Sensational Sauerkraut

I’d never tried Sauerkraut until earlier this year after spotting a curious looking jar of the stuff in the Polish Foods section of my local Tesco. We tried it and loved it!

Sauerkraut is basically fermented cabbage, although it can be made with white cabbage, red cabbage, pineapple, beetroot, carrot and all kinds of other interesting vegetables. It contains natural probiotics so can benefit gut health or a sluggish digestion.

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As a great way to add more cabbage to your diet this is a winner all round plus it’s zero points on my Weight Watcher diet so I eat loads of the stuff! I’m a newbie at making sauerkraut so I’ve just tried making it with white cabbage so far but I can’t wait to try other vegetables.

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I started off my first jar at the end of January which I then left fermenting on my kitchen counter top for around 7 weeks. We recently tried our first mouthful of the homemade stuff and Oh WOW, it was amazing! Now I’m even more hooked and straight away made several more jars. This is what my kitchen counter top looks like right now!

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Homemade sauerkraut has a slightly crunchy texture and a pleasant fresh flavour, with a delicately sour/salty taste, complimenting many foods as a healthy side dish. The cabbage starts off slightly green in colour but then turns paler yellow as it ferments, with plenty of bubbles coming out. Occasionally it might burp gases out of the jar but this is all perfectly normal. It’s just like having a pet!

Sauerkraut is great on burgers and with any grilled meat, fish, salad, in sandwiches or with chilli, although we eat it with just about everything, even breakfast.

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Before you start, gather all your equipment. You will need some large kilner style jars with a rubber seal. This is important as the seal will let gases burp out as the cabbage ferments. I bought mine in Asda for around £1.50 but you can often pick these up quite cheaply in 2nd Hand shops. Don’t use regular screw top jars as they wont let the gases escape.

You will also need some GU jars. These are the little glass ramekins which GU sell their desserts in. They are just the right size to fit inside the kilner jars and are used to press the cabbage down under the level of the brine. Obviously you have to eat the desserts inside first, it would be rude not to. Hubby enjoyed these as a treat although I’m on a sauerkraut diet, remember…..

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Wash and dry all your jars thoroughly before you start. I used 1 average sized white cabbage to make 1 jar of sauerkraut. You will also need some good quality salt such as pure sea salt. Make sure your salt does not contain any caking agents or other additives.

It is also best to use bottled water (still not fizzy ) to make the brine, as some tap water contains chlorine and other chemicals which can inhibit the growth of the probiotic bacteria in the ferment.

You really need to leave the cabbage to ferment in a warm environment such as on a kitchen counter top for around 4 weeks but longer is better. I stand my jars in bowls as the ferment can bubble so much that some of the brine can escape out. I also have a covered jug of extra brine handy to top up the jars if the brine level drops. You need to make sure that all the cabbage is submerged under the brine at all times or it can go mouldy and will need to be thrown out.

Here’s my recipe if you fancy having a go….

Wash your hands well before you start and your cabbage.

Carefully peel one whole cabbage leaf off the outside of the cabbage and put to one side as you will need it later.

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Take 1kg of finely shredded washed white cabbage (I used a food processor to shred it)  and mix with 10g of pure sea salt, using your hands, in a large bowl. If any bits of the cabbage look brown or blemished, don’t use them. If your cabbage doesn’t exactly weigh 1kg then adjust the salt weight accordingly.

Massage and scrunch the cabbage well for at least 10 min to thoroughly mix. Leave covered for a couple of hours. Juice will come out of the cabbage .

Next squeeze the cabbage with your hands to wring it out and pack tightly in the clean dry kilner style jars. Really squash and press the shredded cabbage down inside the jars to compact it.

One whole white shredded cabbage should just about fit in a large kilner jar. Discard the juice left behind in your bowl. If you have any cabbage leftover which won’t fit in the jar (leaving a space for the GU jar to also fit inside), then you can always wash any leftovers to get the salt off and eat as a salad. Don’t waste it!

Tuck a whole cabbage leaf on top of the shredded cabbage to keep the sauerkraut pressed down and tuck the edges of the cabbage leaf in. Press down to compact.

In a separate jug make up a 2% brine from 10g of salt per 500 ml of bottled water. Pour the brine over the cabbage to completely cover it plus a bit more. Stand your jar in a bowl to catch any drips.

Now place a clean glass GU jar on top of the cabbage to keep the sauerkraut below the brine inside the jar. Close/tighten lid. As you close and press down the lid some of the brine will come out but that’s ok as you want the jar as full of brine as possible. If you can’t close the lid as you have overfilled your jar then just take a bit of the cabbage out and try again. You also don’t want too much head space between the top of the cabbage and the lid of the kilner jar so fill up as much as you can.

Top up with brine over the next few days if any comes out through the seal as the cabbage ferments and bubbles. Drain and replace the bowls underneath with clean ones if they fill up with drips.

Ensure that all the cabbage sits completely under the brine but if any bits float to the surface just discard those bits and keep topping up with fresh brine if the level goes down.  If you see any sediment inside the GU jars after a week or so, then just remove the GU jars, wash, dry and replace, topping up the brine level as well. Leave to ferment in a warm environment for at least 4 weeks but longer is fine and will improve the flavour.

Once you are ready to eat your sauerkraut, remove the GU jar inside and store in the fridge once opened. If it’s stopped bubbling and fermenting after several weeks, you can decant into a regular pickle style screw top jar at this stage for fridge storage. Just make sure the lids are from pickle jars not ordinary jam jars and can withstand an acidic environment.

The golden question is, “How did it taste?”. Well, blooming lovely is the answer. The only problem is that my Hubby keeps asking me to make loads more. I’m not sure my supply chain can keep up with demand but I’ve bought more cabbages this week!

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