I play around a lot with fermenting foods and souring veggies. My absolute favorite is spicy, fiery, salty, tangy kimchi. However, a lot of people can’t take the heat or the combination of flavors… or, they just prefer something milder.
This leads me to this compromise. I’m not a huge fan of sauerkraut in its purest form: cabbage and salt. I mean, I’ll eat it. No problem. But for me, it can be bland or boring (especially compared to the gingery garlicky goodness of kimchi).
So a few weeks ago I put together a sort of a combo-kraut. I threw in just a tiny amount of red pepper flakes for a little bit of heat, and an entire head of garlic – which surprisingly I can barely taste in the final product. I chopped up celery, mostly because I had some on hand, and added a few shredded carrots and onion. Mustard and coriander seeds made their way into my mortar and pestle. My ingredient list was longer than normal but so, so easy to throw together.
And, by the way, if you use a purple cabbage with a green cabbage you get hot pink sauerkraut!
Sauerkraut is so simple to make that I’m amazed when I see someone buying it. Plus, making your own exposes you to the wonder that is fermentation. And you’ll avoid super high sodium kraut, or (gasp!) kraut that has actually been cooked, killing all the great bacteria which makes it so healthy.
There are a few things to watch out for when fermenting stuff:
- Avoid metal materials. You can use metal spoons to mix your ingredients, but never use a metal vessel for the fermentation process.
- Avoid iodized salt. You won’t get a fermentation going with iodized salt. Instead, you’ll make rotten cabbage. Which is gross. Trust me, I’ve tried it. Use sea salt or kosher salt.
- During the fermentation, check it every day or so to make sure your vegetables aren’t absorbing the brine, thereby exposing themselves to oxygen. If it happens, just scrape off the top layer of veggies and add more brine.
- Don’t worry about the white film that might show up at the surface of the brine. Scoop it off with a spoon, it’s no big deal.
- Never seal your fermenting vessel with a very tight lid. The thing needs to breathe, or it may break with the pressure of the gases it is releasing.
Other than those points, fermenting is easy-peasy. There isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong.
For Bosque-kraut, simply slice your cabbage and add it to a large bowl. I toss in a few handfuls of cabbage followed by a sprinkling of sea salt to help the salt spread evenly. Salt with leech water out of the cabbage, causing it to wilt. The salt and the water will create the brine that the veggies ferment in.
While the salt is working its magic, I work my magic on the additional spices and veggies. The carrots are grated and everything else is chopped up or ground and combined.
Then I add the veggies to the cabbage, and… that’s just about it. I smash the cabbage well to extract even more water from it before adding everything to my food-grade bucket. Inside the bucket, I press it all down until the brine completely covers the vegetables. A plate and a weight go on top to be sure that the vegetables won’t have access to any air, and yup, that’s it. A few weeks later and I’ve got sauerkraut.
Brian and I have been enjoying this particular batch of kraut a lot. I’ll save the last bit of it to inoculate the next batch I make, keeping the good strains living!
What are your favorite ingredients to add to soured cabbage?
Soured cabbage that can be served as a side to nearly any dish, or enjoyed as a healthy snack.
- 2 heads cabbage, sliced thin
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 3 carrots, shredded
- 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 T mustard seeds, ground
- 1 T coriander seeds, ground
- 1 T crushed red pepper flakes or minced hot pepper
- 2-4 T course sea salt
- Prepare cabbage.
- Add a quarter of the cabbage to a large bowl, then salt it lightly. Continue adding the cabbage and salting it. Leave to wilt for 1-3 hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Combine them well.
- When the cabbage has wilted a bit, add the spice and vegetable mixture to the cabbage and mix it up. Using your hands, squeeze the cabbage and the spices together well.
- Put your ingredients into a fermenting vessel; either a crock or a food-grade plastic bucket.
- Press the cabbage mixture down until enough brine is extracted to cover all of the ingredients. Place a plate and a weight on top of the mixture, taking care that no cabbage is exposed to oxygen.
- If you aren’t able to extract enough brine, just add salted water until your mixture is covered.
- Place the crock in a place where the smell of fermenting cabbage won’t bother anyone, and cover with a towel or cheesecloth to keep bugs away.
- Test the sauerkraut after a week of fermentation, and every few days after that until the sourness is how you like it.
- Either store your kraut in your refrigerator to slow fermentation, or just leave it to ferment further. It gets sourer with age.