One easy way to boost your immune system is to regularly consume fermented foods as part of your diet. With all the sickness that has been circulating lately why not give your body the tools to fight off the germs you will encounter. An easy ferment to get started with is fermented sauerkraut. Come on into my kitchen and I will show you have to make fermented sauerkraut!
Why Should You Make Ferments?
The short answer is because fermentation creates beneficial probiotics. These probiotics make food more digestible. Your body will be able to absorb the vitamins and minerals from your food more efficiently.
Fermenting also produces a product that has a diverse number of probiotic strains. The higher the number of strains the bigger benefit you get.
To read more about the benefits of fermented sauerkraut, check out this excellent article 8 Surprising Benefits of Sauerkraut.
There are so many methods that people will tell you on how to make sauerkraut. Some say salt your cabbage until it is “salty enough” per your taste, some say 1 tbs. per head of cabbage, and so on.
When I first started making fermented sauerkraut this drove me nuts, because each head of cabbage weighs something different. How do I know if I did it right? I was so afraid of making my family ill. So let me give you some measurements to get you started out on the right track.
2 pounds of cabbage= 3 1/2 tsp of salt=1 quart of sauerkraut. So, whether or not you grow your cabbage or buy it, try to weigh your cabbage heads so you know how much you will be working with. You can easily scale up so that you can make more at a time.
When to ferment
Sauerkraut ferments best between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. We keep our house at 68 degrees during the winter months, and the sauerkraut ferments just fine.
Once summer brings higher temperatures, I have to stop fermenting sauerkraut because it is too warm in my kitchen (we do not have central air conditioning).
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How To Make Fermented Sauerkraut
First, cut up the cabbages. The way you cut the cabbage is your preference. You can cut it into shreds, large dice, or small dice. Just make all the cabbage pieces the same size so it will finish fermenting at the same time. Do not use the outer leaves or the cores (you can feed them to your chickens!)
Place all of the cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Have the measured amount of salt ready. As you place the cabbage into the bowl, sprinkle some salt onto each layer. Repeat until all the cabbage is in the bowl. Use non iodized salt such as sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.
Next, either with your hands or pounding device, begin to pound or massage the cabbage and salt. You are breaking the fibers of the cabbage and allowing the salt to penetrate the cabbage. The salt will draw out the water from the cabbage making a salty brine.
Pound or massage the cabbage 5 minutes. After this process I allow the cabbage to sit for about 15 minutes to let the salt do its job.
Once the 15 minutes are up you will notice the cabbage is wetter and there should be a brine at the bottom of the bowl.
Next, it is time to stuff the cabbage into glass mason jars. I begin with half gallon jars, then if I have smaller amounts of cabbage, I will use quart or pint jars. Push down the cabbage so that it is packed in the jar. Always fill your jars as much as you can but leave a space at the top for the fermentation glass weight (pictured above on the left).
Place the weight on top of the cabbage and push down. You want the brine to come up and completely cover the cabbage. The weight keeps the cabbage under the brine to prevent mold from forming.
Now that the weight is in place, put the silicone pickle pipes on top and screw on the metal ring. Place the jars on the counter in an out of the way spot in your kitchen. Allow to ferment at a minimum of 7 days. The longer the ferment, the stronger the flavor.
You did it! The hardest part is not bothering your sauerkraut to “check on it”, but just leave it alone and let the microorganisms do their job!!
What to expect during fermentation
During fermentation, liquid will eventually siphon out of the jars so place a pan or tray under the jars to prevent a mess.
Foam will come out of the top of the silicone pipes. This is part of the process and happens every time.
Sometimes, once fermenting is in full swing, you can hear a quiet squeaking or whistling sound. I have been in the kitchen and thought there was a mouse in the room with me, but it turned out it was the sauerkraut making noise, lol.
The cabbage will be bright green at the beginning but will turn a pale green almost yellow color toward the end of the process.
When Things Go Wrong with Fermented Sauerkraut
If you see any mold throw it away. You can throw it in your compost pile, feed it to your chickens or pigs.
Smell it before you eat it! Any rotten smell, don’t eat it. It should smell sour with a little hint of vinegar.
God gave you the ability to know when things are off, so don’t worry too much.