Lacto fermented sauerkraut is easy
Have you tried making sauerkraut before? Have you tried red cabbage sauerkraut? This is a simple recipe made in the traditional way of lacto fermenting. Don’t be scared off by the term, I will show you how truly easy it is to lacto ferment your own red cabbage sauerkraut with just a few simple ingredients. Once you try this, you’ll never buy it again!
Pickling can be done by using a strong vinegar mixture or by brining and fermenting. I will be walking you through the fermenting style. Fermented foods are excellent for gut health with all the probiotics.
Making sauerkraut the traditional way is a simple process that is returning in popularity. The result is a distinct tart and complex flavor full of healthy probiotic bacteria and great for gut health.
The basics are clean uniformly sized produce, a salt water brine and a non-porous jar or crock to keep the fermenting food submerged, creating a safe and airless environment. Fruit and vegetables naturally contain the right bacteria (lactobacillus) to do this job with little intervention from you, creating a naturally pickled flavor.
Flavors of Sauerkraut
I was introduced to sauerkraut from my Great Grandfather who immigrated from the Ukraine. He grew his own vegetables and fermented his own sauerkraut. While many people assume sauerkraut is German, Wikipedia hypothesizes that it was started in China and was then brought to Europe. Many Eastern European countries make their own regional recipes now.
I love the Ukrainian food of my memories. My grandparents and great grandparents made all sorts of delicious traditional foods that I truly love and crave. You can check out my Ukrainian borscht recipe here, which was inspired by them too.
Sauerkraut is traditionally made with white cabbage. Red cabbage works just as well with a slightly sweeter flavor and a stunning color that will add life to any plate. My preference is the sweeter red cabbage sauerkraut. Fermented cabbage has a pleasantly tangy, natural vinegar flavor. It is bold and complex with a pleasing crunch. This preservation method is fairly salty. While fine in small quantities if you want to eat more as a side dish, it is best to rinse a little salt out first.
Herbs, spices and extra fruit and vegetable additions will also change the flavor. While cabbage is the main ingredient, there are many flavor combinations. Shredded apple, beet or carrot, cranberries, caraway seeds, juniper berries and even white wine each define regional specialties. Korean kimchi is made with the same method but adds hot red pepper, yum!
What else is fermented?
Other common and simple to make fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, many vegetable pickles, kimchi, miso and even fish. You may feel concerned about spoilage if doing it yourself for the first time but this traditional method is safer than most people realize.
What do you eat with red cabbage sauerkraut?
Options are plenty from my favorite Ukrainian dishes of pierogis and kielbasa, to French and German recipes like choucroute garnie or franks. It makes a tangy, crunchy crisp foil as a side dish with sausage or pork dishes.
Top a hot dog or make a Reuben sandwich. This unique pickled cabbage defines a Reuben sandwich which is corned beef with swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing or mustard on grilled rye bread. You can add it as a filling in pierogis too.
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My recipe is very simple and instead of massaging all the ingredients as some do, I prefer to make a simple salt water brine. This is to ensure my cabbage is completely submerged and has the right level of salt for safety.
This is as fail safe a recipe as you can do and if all your supplies are clean and you keep your ferment submerged, you shouldn’t have any problems. An important tool is a fermenting weight. This can just be a small non-porous plate that fits in the top of your jar or a glass weight made specifically for this job. Either works well.
Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, try adding in different spices or shredded apple, carrot or beet to this recipe to make it your own! Please don’t hesitate to ask questions below if you need more information or trouble shooting tips!
Red Cabbage Sauerkraut
- 2 1-Quart wide mouth mason jars (sterilize with boiling water before using)
- Optional: airlock lids or pickle pipe tops for mason jars, glass fermenting weights
- 6 cups Red Cabbage
- 1 Tbsp Peppercorns
- 2 tsp Caraway seeds optional
- 3 tbsp Kosher salt
- 6 cups Filtered water or boiled 20 minutes and cooled to remove chlorine if on city water
- Make a brine of 6 cups water to 3 Tbsp sea salt and stir to dissolve.
- Peel off outer leaves of cabbage, cut in half, remove core and thinly slice or shred. You can use a food processor to shred if you like.
- Place 1/2 tbsp peppercorns and 1 tsp caraway seeds in the bottom of each quart jar. Add shredded cabbage on top of spices and pack it in as evenly as possible, leaving slightly more than an inch of headspace at top of jar.
- Pour brine over red cabbage, leaving 1 inch of headspace (you may have some brine leftover). Top with fermenting weight to keep radishes submerged. If you don’t have a fermenting weight or something similar, fill a small plastic bag with about ½ c water, seal and put on top of your veg. It is important to keep your cabbage submerged.
- Close jar with airlock or pickle pipe and fasten gently with jar ring. If you don’t have the special lids, put regular canning jar lids on and undo it once or twice a day to release gases (burping the jar) or use a coffee filter secured on top. Leave to ferment at room temperature 5-10 days. These will likely turn cloudy as it starts fermenting and small bubbles will occasionally be rising. This is normal. (Using some type of lid helps ensure no foreign bacteria gets in while the fermenting is happening.)
- Once the initial fermentation period is over (it is over when you decide you like how it tastes), it is ready to enjoy. Mine typically take 7-10 days until I am happy with the flavor. Top with a regular canning lid and move jar to cold storage if not storing in your refrigerator.
- Kept in the fridge, this will keep easily for 3 months or longer. In cold storage, you should plan to use within 3 months. Usually this won't actually go "bad" but will lose the crispness and bright color if left longer. If you end up with mold or a horrible smell that is not like vinegar and cabbage, toss it out and start again with fresh sterilized jars.