Easy Sauerkraut Recipe

Use any combination of vegetables from your garden to make this easy sauerkraut recipe.



From "The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook"
September 2015

Total Hands-On Time: 30 mins

Preparation Time: 30 mins

Yield: 4 quart jars

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The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center is a farm, community center and educational retreat that has promoted heritage foods and stewardship for decades—and in The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook, (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015) the OAEC Collective and Olivia Rathbone present a collection of recipes to make the best use of traditional and wild foods in the kitchen. The following sauerkraut recipe is from “Pestos, Sauces, and Condiments.”

You can buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook.

Sauerkraut making is taught in several of our workshops, so we often have a continuous supply fermenting in our kitchen—a batch is made, it ferments, and it’s ready for the next class to taste. The recipe is fairly unstructured, passed down by oral tradition depending on the teacher, and based on whatever we happen to have growing in the garden at the time, so no two Mother Garden krauts are ever the same. There have been some pretty wild and eclectic combinations made over the years, but the best krauts are usually the simplest: just carrot with ginger; plain green cabbage with a pinch of caraway; red cabbage and beets with peppercorns; napa cabbage speckled with local seaweed; or a simply spicy bok choi kimchi—to name a few. As long as you more or less follow the universal 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of veggies ratio, the rest is open for improvisation. For musings on the history, science, health benefits, and metaphysical virtues of sauerkraut, read the definitive tome The Art of Fermentation by fellow communitarian Sandor Katz.

Ingredients:

For a 1-gallon crock or 4 glass quart jars

• 5 pounds fresh veggies—cabbage is the classic because it’s nice and juicy, but any vegetable can be used: leeks, peppers, carrots, radishes, even beets (which will stain everything pink!)
• Your choice of spices to taste—garlic, ginger, peppercorns, chili flakes, seaweed, etc. (optional)
• 3 tablespoons salt
• 1 tablespoon whey or juice from your last batch of naturally fermented veggies (optional)

For a 5-gallon bucket or crock or five 1-gallon-sized glass jars

• 25 pounds fresh veggies—cabbage is the classic because it’s nice and juicy, but any vegetable can be used: leeks, peppers, carrots, radishes, even beets (which will stain everything pink!)
• Your choice of spices to taste—garlic, ginger, peppercorns, chili flakes, seaweed, etc. (optional)
• 15 tablespoons salt (1 tablespoon shy of a cup)
• 1/3 cup whey or juice from your last batch of naturally fermented veggies (optional)

Instructions:

1. Chop the veggies to small slices, thin julienne matchsticks, or shreds.

2. Add thinly sliced or grated ginger, minced garlic, or other whole spices to taste. Then add salt.

3. With very clean hands, massage the vegetables or pound them with a heavy object until the natural juices are released. Taste it and adjust the spices to your liking—it will taste a little too salty at first, but this will mellow as it ferments.

4. For a foolproof kraut, inoculate with a tablespoon of whey or juice from your last batch—this will kick-start fermentation with lots of good probiotic organisms, though this is not necessary.

5. Pour the veggies and juice into a clean widemouthed jar, noncorrosive bucket, or traditional ceramic fermentation crock. If you’re using cabbage or bok choi, you should have plenty of natural juice to fully cover the veggies, but with drier root veggies, you may need to top it up with some “seawater” (1-1/2 tablespoons salt dissolved into 4 cups very clean water) until the veggies are just barely covered with brine.

6. The veggies now need to be weighted down so that they stay submerged under the brine during fermentation, otherwise a film of mold will grow on the surface. Traditional crocks have a fitted ceramic weight, but you can improvise by filling up a ziplock bag with water—lay it over the top so that the veggies are weighted below the surface of the brine and air can get out but not back in. Place the whole setup in a larger dish so that any brine that bubbles out during fermentation doesn’t end up all over your counter.

7. Leave out for 5 to 10 days (the length of time will vary depending on how warm your kitchen is: warmer = faster, cooler = slower). Taste periodically and when the kraut is ripe and tangy, put a lid on it and store it in the fridge to halt fermentation.

8. Enjoy a tablespoon or two on your plate with every meal, for its delicious umami flavor as well as its nutritional benefits.

More from The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook:

Mixed Beans Recipe with Lemon Dill Butter
How to Make Acorn Flour


Reprinted with permission from The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook by The OAEC Collective with Olivia Rathbone and published by Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015. Buy this book from our store: The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook.