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.
What Inspired This Recipe
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, or try Lacto Fermented Garlic Scapes which are made in the same method as this red sauerkraut.
Flavors of Sauerkraut
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!
Step By Step Instructions
Start by gathering you jars and ingredients. Make sure all equipment is perfectly clean.
Shred your cabbage finely. Using a mandoline helps make evenly sized pieces and makes quick work fo shredding it. Alternatively, a sharp knife works well too.
Make your brine. The simple solution of filtered or otherwise unchlorinated water and pure salt is the perfect mixture. Use kosher or sea salt that doesn't have any extra additives.
Fill your jars with any spices, herbs and flavorings. Then pack shredded cabbage in tightly leaving an inch of space at the top. Finish by pouring brine mixture over so it covers cabbage.
Top with a weight, whether homemade or storebought and then a lid. Using an airlock or pickle pipe is great, but you can also use a regular canning lid if that's all you have. Simply open and reclose the lid once a day to "burp" the jars. This allows the build up of gas to be released.
Let your ferment (cabbage with spices and brine) sit for 7-10 days. It will likely get cloudy for a few days before clearing again. Ferment as long as you like until it is to your liking. Taste test it after 7 days and then every 2 days after until you decide it has the pickled flavor you love.
Once you are happy with the flavor, top it with a regular canning jar lid and store in your refrigerator or cold storage. Enjoy it right away or a little bit at a time. The beneficial bacteria keep this from going bad so it will keep easily up to 3 months as long as no foreign bacteria are introduced.
What Foods Are 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.
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.
Tips and Tricks for Foolproof Fermenting
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. The other thing you might like is an airlock device. You can use a paper coffee filter with an elastic band if you like, but if you do a lot of fermenting, you might like a reusable one like the Pickle Pipes I carry or a simple water airlock device. (Here's my shop page of growing, culturing and fermenting supplies.)
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!
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Have a wonderful and delicious day,
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 tablespoon Peppercorns
- 2 teaspoon Caraway seeds optional
- 3 tablespoon 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 tablespoon 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 ½ tablespoon peppercorns and 1 teaspoon 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 shredded veggies submerged. 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.
- Once the initial fermentation period is over (it is over when you decide you like how it tastes), it is ready to enjoy. Typically this will take 7-10 days. Once finished to your taste, top with a regular canning lid and move jar to cold storage or 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.