best eaten within 3 months. After 3 months it tends to lose some of its crispness.
Note: Recipes for larger batches of sauerkraut often omit any water: the salt releases enough liquid from the cabbage to fully submerge the vegetables and spices in it. But I find that rarely works with smaller, single jar batches, which is why I recommend the salt and water brine in this recipe.