While sauerkraut is commonly associated with German cuisine, it enjoys popularity throughout Eastern Europe, with its origins tracing back to ancient China. Workers constructing the Great Wall of China utilized rice wine to preserve cabbage during the winter months. Making sauerkraut is a straightforward and largely hands-off process. This recipe combines shredded cabbage with kosher salt and places it in a well-ventilated jar.Over a week, naturally occurring bacteria on the cabbage leaves transform the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, imparting that distinct tangy flavor to sauerkraut. The flavor continues to develop with time as the cabbage ferments, so it's advisable to taste it periodically.Once the sauerkraut reaches your desired level of pungency, transfer it to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process. You can serve sauerkraut alongside pork chops or sausages, incorporate it into sandwiches or soups to introduce a delightful crunch and salty flavor, or experiment with it in an Alsatian-inspired pasta dish.
- 1 medium-sized green cabbage approximately 3 pounds
- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt like Diamond Kosher, with additional for seasoning as required
- 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds (optional)
- Start by halving the cabbage through the stem and removing the core. Proceed to cut each half into halves once more, then thinly slice each quarter crosswise, as if you were preparing coleslaw. Transfer the shredded cabbage into a large bowl.
- Sprinkle the salt evenly over the cabbage and start massaging it thoroughly using clean hands. Continue this process for about 5 minutes until the cabbage becomes pliable and reduces in volume by almost half. If you use caraway seeds, add them at this point and give the cabbage a good toss.
- Divide the cabbage and any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl into two 1-quart jars or other food-safe, non-reactive containers. Utilize a wooden spoon to firmly pack down the cabbage, repeating this action every few hours throughout the day. This helps release more liquid. During this stage, it's essential to keep the jars loosely covered. Initially, the jars may not be full, but the volume will expand as fermentation begins.
- Before leaving the cabbage to ferment overnight, place the lids on the jars, but don't seal them tightly. (The sauerkraut requires some air circulation during fermentation, as overly tight lids may lead to jar pressure buildup or even breakage. There are specialized air-lock lids designed for fermentation, or you can opt for a simple method by covering the jars with dish towels secured with rubber bands.) The following day, if the cabbage is not fully immersed in the liquid, prepare a saltwater solution to add to the jars: Dissolve 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt in 1 cup of room-temperature water, and divide this mixture between the jars. Ensuring that the cabbage remains entirely submerged is essential to prevent mold growth.
- Place the jars in a dark spot at room temperature (ideally between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit), maintaining the loosely covered lids as before, for a minimum of 5 days and up to 2 weeks. After 5 days, you can begin tasting the sauerkraut. It should exhibit a tangy, salty flavor and retain a crisp texture when ready.
- Securely tighten the lids and transfer the sauerkraut to the refrigerator, which can be stored for up to 4 months. (Refrigeration slows the fermentation process, making it safe to seal the lids tightly at this stage.)