Sauerkraut is a crunchy, sour and healthy condiment made entirely from cabbage and salt via the process of lactic acid fermentation and the aid of kindly bacteria. Not only are these bacteria good for your gut and immune system, sauerkraut is heaving with vitamins and minerals. You can buy special fermenting crocks for this process, but I find using what you have is normally fine, especially when you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend money unnecessarily. This kraut is the perfect garnish for a hot dog, topped with Umami Ketchup and Pickled Mustard Seeds.
1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) white cabbage
1 tablespoons sea salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Makes 1 × 1 litre (34 fl oz) jar
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, keeping them to pack the sauerkraut in its jar later on. Slice the cabbage on a mandoline (or use a sharp knife to get the slices really thin), and toss in a bowl.
Add the salt and scrunch and squeeze together with your hands for 15 minutes. At the end, you should have a pool of salty cabbage liquid. If there’s enough liquid to cover your cabbage fully, you’ve done a good job squeezing.
When the cabbage starts to feel limp and releases water, mix in the caraway seeds. Start transferring it to a large, sterilised jar. Once you’ve filled up half of the jar, press it down hard with your hands to get rid of any air bubbles. Then add the rest, making sure to leave a few centimetres of air on the top. You want to ensure the cabbage is covered by its own liquid. Push the outer cabbage leaves on top to help keep the kraut submerged, pressing down hard to reduce any air bubbles, and then fill a zip-lock bag with water and put this on top, leaving the kraut tightly packed in the jar. Put on the lid.
Leave to rest at room temperature (away from direct sunlight) for 2 weeks. Test the kraut every few days until you like the flavour. If you prefer more tang, just leave it at room temperature a bit longer. When you’re happy with it, transfer it to a smaller vessel or vessels and refrigerate. It will keep for 6 months in the fridge.
Here are a few suggestions for kraut, but you can get creative and just add whatever you like and see what works!
Ginger & Lemon Kraut
Add 1 grated carrot, a 3 cm (1¼ in) piece of ginger, grated,
1 tablespoon of black sesame seeds and the juice of half a lemon after the scrunching stage.
Use red cabbage and add 2 sliced jalapeños after the scrunching stage.
If you don’t have enough liquid to cover the cabbage, make a 2 per cent brine solution: 1 tablespoon of salt with 1 litre (34 fl oz) of water. Add as much as you need to submerge the kraut.
If any mould and gunk starts to form, just skim it off. The kraut will be fine, as it’s preserved by the lactic acid.
Sit the jar on a small dish as the kraut can burp and leak over from the jar during the fermentation process.
This is an edited extract from Pickled by Freddie Janssen published by Hardie Grant $29.99 available in stores nationally.