Here's an easy and healthy winter fermentation recipe that will literally bring life to that long-forgotten cabbage.
Most people are not prone to excitement about sauerkraut. But if you are among those that have overlooked sauerkraut, you have been missing the simplicity, as well as nutritious bounty, of possibly the best culinary use of cabbage there is.
Sauerkraut, like any other fermented food, follows a transformative process where taste and texture have been altered by the introduction of beneficial bacteria or fungi, otherwise known as lacto-fermentation. Beneficial is the point to stress in this recipe. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut are extremely high in vitamins—often in higher concentrations than the raw vegetables used to make the kraut—and are loaded with beneficial microbes and enzymes simply not found in cooked and commercially processed foods.
Of all things lacto-fermented, sauerkraut is likely the easiest, most customizable, and risk-free of the fermentation recipes to tackle. Think of it as the gateway recipe to fermentation.
1 medium head of green (or red, if you like color) cabbage (outer leaves removed)
6-to-8 medium-sized Brussels sprouts (washed with stem and outer leaves removed)
1½ tablespoons of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of caraway seeds (or cumin seeds, if you prefer)
2-quart canning jar
1 cutting board
1 sharp chef’s knife
1 large mixing bowl
1 thin, but clean, cloth
1 rubber band
When starting a fermentation project, be certain that all of your materials and equipment are thoroughly cleaned with hot water and soap. Some people prefer to boil their canning jars to sterilize them, but it's not necessary.
Slice the cabbage in half and then into quarters, discarding the hard inner core. Then slice each quarter into thin strips, no longer than 8-inches and no wider than ½ inch. Slice the Brussels sprouts in half and then slice each one thinly.
Mix together sliced cabbage and Brussels spouts in the mixing bowl along with the salt. With clean hands, start massaging the salt into the vegetables, taking care to firmly, but gently, squeeze and mix all the ingredients together. If you are using red cabbage, the contents of your mixing bowl will turn a brilliant shade of purple. Keep mixing for 8-to-10 minutes until your vegetables lose much of their raw quality. Add the caraway seeds (or cumin seeds, if you choose) to the mixture and combine.
With your hands, start packing the vegetable mixture into your canning jar. Be sure to press down the contents of the jar, packing it tightly. Add any liquid from the mixing bowl into the canning jar. You want the vegetable mixture to be submerged in its own liquid. If your vegetables are old or a bit dry, you can add a bit of salt water to get the liquid brine level up above the vegetables.
Cover the jar with a thin clean cloth and tie it off with a rubber band to allow for minimal air flow, while keeping insects and ambient dust out of the kraut. Store the jar between 60 and 75 degrees out of direct sunlight for 24 hours, periodically tamping it down to keep it submerged under the brine. It is now deeply engaged in the process of fermentation.
Ferment the mixture in this fashion for 4-to-10 days. Be sure to monitor the kraut, tamping it down under the brine each day. During this fermentation period, you might see bubbles or white scum form on the top of the mixture. This is an indicator that fermentation is in action. Feel free to skim off the scum. Sample the mixture each day until it takes on the right level of savory tanginess and is to your liking. Once this occurs, replace the cloth top with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to four months. (It is advisable to use either a plastic top or a bit of parchment paper on the inside of the lid, as some of the sauerkraut can be very acidic and may corrode the metal lid.)