Oh, real food. How I love you! It seems like I’ve been on this real food journey forever but it was really only about five years ago that I first read Nourishing Traditions, which changed my diet, my viewpoint and my life from then on. I’ve since read dozens of other books, cookbooks, and scientific literature, immersed myself in blogs, watched documentaries, listened to seminars, experimented on myself with recipes and foods, and even begun my journey to become a holistic health coach.
One of the big ideas from Nourishing Traditions that has stuck with me is the health benefits of lacto-fermented foods. When I first started blogging I even made a fermented food a day, for a whole week once! But unfortunately, realized that some of them didn’t quite fit our palate, no matter how hard we tried.
It doesn’t matter if you have real/organic/fermented foods in the house if no one wants to eat what you’ve made. Make what you want to eat.
Lesson learned and, over the last few years, we’ve really figured out what works for us as a family and what we love to eat, and make again and again in terms of lacto-fermented foods. For us? We always have a steady supply of sauerkraut in the fridge, and occasional forays into lacto-fermented jalapenos, salsa, pickles, dilly beans and mayonnaise.
I’m going to share with you my technique for making one of our family staples – dairy-free, lacto-fermented sauerkraut. Not a recipe – a technique. Because sometimes your cabbage is huge from the farmer’s market, and other times it’s small from the grocery store. Sometimes you have a big family and want to make a lot, or maybe you’re just starting out on this journey and want to make a little. Perhaps you want to enjoy your sauerkraut with homemade pastrami and rye bread(and want to season it accordingly. Yes, I admit to making homemade condiments specific to one sandwich!), or maybe you’ll have it on the side of some bratwurst or Mexican food. Regardless, here’s my technique and enjoy!
Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut Technique
Step 1) If you have a kitchen scale (which I recommend, we use ours all the time!) weigh your cabbage. Most of your average grocery store cabbages will weigh about 3 pounds. Some I’ve bought at our local farm store are enormous and upwards of six pounds. Weigh your cabbage.
Step 2) Choose your Seasonings. On the day I photographed for this recipe, I made a version of cortido, a Mexican-influenced sauerkraut with carrots, garlic (4 cloves in this batch – the rest of the ingredients are as photographed), jalapenos and onions (and I’ll occasionally throw in a radish if I have it!) I also love making sauerkraut with garlic and caraway seeds (when I enjoy it with pastrami and rye sourdough bread, or a bratwurst) or juniper berries, apples and bay leaves. Yum!
Step 4) Decant, as you go, into the largest bowl you have! This is one cabbage.
Followed by the seasoning vegetables
Followed by the second cabbage and mixed up.
Step 5) For every 3 pound cabbage – add 1-1/2 Tablespoons of salt. Add it in layers as you fill the bowl with cabbage and seasonings and then, with clean hands, mix thoroughly.
Step 6) When I first started making sauerkraut, at this stage I pounded the veggies with a big pestle, for five or ten minutes, to draw the liquid out. Since then, I’ve learned that if you’re just patient and let the veggies sit for about twenty minutes on their own, the salt will draw the liquid out all by itself. So really, just walk away. Walk AWAY. Come back in twenty minutes and your sauerkraut will be ready.
Step 7) Fill your fermenting container with the sauerkraut, pressing down firmly so that the liquid covers the top.
Step 8 ) In a gallon size Ziploc bag, make a brine with 3 Tablespoons salt to 3 cups of water. Seal bag, put into another bag and seal again. Place this on top of your sauerkraut to make sure that your sauerkraut stays submerged in liquid.
Step 9) Allow the sauerkraut to ferment for 10 to 14 days, making sure that the sauerkraut stays submerged. If any mold or scum forms on top, remove it and discard. Add more brine to the bags, if necessary.
Step 10) Once the sauerkraut is done fermenting, decant into jars and store in a cool place (like your fridge or a cool cellar) and enjoy!
For more lacto-fermented recipes – check out Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz. I’m also a big fan of The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich.