Thursday, August 15, 2013

Home made Sauerkraut, and how I make it the German way

What gives me the authority to teach you how to make sauerkraut, and how to cook it to make it taste like the Germans serve it?

Glad you asked.

I was born and raised in Germany, and by the time I moved to America at age 20, I had eaten barrels of this healthy, probiotic-filled fermented vegetable and seen various German grandmothers make it themselves.

So you see, I'm kind of an expert (in sauerkraut, as well as bread, chocolate and beer. You know, the essentials).

Let me show you how to make kraut, which is so much healthier (and cheaper !!!) than buying the canned crap.

~Update: I teach a self-paced online fermentation course, where I teach how to make sauerkraut, greek yogurt, beet kvass, kombucha and no-knead fermented bread. Click here for more info. You get my ebooks, demonstration movies, recipes and a private Facebook group all for $39!~



Our house feels like a giant fermentation vat. 25 pounds of Sauerkraut are cheerfully bubbling and fermenting. Next to the Kraut crock, a half gallon jar of cucumbers is quietly stewing in its juices, waiting for salt and whey to start the lacto-fermentation process. Cheese is aging in the crawl space under the bathroom. Next to the cheeses rest a few left over bottles of blackberry and beet wine. Yogurt is doing its magic in my home made yogurt incubator. All these substances are broken down by bacteria, yeasts and various microorganisms in the name of health.

We make and eat this stuff because it is supposed to be good for us. Fermented foods improve digestion, restore proper balance of bacteria in the gut, are rich in enzymes, have higher vitamin content, and help us absorb the nutrients we're consuming.

I have made Sauerkraut successfully for several years, and over time, many people have asked me how I make it. I don't know why people think being German makes me such an expert. I guess I did eat a lot of Sauerkraut in my childhood (although it was not home made). So let me show you how I make Sauerkraut from scratch, and then I will share the absolute best way to prepare it for dinner.

Recipe for Sauerkraut:


The recipe I have used for years comes from an old, beat up book called “Stocking up” by Rodale Press.  Here's how I do it:

Get your hands on some beautiful, organically grown cabbage.  I grow a bunch in my garden just for Sauerkraut.  How many pounds of cabbage you need depends on the size of the cabbage and on how much kraut you want to make.  I usually use 30 to 35 pounds.  

Wash the cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have slug holes or bruises on them. You might encounter the occasional earwig crawling frantically out of the cabbage while you do this, or a lazy slug hiding between the leaves.  Don't worry too much about these critters... they find their way out. If not, it's extra protein for you.


Don't ask me why my daughter wears plastic shoes with high heels in the garden, or why she wears them period.

Cut the cabbage in quarters and cut the tough inner core out of the pieces. Cut them small enough to put through your food processor with the shredding blade attached. If you were really groovy, you would use a non-electric Kraut cutter, especially made for this process, like this nice wooden one. But I love my Cuisinart, and it makes the job really fast.



I cut enough to measure 5 pounds of shredded cabbage into a bowl. Then I add 3 tablespoons of canning/pickling salt to the cabbage in the bowl and mix it around with my hands. This is kind of like cheese making – a very tactile, messy process.




I let this sit for five minutes. (In the meantime, I shred the next five pounds). After sitting in the salt and softening up a bit, I put this layer of five pounds into my 5 gallon sauerkraut crock. At this point, some people use fancy wooden Sauerkraut stompers, but I use my hand to do the following: press on the salted layer of cabbage with your hand until the juices come up.




Then you keep adding layers of five pounds shredded cabbage, mixed with three tablespoons of salt. Keep pressing down after every layer.
This year, I alternated the layers of cabbage with shredded carrots, which made it all more orange and strange-looking, but I think it will taste great!


After you added the last layer, put a plate on top of the cabbage.  The plate should fit snugly inside the crock. You really want to cover the cabbage tightly, otherwise it may spoil. I weigh down the plate with something heavy, like a mason jar or two filled with water, or ziplock bags filled with water. You want enough weight to keep the cabbage submerged in its juices. I cover the whole thing with a towel, so no bugs or curious kids can fall into it...or toothbrushes, since I keep the crock in the bathroom.


Ferment this whole thing at room temperature (68 to 72) for a week or two (or more, depending on the temperature). It will start bubbling, which is really fascinating and a little weird.
If scum forms on the surface, just take it off with a spoon. When bubbles stop rising to the surface, your Kraut is done.

After a few days it starts to bubble.
It's a little weird, right?  You know what I'm saying?
When it's done, you can either can it in a hot water bath for 20 minutes (which I used to do), or keep it in the fridge as a healthier snack without all the good stuff killed by canning.
Your house will smell krauty and a little sour during the fermenting. You should walk into my house right now, with all the fermenting cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, and cheese drying before it's packed. Then you add the aroma from the goat barn, and you got country air!

I like to eat Sauerkraut raw, but if you want to make a real German dinner, here's what I do:

Fry up an onion in butter. A nice sweet Walla Walla fresh from the garden is perfect for this. Add a cut up (cubed) apple to the onions. When the onions are nice and opaque, add some great sausages. Let that sizzle for a while. When the sausages are almost done, add the Sauerkraut with some caraway seeds. My Mom used to add Juniper berries, bay leaf and peppercorns. You could add some white wine if you want to be fancy.
Serve it with some good beer and home made bread or potatoes, and everyone will love it.  Enjoy!  Guten Appetit!




Watch my one minute video on my online fermentation course below and get a sense of what it's all about!




If you like what you learned here, please subscribe to our newsletter, where you learn free homesteading skills and get great tips and recipes, including this sauerkraut tutorial!




~Reminder: I teach a self-paced online fermentation course, where I teach how to make greek yogurt, beet kvass, sauerkraut, kombucha and no-knead fermented bread. You get my ebooks, demonstration movies, recipes and a private Facebook group all for $39!~

60 comments:

  1. How did it turn out with the carrots?

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    1. It turned out awesome! Colorful and really tasty! I will definitely make it again!

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  2. Hi, do you rinse the sauerkraut after fermentation is complete?

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    1. Hi Karin,
      No, I never rinse my Sauerkraut after it's done. It's not too salty the way I make it - it's just right for my taste!

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    2. My pleasure, Karin! I love sharing what I've learned with you all!

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  3. I remember making Kraut w/my Mom & Grandma & have been looking for a no-nonsense recipe.
    Thanks so much & can't wait to try it.
    Sus

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    1. Have fun making Kraut! Glad you like my tutorial!

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  4. great recipe, I wish I had the onw for the beet and blackberry wine too lol

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    1. Yes! That's a topic for another blog post! Subscribe to my blog and keep updated, and one day, I will write a recipe for the beet and blackberry wine!

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  5. Awsome instructions! I make beer, wine, and whisky, but want to grow into things more productive, like saurkraut! I will use a good, clean plastic food grade bucket. (I am poor now...) but will look for crocks. I would like to let you know how it goes...
    And share with you my olive curing method one day.. :) Karmazinjon@yahoo.com

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    1. Wow, I wish I could grow olives here... Alas... too cold and wet!

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  6. Very impressive. I tried to grow organic collards this year and the insects really enjoyed them. I had a little, lol. I took your advice just to put together my store bought sauerkraut with local pasture raised pork brats. Great combo in saucepan together at the end! Great job, btw!!

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    1. Sorry to hear about the bugs liking your collards...
      Sounds like you ended up with a good dinner after all!

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  7. Do you still get the same benefits of the fermentation if you cook it up in a meal like that? And can you use the big pot from a slow cooker instead of a croc?

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  8. Cooking and heating does kill probiotics. I mostly eat my sauerkraut uncooked and raw to get all the benefits of fermentation.

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  9. Thank you for the recipe I will be trying this next week. I too have been looking for a simple way to make kraut. Spent many years in Germany and love the stuff! But I have a question, I also grew several red cabbages in my garden this year, can they be used in kraut also? I think the colors and flavor would be fantastic if it would work. We too grow a very large garden and freeze/can all our own vegetables. We do enough to go harvest to harvest without buying that store junk. Always wonderful to find people like you who do the same. Thanks.

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  10. Glenn, good for you! Yes, you can absolutely use red cabbages to make kraut. In fact, some people say red cabbages are even healthier than green ones. Go for it!

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    1. Thank you! And thanks for such a great page.

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  11. Thank you for the photos! It really helps to see. I have a few questions,
    - Is it okay to close the lid of the can or it has to be open till it ferments (my cabbage is all submerged under its brine and it has more volume of the air above it than its own volume)?
    - Instead of pressing it, I used a bottle of wine and really punched it many times down. Is that bad? Should I just gently press it?
    - Did you 'shred' your cabbage by only cutting it with the blades inside the food processor without grating at all?
    Thank you so much! :)

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    1. By "closing the lid of the can", do you mean closing the top of the fermentation container? I don't close it, per se, just put a plate on top of the kraut, with a weight on top to keep it submerged, and then I just drape a towel of dish cloth over the whole thing so no flies or critters can get in.
      You can totally use a bottle of wine and punch it. That's a very inventive method! You can get pretty rough with it!
      I shred the cabbage with the food processor. Some people use the shredding attachment, some use the slicing attachment. I actually like it better when it's sliced instead of shredded.

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  12. I am using my plastic beer fermenter with an air lock. I also add the caraway seeds in the mix. Waiting to see if it works as good as glass. I have some crocks but am not using because they are about 150 yrs. old and can,t be replaced.

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    1. Plastic beer fermenter should work fine, since it's food grade. Yummy idea to add caraway seeds! Good luck!

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    2. Wanted to let you know that the kraut turned out really good. The caraway seeds worked well. My brother in law said best he has ever had. The fermenter worked great also and 30 lbs of cabbage only filled it about halfway. You really should try a batch with the seeds, if only a small one.I think you will really like it. Thanks.

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    3. Glad to hear it! I do add caraway seeds to it when I cook it with sausages. I will try to ferment a batch of kraut with the caraway seeds in it to start with. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    4. I've been adding sliced apples and carrots along with the
      caraway seeds. Can also use Celery seed but not too much.
      A little brown sugar too if you like it Bavarian style.

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  13. Must one use a crock for this? Could a glass bowl be used instead?

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    1. You don't NEED a crock, but it's handy if you make big volumes of Kraut. You can use mason jars, and I have done it this way before. You could use a glass bowl, but you have to make sure you can seal it okay so no air can get in from the top.

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  14. How long would you be able to store the uncooked kraut ?
    I assume by canning it will remain edible for about a year when stored correctly.

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    1. Actually, canning will make it last a long time, but also would kill the friendly bacteria.
      If you store it uncanned in the fridge, it lasts a long time as well. I keep my uncanned Kraut for a year in the fridge.

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  15. Last night I made pork ribs, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. After searing the pork in our slow cooker, I added some of my homemade sauerkraut per your instructions. It was like being back in Germany. Thank you so much for showing me the way!

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    1. Curt, that is so cool! Yummy!
      Thanks for sharing your success here - I'm glad to help!
      Right now I am working on an online fermentation class where I will teach how to make Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Yogurt, and great German style bread! So if you want to be updated, head on over to my blog and sign up for my mailing list!

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  16. I have been looking for days about raising milk goat. I found you and I am very happy!
    I need to learn before taking the huge step to buy my milk goats. Thank you!

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    1. Yes! Learn as much as you can before buying milk goats. They are a huge responsibility --- and also lots and lots of fun! I teach an online cheesemaking course if you want to learn about making cheese!
      http://www.marblemounthomestead.com/online_cheese_making_workshop.html

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  17. Corina,
    I thought you could just leave the sauerkraut in the fermenting crock for a long time- scooping out what you need as you go. I don't want to can it because I don't want to kill the probiotics but there is NO room in the fridge (too much raw milk in there :) )
    Roberta

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    1. Roberta,
      definitely! You can leave it in the crock. But you need to store it in a cold place, and since I don't have a place that stays consistently cold, I put my kraut in mason jars (and DON'T can it!) and put it in the fridge. I hear ya, though: mine is full with raw milk as well, so it gets crowded. That's why we have two refrigerators: one in the kitchen, and one in the goat barn)!

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    2. I made my first Kimchi several months ago. I love the taste of it but I prefer it cooked, like in an omelet or grilled between sourdough with a slice of Monterrey Jack cheese, much better. The next batch I make I plan to make it "South of the Border" style and add spices of South America and more of the veggies that come from this region along with the carrot & cabbage base. I eat more of a South American diet. Have you tried this?

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    3. Sheri,
      very frankly: I am a total wimp when it comes to spicy food! I can't stand spicy stuff, so I never make it. You can ferment a lot of food and add a lot of spices to the fermented foods to make them interesting! I do teach an online fermentation course if you want to try out different fermented foods!

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  18. With a mason jar, do you have a suggestion on how to keep it submerged without a weight? And how do you "burp" it and how often?
    Thanks

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  19. With a mason jar, do you have a suggestion on how to keep it submerged without a weight? And how do you "burp" it and how often?
    Thanks

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    1. With a mason jar, you can use a little 4 ounce glass filled with water. Sometimes I use a ziplock bag with water. I burp it once a day very briefly.

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  20. Corina, you are such an inspiration! I made kraut today and thought of how much I love you my sister, surely it has lots of love in it, the very best ingredient.

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    1. Awww, Chris, you are the sweetest! Love IS the best ingredient!

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  21. Surely it's unhygienic keeping it in the bathroom. Millions of germs are airborne with every flush

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    1. We have a large bathroom. I can assure you the sauerkraut crock doesn't sit next to the toilet, but a long ways away in the other corner. Plus, the crock is covered and airtight.

      Are you saying it's unhygienic to keep your toothbrushes in the bathroom since there are millions of germs with every flush as well?

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  22. Hi Corina, thanks for all your info on your blog!!! I just love your blog and this is the first time posting here.

    What can I do if my brine level goes to low? Do I just add some water to keep the kraut submerged or is their a brine solution that I should be adding instead.

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    Linda

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    1. Thanks for your nice feedback, Linda!
      When you say the brine level gets low, are you talking while it's fermenting?
      How long has it been fermenting?
      And are adding enough weight to weigh it down? Was it juicy in the beginning and then the level dropped?
      Let's problem-solve!

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  23. Thanks Corina for the quick reply!

    It was pretty juicy to start....maybe half inch over the cabbage. But after a week I noticed the level is barely over the cabbage and I have been taking the weight and trying to pack the cabbage down more but I am afraid the cabbage is going to end up getting exposed to the air and go bad.
    I have the kraut in a 1 gallon crock. I have a plate with a quart jar of water setting on top with cheese cloth over it to keep out any bugs or dirt.

    So where do I go from here. Thanks.

    Linda

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    1. It will probably done pretty soon because it's already fermented for over a week. Did it stop bubbling, and is it done yet?
      If not, take the weight of, smoosh the cabbage down to get more juice, replace the weight, maybe even put more weight on, and it should be fine.
      As long as there is no mold or bad smell, it will be good.

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  24. It is still bubbling. I tried pressing it down harder and put more weight on top but it didn't really change much. It still smells good but I think I may have to add more brine or something because I think its going to evaporate too much before its done.

    We have been in a heavy drought and everything is so dry. My farm sounds like I am walking on cornflakes outside. We don't even have dew on the grass in the morning that is how bad its been. I think it has wicked the moisture from my kraut. Rain is suppose to be coming........keeping my fingers crossed.

    Thanks for your help.

    Linda

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  25. I wonder if you could put brown sugar in the brine?

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    1. Tina, I would not put sugar in the brine. I have never heard of sugar in sauerkraut - it doesn't need it, and it would make it less healthful. If you want sweet tasting kraut, prepare it with a little white wine and apple as I described.

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  26. QUE HERMOSURA SA VERDURA!!!
    SALUDITOS

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  27. Hey Corina, I came across your German kraut recipe and gave it a try. This is technically my second attempt at making kraut. Mine keeps coming out just salty. It's not tangy or vinegary at all. I have this problem when making kavas too. I only make one head of cabbage (about 2.5 lbs) at a time for me and my husband, mix it with about 1.5 tablespoons of pickling salt, squish till I have lots of liquid, this time I covered it with the baggie of water in a glass bowl, waited about 10 days, and I have salt crunchy cabbage. What am I doing wrong? Thank you so much for any help.

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    1. Hi Erica,

      When I make small batches, here's the recipe I use:
      2 pounds shredded cabbage (depending on the size of the cabbage, this should be 2 or 3 heads)
      4 teaspoons pickling salt (or use 3 teaspoons salt and 4 tablespoons whey instead)

      I wonder if when you measure the cabbage, you actually have less than 2.5 pounds, because you cut out the core etc. I would weigh it to make it weight exactly 2 pounds (after it's already shredded), and then add 4 teaspoons salt.

      It sounds like the way you do it is using too much salt for too little cabbage.

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  28. Whew! I am exhausted just looking at the photos! I've always been afraid of fermenting my own stuff, my husband is always asking to make our own kombucha too. Thanks for the authentic recipe and process. When I can get my family to eat sauerkraut it's usually on the side of some yummy meat like sausages or German Rouladen. http://oldworldtaste.com/germanrouladen/

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  29. This is so great. I love that you shared your true knowledge from when you grew up in Germany and used it to help other people learn how to make their own kraut! Its also amazing that you have huge vats of sauerkraut fermenting, I don't know if you'll ever run out! Maybe you will, if the family is eating it as fast as mine does! Very excited to try this recipe at home. Thanks for sharing!

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  30. We found some glass jars at Ikea that has a top you can snap down with a rubber seal. We filled these up with our sauerkraut we made and store them in our extra refrigerator. The rubber seal keeps them air tight and you can have fresh kraut to eat right out of the jar. We don't can ours either it ruins the flavor and all the benefits of fresh kraut

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    1. Yes, that's a great option to store sauerkraut in the fridge. I do the same thing, in mason jars. You are right, canning destroys all the benefits. I still do a bit of it, just for a quick meal with sausages every now and then.

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