How to Make Counter ’Kraut
Homemade sauerkraut is an easy way to get started with lacto-fermentation, a fantastic (and delicious!) way to add healthy probiotics to your diet. Here's a quick guide to fermenting a fresh batch of sauerkraut right on your kitchen counter (without fancy equipment).
This recipe was adapted from my book Skin Cleanse.
All you need:
1 head cabbage
1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt
- Cut a cabbage into quarters and cut out the core. Peel off the outer cabbage leaves and any leaves with black spots, and save one or two whole, unblemished leaves. Finely shred the remaining cabbage.
- Put the shredded cabbage into a large bowl or pot and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sea salt, depending on the size of your cabbage. An average one will need about 2 tablespoons, but if it’s your first time, start with 1 tablespoon (you can add more later). One note: don’t use iodized salt. Iodine will kill your fermentation.
- After you add the salt, start breaking up the cabbage by “massaging” it, meaning: grab fistfuls of it and squeeze it, punch it, and just basically manhandle it. What you’re doing is causing the cell walls to break apart while the salt pulls water from inside the cabbage. If your wrists and forearms start to ache, you’re doing it right. In a couple of minutes, it will start to produce liquid. After five or ten minutes, your cabbage will look wilted and reduced in size, and there should be quite a lot of water in the bottom of your bowl (this is your “brine”).
- Once your cabbage is all mushy, get a clean fork to taste it for saltiness. (Make sure to avoid putting a dirty fork in your cabbage—you want to keep as much foreign bacteria out as you can.) If it tastes just a little too salty for your normal taste, then it’s perfect. You want the ’kraut to be saltier than a normal meal should be, but not so salty that it’s inedible.
- Once it’s ready, put it in a bowl or jar that’s small enough that you can pack it tightly with your fist and deep enough that the liquid can rise up an inch or so above the surface of the shredded cabbage. A wide-mouth Mason jar is perfect for this. Now, you’ll use the whole, unblemished cabbage leaves that you saved above to lay across the top of the chopped cabbage to hold down stray pieces under the liquid. Fill a smaller jar with water and tightly cap it (so the water doesn’t spill into your brine). Make sure to wash the outside of this second jar because you’ll use it to weigh down the cabbage. The whole point here is to keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. This is an anaerobic fermentation, meaning it happens only when it’s not exposed to oxygen.
- Now set your counter ’kraut aside for a few days. How long is really a question of taste. It’ll be slightly fermented in as few as three days. But if you want to be really hard-core, you can leave it for two or three weeks. Although—take it from me—it’ll start stinking up your kitchen by that point. One thing to note: it is possible to get some mold on the surface of your brine if you’re leaving it for a couple weeks. Just skim it off the top. Not a big deal at all. Like I said, sauerkraut is pretty much foolproof.
- Now the best part! When you’re ready, just take out the weighing jar and the cabbage leaves (skim off any mold and seriously don’t worry about it, it’s totally safe), and put a lid on your ’kraut. It’ll store in the fridge for a really long time (up to several months) if you make sure to scoop it out only with clean utensils. Not that you’ll need to store it very long. Trust me, you’ll be putting this stuff on everything. I add it to salads, veggie burgers, sausages, and as a topping on veggie soups. It’s even amazing by itself as a simple side.
Find this recipe and more treats in Skin Cleanse!