Prep time | 30 mins plus three to seven days for fermentation
Making sauerkraut is deceptively easy, so I implore you to try it out for yourself. Cabbage is the star of the show in this dish, and quite rightly so: it is packed with natural isothiocyanate compounds, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Once fermented, it is teeming with beneficial lactobacillus bacteria which help increase the healthy flora in the intestinal tract and in turn can help support your immune system.
There is always room to get creative. Feel free to substitute any type of cabbage in this recipe and add seasonings as desired. In the past, I’ve used caraway seeds, juniper berries, garlic, dill, chili, ginger, and turmeric.
Sauerkraut is good for you. Make a bunch and eat it frequently, alone or as an accompaniment to anything you wish. Your body will thank you!
Medium head cabbage (about 3 to 4 lbs)
1½ tablespoons salt
Seasoning (as desired)
Two 32 oz. wide-mouth mason jars
Pickle pebbles, or jar weights (just another smaller wide mouth mason jar also works)
Rubber band or twine
Wash glass mason jars with boiling hot water, and dry in a 160°C or 320°F oven for ten minutes to sterilize.
- Remove the outer leaves of your cabbage and set aside.
- Thinly shred the rest of the cabbage, discarding the core when you come to it.
- Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt, and mix well. Let it sit for 30 minutes to one hour. The cabbage will begin to sweat as it begins to wilt.
- Use your hands to massage and squeeze the cabbage for several minutes until it becomes watery and limp as it releases its juices. Add any seasonings that you have chosen and mix well.
- Pack the cabbage into sterilized jars with force a little at a time, packing down each layer as you go, allowing the liquid to rise to the surface. Pour any additional liquid from the bowl into the jars with cabbage. Fill the jars a little more than three-quarters full.
- Use the reserved cabbage leaves to cover the compacted cabbage. Press down until there is a good layer of liquid covering the leaves.
- Place a heavy object on the top of the cabbage. (A full jam jar or some clean stones to help weigh it down will work.)
- Cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth and a rubber band or twine. This will allow air to pass in and out of the jar.
- For the first 24 hours of the fermentation process, you will need to press the cabbage down every so often in order to ensure that the cabbage stays submerged beneath the brine. Over time, the cabbage will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise to the surface.
- If after 24 hours you find that there isn't enough liquid, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of water and add more liquid to the cabbage.
- Keep in a dry spot at room temperature for three to ten days. Check daily to ensure the liquid is always covering the cabbage and that none of the cabbage is exposed to air.
- While the cabbage is fermenting, bubbles will rise to the surface. This shows that the fermentation process is working. If you see scum or if any mold begins to appear, remove and discard.
- After seven days, the sauerkraut will have reached peak nutrition; however, make sure to taste after three days. Once it gets a nice tangy flavor, you’re ready to go.
- Once you have reached your desired level of fermentation, remove the cheesecloth and weights from the jar and close with a lid. Store in the fridge.
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Recipe written by Laura Louise Oates for Youth To The People
Photo of Laura Louise Oates by Alex Kenealy for Youth To The People; sauerkraut photo courtesy of the author