People have been fermenting food for thousands of years! Two main reasons – it both preserves food and improves the health benefits. Fermented food will last much longer than fresh and can be stored for months through the seasons.
The health of one’s gut is a very important factor in overall health, and fermenting your own food is an effective and budget friendly way to nurture it.
Cabbage never tasted so good and sauerkraut is delicious as a side to almost anything! In particular I love to serve it at breakfast with poached eggs on toast. This is a very basic recipe so I recommend you make it once to get a feeling for the process and taste, and then get creative with all the flavours that you like.
- 1 head cabbage, green or red (approx 1kg)
- 1 Tsp seasalt (or Himalayan)
- 1 jar with lid (needs to properly seal)
- Optional (some ideas – dill, allspice berries, chopped onion, chopped kale, caraway seeds etc)
- Rinse your cabbage and remove any blemished leaves, keeping one large leaf to the side. Cut the cabbage in half (top to bottom), then in half again and cut out the cores.
- Start to slice the cabbage quarter – the thinner it is, the quicker it will ferment.
- After each quarter is sliced, place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with some of the salt. Keep going until all the cabbage and all the salt are in the bowl.
- Wash your hands & begin massaging the cabbage to release the water inside – before long you will find the bowl has a surprising amount of cabbage juice in it! Keep going until the cabbage feels slightly wilted and you have a cup or so of liquid in the bowl. If you want to add some spices or herbs, add them in now and mix through.
- Start to pack the cabbage in a glass jar and keep pushing it down until all of it is completely submerged in the liquid. Leave about 3-5cm at the top of the jar (it will bubble/swell and some of the liquid may ooze out during fermenting).
- It is important that no bits of cabbage are sticking out the top of the liquid, so take the whole leaf you put aside at the start and cut it into a rough circle just larger than the diameter of the jar. Place it on the top and use to push all the cabbage underneath, tucking the edges down the side of the jar. (Fermentation occurs under the brine, and any bits of exposed cabbage are susceptible to mould).
- Mark the date on the jar and keep in a cool place in the kitchen. The first 2-3 days are the most active – you will see bubbles rising to the top and may need to release the pressure of the jar a few times during that time. The sauerkraut will continue to bubble more slowly over the next few weeks and will gradually start to taste tangier whilst still retaining its crunch.
- Fermentation is quicker in summer and slower in winter – as general rule, I wait for 2 weeks before I even consider eating it. It is all about personal taste, but ideally it is ready when the cabbage is slightly translucent, doesn’t taste raw and has a bit of a tang. Don’t be afraid to open and try it, but at the same time, don’t open every day and disturb the bacteria!
- Once you like the taste, store in the fridge (slows down the fermentation) where it can stay for a few months.