People sometimes ask us when we have time to preserve; my answer sometimes surprises them. Making Sauerkraut can take less than 5 minutes (and some patience as it ferments) and is one of the easiest things you can possibly preserve. Sometimes I preserve because we don’t have a lot of time! Preserving does not need to be a lot of work or take a lot of effort.
When I scanned the fridge last night I realized that we had a third of a cabbage that was turning the corner from peak freshness to something less than usable. I considered making a soup or a stir fry but didn’t want to embark on a significant project. Transforming cabbage into kraut takes very little effort (although it takes time to ferment).
Although you can ferment without measuring, I’m a fan of weighing everything – this makes the process more repeatable (and predictable). We purchased a kitchen scale 5 or 6 years ago for $30 and haven’t looked back.
Most vegetable ferments are based on combining 5 pounds of vegetables with 3 tablespoons of salt. This means every pound of food is combined with approximately 1.8 teaspoons of salt (you could weigh it to be more accurate as well; I’m more worried about the weight of the product than the salt). Salt will slow the fermentation (too much will cease it altogether) so it’s ok to be conservative.
Our cabbage was almost a pound. I chopped it fine and weighed it in a large bowl. I then spent a few minutes breaking the cabbage down by crunching it in my fists. Breaking the cabbage down like this breaks its cell structure and allows liquids to escape easier.
Cover the pot and leave on the counter for a few hours or overnight.
Place the cabbage and any liquid into a wide-mouthed mason jar. Use a smaller jar to press firmly on the contents. If your cabbage is covered with liquid, leave the jar on top and taste every day (bubbles, like you see in the picture above, are a sign that fermentation has started). Leave the smaller jar in the larger one to stop the cabbage from floating and cover with a towel (I use a coffee filter like this).
If there isn’t enough liquid, dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt into 1 cup of water (you’ll need to boil and cool it if it has chlorine in it – I used the water we boiled and didn’t use for tea yesterday).
The warmer your climate, the quicker your sauerkraut will ferment. To slow (and essentially stop) the fermentation process, place it in your fridge where it will last a very long time.
The total working time was under 5 minutes; and a lot of that time could be cut if I did it while preparing a meal (i.e. I would save time having to clean my knife, set up cutting board, and other preparation that would be done while I cooked dinner).