Spring cabbage will be in season before we know it and that means it will be time to make sauerkraut! Of course, you can always go to the store and buy a head of cabbage or a bag of shredded at any time of the year. However, nothing beats eating seasonally for the best flavor. There are vegetable fermentation crocks on the market if you are looking to make a larger batch, but I have fallen in love with the SUPER EASY method of making single batches in mason jars!
Easy Mason Jar Sauerkraut
- Shredded cabbage
- Caraway seeds (optional)
Other items needed:
- Mason jars
- Plastic (or metal) mason jar lids
- Kraut weights (or ziplock bag weighted with water)
The ratio of salt to cabbage that I like best is 1 1/2 tablespoons to every 3 pounds of cabbage. So if you are just doing one jar, you will want to cut the recipe down accordingly. Make sure your mason jars are washed and very clean. Your hands also need to be extra clean because you will be using them to work the kraut. If I am making a lot, I will wear powder free latex gloves so the salt won't dry out my hands.
Throw your shredded cabbage into a bowl and mix in the salt. What you will be doing next is trying to bring the moisture out of the cabbage to make a brine. This can be done by massaging, squeezing, and mashing the cabbage until you get a good puddle of brine. This will take about 3-8 minutes. I have a nice heavy mortar and pestle (awesome b-day gift from my mom!) that works well... even if I am using a bigger bowl than the mortar, the pestle is very helpful. If you have more time, you can let the salt sit on the cabbage for 20 mins or so. This will cause the cabbage to begin sweating, at which point it will take much less time to work out more brine.
*After you work it enough to make a brine, you can mix in the caraway seeds if desired.
Now it is time to pack your jars. Stuff the cabbage and brine in the jars and press it down to compress and chase out as much air as possible. I use my pestle for this, but you can use your hand or a wooden spoon as well. I have also seen "pickle packers" for sale online for this task (see links below for kraut supplies). Make sure to leave at least an inch of space in your jar because the contents will bubble and rise during the fermentation process.
Next, you will want to weigh down your cabbage so that it stays under the brine. My grandmother used to make her kraut in an old butter churn and weighted it with a big conch shell. I found some handy little glass weights called "Crock Rocks" online that fit perfectly in my wide mouth mason jars. I have also seen "Pickle Pebbles" for regular and wide mouth jars (see links below). You can also weigh it down with a ziplock bag filled with water.
Finally, close your jars with the lids (leave them a little loose) and place in a location that is out of direct sunlight. I just put mine on my kitchen counter so that I can watch the process!
There are many different factors that influence the speed of fermentation, such as temperature and salt content. Adding too much salt will inhibit the process, while adding too little will accelerate it and give you a mushy mess. A constant temp of under 75° is ideal. I have found that it takes around 2 weeks to 30 days of fermenting to achieve the kraut taste that I am looking for, but you can let it ferment longer. I have read that the minimum is a week, but you will just have to taste it every week or so to see what you prefer. Just make sure to watch out for any foul odors (kraut in itself has a funky smell, but shouldn't smell rancid) or any pink film. White foam and film are fine, but I skim them off when they show up.
Make sure that your kraut stays under the brine! You can open the jar and press down on the weights when necessary and the brine should re-emerge. After the first day or so, you will want to open the jars for just a minute to release some of the built up gases. If I am not going to be around to do so, I just leave the jar lids a tad loose so that it can let itself out.
Health benefits of Sauerkraut
Vegetable Fermentation Safety