Let the fermentation begin! Sauerkraut 101

After a lot of tinkering over the past year, I have found the Fido jar fermentation method to be an easy and consistent way to make crunchy, delicious sauerkraut every time. The Fido jars clamp down and seal to provide an anaerobic environment for the cabbage to ferment in, yet still allows for a small amount of gasses to escape without letting air back in.

Ingredients

I’m kind of a creature of habit…so when I find something I like, I tend to stick with it. Therefore, I have two basic/easy sauerkraut recipes to share: plain and a mildly-spicy jalapeño kraut (don’t be scared of the jalapeño…it’s really not spicy, very mild, but has a wonderful, zippy punch of flavor). There is an initial investment in buying the jars and basic supplies, but after the initial cost, you’ll save a considerable amount of money fermenting it yourself (and you can control how long it ferments, letting it go for a few weeks or more to increase the number of healthy bacteria that grow).

Basic Supplies:

  • 50-ounce Fido Jar
    make sure you get the real Fido jars and not the cheap imitations, you want to make sure the clamps are strong since they’ll be under some pressure with the fermentation process. I got mine on Amazon.
  • Fermentation weights
    I didn’t use these when I first started fermenting cabbage and I was always concerned about my brine bubbling and pushing up the cabbage in my jar, once I started using the weights, everything stayed under the brine and made the fermentation process even more foolproof. (When it comes to fermenting, one of the best rules of thumb is “under the brine is fine.”) I have both of the following fermentation weights that I use: tempered weights and regular glass weights.
  • Food Retainer Cups
    I use these in conjunction with the glass fermentation weights and it adds to the foolproof ease of making sauerkraut. You could probably do without them, but they are very inexpensive and definitely worth it. Once again, I found these on Amazon.
  • Food Scale (makes it easy to measure and satisfies my OCD…)

Fermentation weights

Ingredients
Basic version:

  • Cabbage (3 lbs…about 2 small/medium cabbages)
  • Salt (2 Tablespoons; I follow the general rule of 2tsp. of salt per pound of cabbage/vegetables)
    I prefer to use Redmond’s Real Salt (Fine), it’s a delicious ancient sea salt mined in central Utah.

Jalapeño kraut:

  • Cabbage (40 oz. (just under 3lbs) & Salt (2 TB)
  • 8 total ounces of the following vegetables:
    Daikon Radish (small chunk)
    Onion (about a quarter of an onion)
    Carrots (1 or 2 carrots max)
    Jalapeño (1…you can use all or just part of one if you’re worried about the spice…be sure to remove the seeds)

Instructions:

  1. Cut the cabbage in quarters and slice out the inner core (you don’t want to make sauerkraut with that); save one or two of the top outer leaves of the cabbage…you’ll find out why in step 7.
    Cut cabbage
  2. Use a food scale to measure 48 ounces of cabbage (3lbs) for the basic version or 40 ounces of cabbage for the jalapeño version (If you’re making the jalpeño version, also measure 8 total ounces of a combination of daikon radish, onion, carrots, and jalapeño).
    Measured cabbageMeasured vegetables
  3. Slice the cabbage into small strips. Place cabbage in a large bowl (I use a large baking dish) and sprinkle with salt. I like to put down a layer of cabbage slices, sprinkle with salt, put down another layer of cabbage and then sprinkle with salt, etc. until all 2TB of salt and cabbage have been used.
    (If you’re making the jalapeño version, go ahead and chop up the rest of the vegetables. You can finely chop, grate, or put them in a food processor (which is what I do…it’s quick).
    sliced cabbagefood processorsprinkle with salt
  4. Let the cabbage and salt sit for a while…maybe 30 minutes…until the cabbage starts to weep, it will start looking wet and dewy (if you’re making the jalapeño version, throw all your chopped vegetables on top of the pile of salted cabbage).
    let the sauerkraut sit
  5. After 30 minutes or so, start to crush and mix the cabbage with your hands…just get in there and squeeze and crunch it…it will start getting very pliable and smushy…
    smashkraut
  6. Once the cabbage is crunched and easy to work with, start packing it into the Fido jar. You want to drop it into the jar and then get in there and pack it down. Packing it down will ensure the brine you are creating by crunching the cabbage will remain on top…remember “under the brine is fine” for fermenting vegetables 🙂
    sauerkraut ready to jarput sauerkraut in jarpunch down sauerkraut
  7. Once you’ve packed your jar full (if you’re making the basic version, you may need to leave a little bit out so the jar isn’t too full) dump any remaining juices left in your bowl/dish and pour it into the Fido jar, then take one of the big outer cabbage leaves you saved and cut it roughly into a circle about the size of what would fit in your jar on top of the sauerkraut (this just helps to keep all the little floater pieces down below the brine while it ferments) and set it on top of the cabbage.
    full jar sauerkrautcabbage leaf circleadd cabbage leaf to jarcabbage leaf keeping sauerkraut down
  8. Then, drop in your glass weight and stick the plastic Food Retainer Cup on top of the weight (teeth side down) and shut the Fido jar.
    adding fermentation weights to cabbageclose sauerkraut jar

Be sure to label your jar with the date you are making the sauerkraut. Then, find a spot for it to hang out for awhile (out of sunlight and at room temperature). The minimum fermenting time should be two weeks…but the longer you let it ferment, the more robust/delicious the flavor and the more bacteria that grow. I keep mine in the pantry and let it ferment for at least FOUR weeks. Be sure to put the jar on a plate or in a dish…because as it ferments, the gasses will push the cabbage up and draw out more water…and you’ll end up with some brine seeping out of the jar…lots of activity going on in there!
cabbage in closet

When you’re ready to open your sauerkraut and eat it, it shouldn’t have any mold and it should not smell foul (trust your sense of smell and taste buds). Be careful when you open it…if you had a really tight seal and a lot of fermenting activity, it might act like a can of shaken soda and the juices will explode out when you release the Fido jar clamp 🙂 Just open it slowly. If you made the jalapeño version, it will probably have picked up an orange-ish/pink-ish hue from the carrots, which is fine…you just don’t want it pink when all you have is plain cabbage in there. You should also be able to see gas bubbles throughout the cabbage. Give it a taste and it should be crunchy and delicious. Fermented vegetables (including sauerkraut) have a tangy, zippy taste…that’s the best I can describe it 🙂
mykrautindish

Once you’ve opened your jar, be sure to store it in the fridge after that. If you’re new to sauerkraut, you may need to work up to how much your digestive system can tolerate (a sudden influx of probiotics and fibrous vegetables into your system that you’re not used to might make things a little more regular or urgent than what you’re used to!).

I pretty much eat sauerkraut with every meal all day long…so I go through one of these large 50-ounce jars about every 6 days 🙂  Enjoy! If you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

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