Why Make Your Own Raw Sauerkraut?
It’s cheap, relatively easy to make, and somehow since the mid 2000’s it has made hundreds of neo-hippies richer than the average human. One might ask, how did this phenomenon occur? How might cabbage, one of the least expensive vegetables to purchase, become a get-rich-quick scheme? The answer is simple: marketing, copy, and social media strategy. Explaining how that works might devolve into, erm, slightly unfocused and potentially threatening territory–as in, raw sauerkraut companies the world over might come knocking at my door with a cease and desist letter or I could perhaps get “served”, so…let us proceed with how to make the stuff, shall we?
I’ve made my own sauerkraut since 2006 when I discovered Rejuvinative Foods’ “raw vegan, 100% organic, sea-salted gluten-free, gmo-free, delicious, cultured, fresh-pure, probiotic, trans-fat free, artisan, delicious, cultured raw sauerkraut with active enzymes” as an employee at Whole Foods Market. Did I mention it’s raw sauerkraut? Yeah I did, but apparently this brand felt the need to over-state itself. It’s like bottled water, when labeled “gluten-free”. Anyway, post high school graduation I moved to Ashland, Oregon to study theatre (and later anthopology, Spanish language/culture, and photography), where I discovered a natural food co-op that sold a new brand of raw kraut manufactured in the same town. Pickled Planet, I think it’s called. A handful of other brands exist now, including one manufactured in none other than Sonoma County, California (where I grew up). Yet still–if I were to endorse a purchase of any brand of raw vegan sauerkraut–I would still go with Rejuvinative Foods’, mainly because I like how it still looks vintage and truly hippie with its crunchy-granola Birckinstock-wearing, Moosewood Restaurant-esque design/packaging and seemingly-intentional 1990’s website. That being said…
Raw Sauerkraut isn’t Rocket Science
Here’s how it’s done:
1 head of cabbage, green or red/purple.
2 Tbsp salt, or sea salt, or pink himalayan salt if you really want to get fancy.
Water (I use tap water when in the states or a country that treats its tap water with iodine…but you can also use distilled, bottled, or reverse osmosis if you have access to it, can afford to purchase it, or whatever.
Cutting board, paper plate, or anything capable of acting as a device upon which to chop cabbage.
Knife (non-serrated is best; of course one designed for culinary use is ideal…but a Swiss army knife will do the trick. Truthfully, any knife will work…I’ve even used a plastic one in a pinch). A standard cheese grater is another fine option.
Large metal, glass, or plastic bowl.
Gallon-size Ziplock bag.
Glass jar(s) (Mason/Ball jars). I prefer to use vintage/antique canning jars like these here:
which are now sold in bulk at Walmart, Fred Meyer, and practically anywhere as a throwback to the original purple jars from the early 1900s. My blue glass Mason/Ball jars are actually vintage; I bought the purple set at Walmart. Still, sometimes I prefer to use the clear variety, to better showcase the sauerkraut. I prefer to use my blue glassware because the lids clamp, but clear Mason glassware is available with clamped lids also (they even sell the knockoff version at the Dollar Tree, FYI):
Using your knife or cheese grater, shred the cabbage. Then transfer it to the bowl.
Add approximately 2 Tablespoons of your salt of choice. Using the tongs, mix the cabbage until the salt causes it to appear slightly cooked (the shredded cabbage should release moisture and shrink in size). Reserve a few larger cabbage leaves to later place at the top of the jar in Step 4.
Transfer cabbage to your jar(s). You must tightly pack the cabbage in order for it to ferment correctly. This is where the wooden spoon comes in handy. Don’t let it cross your mind that you could ever pack the cabbage too tightly. When in doubt, always err on the side of whipping that cabbage into shape, so to speak. Otherwise it won’t become kraut. Got it? Good.
Cover with water and the reserved larger cabbage leaves from Step 2.
*To properly ferment sauerkraut it is essential let no air remain in the shredded cabbage mixture.
**The brine created by the shredded cabbage releases a sufficient amount of moisture for the fermentation process to occur. Even so, I sometimes add a bit more water to the jar. As a rule, the water level must be slightly higher than the pulverized cabbage.
***This probably won’t be necessary, but sometimes I’ve needed to fill a ziplock bag with salt water to “weigh down” the pulverized/shredded cabbage. Place the ziplock filled with salt water on top of the larger cabbage leaf layer from Step 4. Using salt water is essential in this case; fresh water would alter the fermentation process and run the risk of a spoiled kraut situation.
Store the kraut for 5-7 days.
*If the temperature in your home tends to fluctuate, I recommend going the saltwater-ziplock route to ensure a regulated temperature. Typically I let my kraut ferment for 7 days, but I taste-test it on the 5th day (it’s not a precise science, due to factors such as different types of glassware, variation of the cabbage i.e. when and where it was picked/manufactured). Just make sure to check the liquid level(s) of each jar (make sure the water level is higher than the cabbage before re-sealing your jar(s).
Once the sauerkraut has reached your preferred level of tartness/sour quality, discard the saltwater ziplock and outer leaves. Then enjoy the probiotic and nutritional benefits that kraut has to offer, knowing you saved $8-10 per jar.
*Recipes to come: DIY Kimchee, Sea Kraut, Beet Kraut, and triple-threat healing kraut (burdock, red clover, and dandelion). I wish you all the best of luck (you’ll be fine, I promise you DIY kraut-making is foolproof). Sincerely, Kelsey aka the source of all your paleovegan needs. :)