It seems that everyone who makes sauerkraut has an opinion as to how sauerkraut has to be made. But whether it's packing pure cabbage into a crock or using whey as a starter, there are really many ways to ferment a head of cabbage. It doesn't stop at cabbage either - you can ferment most vegetables, including radishes, cucumbers, green tomatoes and many more. And I'll bet that fermenting each and every one of those veggies has as many recipe variations as sauerkraut does.
The way I make sauerkraut is very simple really and needs only a few ingredients aside from your cabbage. It's ready in 2-3 weeks but can be left for much longer, especially if it's refrigerated. It's also a very flexible recipe so you can make it with what you already have at home.
Makes ~ 2 pints
1 medium cabbage (or half of a really big one)
1.5 Tbsp Sea Salt
Glass jar with lid or any other non-metallic tall crock/pot
Additional spices and veggies - not required but really gives the kraut some flavour. I'm listing what I used in today's sauerkraut but you can use whatever you have at hand and the proportion which suits your family's taste. Carrots, dill, caraway and coriander seeds are all great!
6 Shallots, finely sliced
1 Tbsp Black Peppercorns
1. Shred your cabbage and put it into a large bowl with the sea salt. Then take the end of your rolling pin or other non-breakable blunt object and bash the cabbage up a bit. The idea is to break down some of the fibers and allow the salt to penetrate more fully. Cover your bowl with a kitchen towel and leave over night.
2. The next day, have a look at your cabbage. It should be slightly wilted and the bowl should be filled with quite a bit of liquid.
3. Using your freshly cleaned hands, layer first a bit of the whole spices into your glass or ceramic jar/crock, then a layer of shallots then a layer of cabbage. Bash down with your fist and repeat until all your ingredients are in the jar. Then pour over the remaining cabbage juice and place a barrier layer on top. This barrier could be an uncut and clean cabbage leaf, a plate, a linen cloth or even wax-paper which I've used this time (see above picture).
4. Now you'll need a weight - this is also a flexible item and can be anything heavy, such as a cleaned rock, or something that will press against the lid of the jar when its closed to help push the cabbage down to under the juice level. Fermentation is an anaerobic (oxygen-free) process and your ingredients need to be under the juice level at all times. The barrier will help keep bits from floating up but the weight makes sure the barrier doesn't float up either.
5. Close the jar up either with its attached lid (without the rubber ring) or even a loose fitting lid or plate. You want it fairly closed but not completely sealed so that gases can escape.
6. Leave it in a cool dark cupboard for at least 2-3 weeks for crunchy summer sauerkraut or for more of a traditional texture leave it for a month or more. Check it every few days and if any scum or mould starts growing, clean it off the top of the liquid and discard it. As long as your cabbage, onions and other ingredients are below the liquid's surface they're perfectly safe.
Easy peasy, isn't it? :)