Sauerkraut and Fermented Vegetables: Part 2

In my previous blog post (Part 1) I discussed Sauerkraut and Fermented Vegetables in general, and in my blog today I am going to run through the steps I take to make Sauerkraut. I’m going to take you through the steps from cabbage to kraut. I frequently add radishes to my Sauerkraut, partly to increase the amount of liquid that is released after adding the salt. So, today I am explaining how I made Red Cabbage and Daikon Radish Kraut. But, you can just use any type of cabbage.

First, here’s what I started with. I used one whole red cabbage and two small daikon radishes, and the cabbage weighed about 1kg (that’s a bit more than 2 lb). I don’t worry that much about getting an exact weight to the vegetables when trying to estimate salt. My strategy is to start by adding less salt than I need and gradually increasing the salt until it tastes salty enough.

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The next thing I did was to remove the blemished, tough outer leaves of the cabbage, and wash and remove the ends of the daikon radishes. Then I cut the cabbage in half and removed the hard core.

After I had cored the cabbage, I used my food processor to finely slice the cabbage and grate the Radishes. I use a food processor as it greatly speeds up the time taken to slice and grate the vegetables, but you could also use a fine mandoline slicer or knife to slice the cabbage, and regular grater to grate the radishes. This is what I had after I had finished slicing and grating them.

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Next I added the salt. I don’t use a starter, as there is enough good bacteria on the vegetables, and I’ve never had a problem making Sauerkraut without one. I do, however, use sea salt rather than regular table salt. Depending on how much cabbage and radishes I have, I usually start by adding three teaspoons of sea salt to the mixture of grated and sliced vegetables. After I massaged the vegetables to distribute the salt and start the release of liquid from them, or what I sometimes call playing with my food, I normally set the bowl aside for at least 10 minutes to give them time to release more juice. Then I taste the mixture to see if I need to add more salt. I ended up adding one more teaspoon of sea salt to get it just salty enough to taste, without over salting it. After I had finished massaging and salting the vegetables, this is what I had.

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As you can see, the cabbage and radish mixture had greatly reduced in volume after being massaged with salt. This is great, as I sometimes have too many vegetables to fit in a single bowl, so I end up putting the overflow in another bowl. So, once I’ve massaged the vegetables with salt, I can add the excess to the main ,jar, though I do not sterilise mine. I use glass weights to hold the vegetables under the brine, and an airlock system. However, you could also use a cabbage leaf as a primary follower with a glass jar holding the vegetables under the brine.

I usually leave my Sauerkraut for at least a month, and have been known to leave it even longer. I know other people say a week, but I find it tastes better when left longer. The main way I know it’s ready, is partly how it tastes, but I also know when it changes colour from a deep purple, to a bright red. I decanted my last batch a few days ago, so I can show what it usually looks like after a few weeks. Please note, my photos don’t really show it at its best, as my home is really dark.

So, I hope I’ve shown how simple and easy it is to make fermented vegetables like Sauerkraut. I still find it amazing how just salt can transform vegetables into a tangy, delicious taste sensation. And, you can ferment many more vegetables. While you’re waiting for your first batch of Sauerkraut to ferment, you could try making Zucchini Kraut with the method I’ve outlined above. It’s one of my favourites, and is ready really quickly. But, be warned: I start testing it after 3 days, and often it’s ready, especially if it’s summer.

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