An Easy Salt-Free Sauerkraut Recipe

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Kraut has long been a harvest favorite, and now you can make it even more healthful!

Make this homemade salt-free sauerkraut recipe using these easy step-by-step instructions.

An Easy Salt-Free Sauerkraut Recipe

Most every summer, when canning season rolled around, my
grandfather could be heard to comment, “Pickles ain’t my
favorite food, but what else can you do with
cucumbers?”

Those words of his came vividly to mind last summer when,
as a result of overenthusiastic planting, my wife and I
were faced, not with an abundance of cukes, but with a
hundred heads of cabbage!

“Coleslaw?” I mused, as we contemplated the small mountain
of red and green leafy heads.

“No, sauerkraut!” she replied.

Well, I thought we’d bettered Granddad’s solution to the
cucumber problem nicely. Though coleslaw certainly
“ain’t my favorite food,” kraut is, to my mind, a
preeminent edible. Furthermore, it’s not only tasty but
also very nutritious. In fact, sauerkraut actually contains
more vitamin C than the cabbage it’s made from.

Many folks claim kraut serves as a blood cleanser and a
bowel regulator. In addition, it’s a predigested
food: The starches in the cabbage are converted, during the
krautmaking process, into simple sugars that are easily
assimilated by the body. The bacteria (lactobacillus) that
are responsible for the transformation will, like those in
yogurt or other cultured foods, take up residence in your
intestinal tract and help your body manufacture its own B
vitamins.

Yep, nutritionally speaking, sauerkraut has a lot going for
it . . . and only one real drawback–salt.

More and more health-conscious people are reducing the
amount of salt in their diets, and I was hesitant to
prepare a big batch of normal, salty sauerkraut, since I
knew excess sodium can aggravate such conditions as high
blood pressure and kidney problems.

“So, let’s make saltless kraut,” said my wife.

Saltless sauerkraut? Well, we certainly had enough cabbage
to experiment with, so we took a stab at it. And we were
pleasantly surprised; we made delicious, salt-free
sauerkraut . . . and it was so good that I’d like to share
the recipe with you here.

Preparing Homemade Sauerkraut: Ingredients and Utensils

You’ll need the following:

  • 1 bushel of red, green, or mixed cabbages (this will make a
    big batch of kraut . . . you might want to try
    making a few two- or three-head batches, perhaps with
    different herb and spice mixtures, before you go whole hog)
  • Any spices, herbs, or vegetables you wish to add (peppers,
    cukes, beets, carrots, and cauliflower are popular choices)
  • 1 five-gallon earthenware crock
  • A plate or heavy pot lid that fits inside the crock
  • A baseball bat

And Away We Go

Step One:

Thoroughly clean the crock, plate, and bat, as well as the
cabbage and other vegetables. Set aside some of the large
outer cabbage leaves. (In the directions that follow, treat
any additional vegetables in the same manner as the
cabbage.)

Step Two:

Cut or shred the cabbage into fine strips.

Step Three:

Put about a two-inch layer of shredded cabbage in the
crock, and pound and press it with the bat until the
cabbage is covered by its own juice.

Step Four:

Sprinkle your chosen herbs and spices over the cabbage,
using a half teaspoon for each head. Dill, caraway seed,
and thyme work well, and kelp or dulse, available in most
natural foods stores, can be added to impart a salty taste.

Step Five:

Add a second layer of cabbage and pound as before, then add
seasonings again. Continue the process until the crock is
about three-quarters full or until you run out of cabbage.


Step Six:

Place a few of the whole outer cabbage leaves on top and
cover them with the plate or lid, which should be weighted
down with a well-washed rock.

Step Seven:

Cover the crock with a clean cloth and place it in a cool
place (60 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). After a few days, a froth will
appear on top of the liquid. Skim this off, remove the
weight and lid, and wash them in hot water before replacing
them. Repeat this step every few days.

Step Eight:

Depending upon your taste preference, it will take one to
three weeks for the kraut to be ready. (Just try a sample
each time you clean the lid and rock.) At that time, store
the sauerkraut in sterile glass jars.

Step Nine:

Refrigerate the kraut. Without salt, fermentation
will continue, so the sauerkraut will spoil if it’s not
refrigerated. It will, however, stay delicious under
refrigeration for about three weeks.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When testing Mike’s recipe, we found that
there’s less risk of spoilage if the kraut is allowed to
“work” in an area that maintains a temperature of no more
than 65 degrees Fahrenheit.