Have you ever eaten sauerkraut? It’s super easy to make, and it’s a versatile side dish and ingredient. As a fermented product it is also a probiotic. Here is a family recipe dating way back to my Polish/Ukrainian great-great-grandmother.
There are only three ingredients:
Carrots 150g (optional, but makes it a bit more colourful and fun)
Non-iodised salt 1Tbs (if iodised salt is used, the sauerkraut can turn out a bit bitter)
First of all, you need to prepare something that will entertain you for about 20 minutes as you will have a strange task of massaging (!) the cabbage to let the juices out. I like to either put on a documentary to watch or sit my partner at the table and listen to him talk about politics. (Note: the subject of the documentary does not influence the final taste of the sauerkraut).
1. Remove top leaves from the cabbage, rinse it and either slice in the food processor or manually. Make sure it is finely sliced.
2. Peel the carrot and grate it.
3. Use the largest non-metal dish you have to mix the vegies. Sprinkle a tablespoon of non-iodised salt and start mixing the vegetables with your hands. For the next 15 to 20 minutes, you need to do what I can only describe as massaging the cabbage.
For the first 10 minutes the task will feel futile. And just when you are about to quit in disgust and never try to make sauerkraut again – the juices will suddenly come out. Continue massaging after this for another 5 to 10 minutes as you want to see a cup worth of juices in there.
4. Done. Pack the vegies into sterilised jars (no need for lids at this point) and top with any leftover juice. Push the mixture down, ideally the juices will be able to cover the vegies. Do not fill jars to the top – the mixture will expand during fermentation, I only half fill otherwise you have to place jars on plates or something that will catch the juice as it spills out. Cover the jars with fermentation lids if you have them. I cover with clean cloth instead.
5. Do not leave the cabbage to ferment in a room where loved ones are present. A room that belongs to an enemy of yours is ideal, otherwise a laundry or guest room will do. It does smell suspicious for the first couple of days. In my house, full fermentation usually takes about 5 days, but it depends on the air temperature.
After about 24 hours the cabbage will start to bubble and the juices will rise. Once it stops bubbling after a couple of days, the sauerkraut is done and can be either canned or put into the fridge.
Top tip: mix the kraut with a clean fork once a day during fermentation to let the gasses out – this way carbon dioxide won’t make it bitter.
Use as a side dish (great along with potatoes and sausages), put it into sandwich with pastrami or try making an eastern European dish with it (it is often used in a soup and in ragout).