Fermentation is one of the oldest and safest methods of processing and preserving foods known to humanity. And although it seems a little intimidating, it is pretty simple to start. This particular way of fermenting cabbage is the easiest and safest place to experiment with fermentation. It is much cheaper than buying it, especially since it is not always easy to find the right kind in shops. If you were thinking of starting playing with fermentation, start with this homemade red cabbage sauerkraut recipe. There is almost no way to fail at this if you follow the steps.
Speaking of the right kind of store-bought sauerkraut, the only one that has the health benefits of lacto-fermentation is the one that has the word RAW mentioned on the label. You will find it in the refrigerated sections of supermarkets. The others are exposed to heat.
Through the fermentation process, the food is transformed nutritionally. The fermented vegetables will be predigested by bacteria, the toxins will be removed, the mineral availability will be improved, and it will provide the unique micronutrients that are byproducts of the fermentation process. So, the live bacterial cultures will be available only in non-heated fermented foods (raw). The live bacteria stimulate our immune function and have the ability to enhance our gut health and overall health.
No water, homemade red cabbage sauerkraut, the best way to start exploring fermentation
What is interesting about this specific method here is that you don’t need water. For fermentation with water, you will need water without chlorine. The best is spring water. Chlorine is used in tap water to kill bacteria, so not helpful when you want to cultivate bacteria through fermentation.
Ingredients & method
For a one-quart size mason jar (36oz or 1L), you will need about two pounds of vegetables (I used one head of red cabbage and two carrots) and 1.5% salt (about two teaspoons). You have to use non-iodized salt. I did add spices to mine, but they are optional.
Make sure you start with a very clean environment. Clean glass jars, clean hands, and clean working surfaces and utensils. You will chop or grate the vegetables to expose as much of the surface area, transfer them to a large bowl, lightly salt it, massage it with your hands, and squeeze it, breaking down the walls and enabling them to release as much of the juices as possible.
I shredded the cabbage finely, and I grated the carrots. You can taste it, making sure there is enough salt (it usually is if you follow the above). If you want to add spices, now is the time. The following will work for homemade red cabbage sauerkraut: mustard seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, cloves, and allspice.
Stuff the jar
Stuff it in the glass jar making sure you press down as much as possible. The solid vegetables will go down, and the juices will stay on top. Close the jar lightly – I only put the lid on without closing it completely. Other methods will tell you to use a clean towel, that’s fine too, but I feel like the jar lid is ok, as long as it is not hermetically closed.
Check the jar of homemade red cabbage sauerkraut daily
Leave the jar with the red cabbage on the kitchen counter, and every morning and evening, open it and press down the vegetables with a clean spoon. I like to taste it every day and see how it changes. Please don’t double-dip :)).
Depending on the room temperature, it can take from 4-5 days to two weeks to get where you want it to be, but it also depends on your taste. My kitchen was pretty warm, and on the fifth day, I closed the jar and transferred it to the fridge (or a cold pantry). I like it when it’s not too sour.
Recap of what you need to make red cabbage sauerkraut
So, let’s recap. This is what you need:
- 1 quart / 36oz / 1L jar with lid
- 2 pounds of vegetables: 1 small to medium red cabbage and 2 big carrots
- 2 teaspoons sea salt / Himalayan pink salt (NOT iodized)
- Clean working surface
- Clean chopping board
- Knife and grater (or a vegetable shredder that can deal with both cabbage and carrots)
- Big mixing bowl
- Spices (optional): mustard seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, caraway seeds
Recap of the making method
- Wash the cabbage under running water and dry it on a towel
- Wash the carrots and finely slice or grate (you can do it by hand or using a food processor with a shredding blade)
- Add the spices to the bottom of the jar (especially if you don’t want them mixed with the vegetables)
- Finely shred the cabbage, add it to a bowl with carrots and salt and massage it well until the walls break and the juices are released
- Stuff the jar with the vegetables pressing down really well and add any liquid left in the bowl
- Loosely cover the jar (not airtight) and with a clean spoon, press the vegetables down, at least twice a day. This is to make sure the top layer is not out of the liquid
- This process could take a few days, depending on the temperature in your house. You can taste it to see if it’s ready.
- Once you are happy with the taste, you can close the lid tightly and store it in the fridge.
You can certainly use any vegetables you want with your cabbage, but the idea is, if you don’t use water, to cut them small (shred or grate them) so they release as much juice as possible. White or green cabbage is great too. You can also use only cabbage, whatever color you prefer.
How to serve red cabbage sauerkraut
Have a little bit of homemade red sauerkraut with your eggs, as a side dish to meat or chicken, or mix it with cooked and raw vegetables. It will work well with the Lectin-Light Pork Paprikash and in general, with any stew-like dish.
Fermented mixed vegetables
If you want to explore more fermentation recipes, be sure to read my article How to Make Fermented Mixed Vegetables.
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