When I first began eating and making fermented foods, I felt powerful. Fermenting anything is like making magic in a jar. You get to become a modern day kitchen alchemist. We help to transform simple foods into so much more.
Pirate Fact: Scurvy, a disease born of vitamin C deficiency, was a plague on long ship voyages until word spread that if the crew kept and ate sauerkraut while at sea, Scruvy was no longer a problem! When fermented, the vitamin C level in cabbage can increase 10-20 times it's original value. A delicious crisp addition to any meal that will aid you in digestion and imbue your body with greater immunity through a more diverse gut ecology! Arrrrrr!
I love to experiment with different processing techniques, fermentation vessels and more. But, guess what, y'all? That means I have to knead lots and lots of cabbage. Squeezing cabbage gets pretty tiresome after a while.
One day, I had started a batch of sauerkraut and just as I had completed about a minute of kraut kneading, I got a phone call that prompted me to leave for the rest of the day. I threw a cloth over my bowl of cabbage and ran out the door. When I returned home and looked in on my cabbage, I was surprised to see that it was nicely broken down and almost ready to pack in jars. I mixed and kneaded it for 1-2 minutes and packed it away. In a week or so, beautiful kraut was enjoyed by all.
This reminds me that when I work in concert with mother nature instead of trying to bend her to my will, beautiful results are yielded to my table.
You can use this method with any combination of veggies to be fermented so, this post is more about the method than the recipe for how to make sauerkraut. When I recently shared this little trick at The Real Food Symposium (above) an excited gasp went up from the crowd. I hope you find it equally magical.
Traditional sauerkraut ingredients
- 1 head cabbage, preferably organic
- 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt – find good quality sea salt here
- 1 quart sized mason jar (If you used a large head of cabbage, you may be able to fill an additional small jar as well)
Traditional sauerkraut method
- Remove core from head of cabbage.
- Shred cabbage into thin ribbons with a knife or food processor.*
- Place shredded cabbage in bowl.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sea salt over the cabbage.
- Knead/Squeeze the shredded cabbage for 1-3 minutes. Get into it! You are breaking the cabbage down and helping it to release its juices.
- Flatten the kraut into the bottom of your bowl and lay a clean tea towel over the bowl.
- Now, walk away and go about your day.
- At the end of your day (6-8 hours) at your convenience, knead your shredded cabbage for 1 more minute, mixing it all together.
- Add this soupy cabbage mixture to your fermentation vessel and press the cabbage down firmly. Really pack it in there. It should be 1 inch from the lid of your jar and should be covered at the top with the beautiful brine you have made.**
- Screw the lid on tight. Plastic lids will allow for expansion with greater ease than metal lids.
- Place your jar of culturing cabbage on a plate (to catch any brine that may be pushed out) and leave in a room temperature (70-85F) place for at least 1 week. When your kraut reaches desired fermentation (tart and crunchy), wipe up your jar and put it in the refrigerator.
*I like to thinly slice half the cabbage I'll be using and grate the other half. It is the perfect mix and you can perform both of these in almost any food processor.
**Remember my Fermented Veggie Mantra: “Below the Brine is Fine”
Want to see me ridiculously excited about fermenting and demonstrating kraut making?
This post was generously contributed by Monica Ford of Real Food Devotee. Monica's delicious recipes will make your mouth water and your tummy purr. If you're lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, Real Food Devotee can make your life easier by delivering nutrient dense goodies directly to your door.
Photo credit: An Eye Full Studio
I always wondered if a pasta roller would do a good job of kneading
Great, I will try this, since I always use water to add to cabbage!
dee m says
I am so happy to see this post for sauerkraut, my plan this year was to make it in a crock, but also in jars to give. I have over 20 plants partly under lights and some out in my cold frame now. I started these in March and am getting ready to start more seeds this week. I like to shred and stuff my semi hot banana peppers with cabbage and can them, so I guess you could say its a bit like kraut that packs a bit of a punch with heat. 🙂 I want to really get into fermentation this year. Thank you!!
monica ford says
Wow!! you are all so creative. I love it!
I started this yesterday and used half of a small cabbage to try it out. It only filled the mason jar about half way and I tried to pack it in there as tightly as possible to keep it covered with the brine. This morning there were a few brown pieces on top that weren’t submerged. Do I need to toss it? It didn’t smell bad. I just pulled them out and added a bit more salt water to cover it completely. I just don’t want to poison myself!
Hi, I tried this a few days ago, and when I checked it there was a lot of tan/browning going on. I scraped it off and added more salt and fresh water and pushed it back on. And was hoping to get some advice. Will it be ok to eat? What was happening?
My apt changes temperatures A LOT. Is there anything I can do to make sure the process works. Is my gas oven w/ the pilot light on too hot?
Hello there! I made salvadorian curtido last night and I just realized I mess up. I put FOUR tbsps. of salt instead of one. Will it ferment? Thank you
monica ford says
Hi @ Sophia
Your curtido will still ferment but, it will be super salty. If you want to save it, you can open the jar, add more ingredients excluding salt to the batch, re-jar and ferment. Good luck! xo Monica
Did I miss something? The title specifically said NO-KNEAD…but in #5 it says to knead/squeeze. Is there a way to do this without kneading? (arthritis)
Emily Bartlett says
Hi A, you’re really just working the salt through the cabbage for a couple minutes. You shouldn’t need to do this for long at all! You let it sit for some time rather than continuing to knead the cabbage. I hope that helps! xoxo Emily