In this week’s Martin & Sylvia: More Adventures story “Pickles for Pickles”, Momma decides that everyone should choose a favorite pickled food as part of preserving this year’s harvest—pickled cabbage for Martin and Daddy, eggs for Sylvia, and beets for Momma.
Pickled cabbage — which most of you probably know as sauerkraut — is one of my favorites, too. It’s amazing with spicy bratwursts, adds a nice tang to grilled cheese, and even makes a tasty side dish on its own.
It’s also easy enough that it makes a great first project for anyone new to the world of fermenting foods. With cabbage available most of the year and no special equipment required, there’s almost no reason not to take a shot at making your own sauerkraut.
All you’ll need is a head of cabbage, a few jars, some salt, any seasoning you’d like to add, and a little bit of time. The amount of time for which you’ll allow the cabbage to ferment is solely a matter of personal taste. I like mine lightly fermented—about 3-4 days—but many people allow their cabbage to ferment for 10 days or more.
The cabbage will bubble as it ferments and possibly even form a white scum on the surface. As always when preserving at home, use your best judgement, but the scum is usually a sign that everything is going as it should. Just scrape it off as it appears and let your sauerkraut continue to bubble away.
1 medium head of cabbage
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon dill (or other seasoning)
To avoid introducing unwanted bacteria, make sure all of your tools and jars are scrupulously clean to start. Then, core the head of cabbage and shred it thinly. Put it into a large bowl with the salt and dill. Using your clean hands and/or a potato masher, massage or beat the cabbage for about 10 minutes. It should shrink in volume and start to give off it’s own liquid.
Once the cabbage has really started to go limp, pack it tightly into a large mason jar and pour the liquid over the top. You should have close to enough liquid to cover the cabbage, but if not you can top it off with some bottled water. Press a smaller jam jar or ramekin filled with bottled water into the top of the jar to hold the cabbage under the liquid and top with a clean dish towel or coffee filter to keep out dust.
(Note: Pictured is an old hinge-lidded jar that I like to use to make kraut. My ramekin fits perfectly inside and the lid [not sealed!] makes a good weight on top. I then cover the whole contraption with a towel. If you don’t have one of these lying around, regular mason jars—one large enough to hold the cabbage, one small enough to fit inside the mouth of the larger one—will work just fine, too.)
Let the cabbage sit at room temperature for 3-10 days, tasting it every few days to decide when it’s just right for you. Move it to a container with a lid that will seal (or put a lid on the jar you’re already using), and store it in the fridge to stop the fermentation. There it will keep for at least 2 months.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.