Recipe: Basic Cabbage Fermentation

Early Spring brings a true excitement to the garden as seeds go in the ground and shoots begin to appear, but we sometimes find it bit frustrating for our plates as few veggies are truly in season right now.  The gourds and root veggies we put in storage at the end of our fall harvest are either gone or have lost their freshness, which leaves us thinking, there has got to be a better way to hold on to our vegetables long term. Enter, fermentation. Fermentation is one of the oldest methods of preserving food, dating back to 6000 BCE. Not only is this technique about as tried and true as it gets, fermentation comes with a bevy of nutritional benefits.

 So we’ve put together an easy cabbage fermentation guide to prepare us for what is sure to be our biggest harvest yet!

Basic Fermentation: Cabbage
Makes 2 Quart Sized Mason Jars

Ingredients:

1 large head of red or cabbage (5-6 pounds)
2 teaspoons sea salt

Optional:

1 cup shredded carrots
6 garlic cloves, crushed and minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 ½ teaspoons ginger root, grated
½ teaspoon chili flakes (or 1 teaspoon if you want more spice)

Directions:

  1. Rinse cabbage and pull off the top two leaves and set aside for later use. Shred cabbage into small, thin pieces using a large knife or the slicing blade of a food processor. Save the hard bottom of the cabbage and set aside with the top leaves for later use. Put shredded cabbage into a large bowl along with the sea salt.
  2. Use your hands to massage the cabbage. You can even use your fist to pound the vegetables. This step is important because you are breaking down the cellular wall of the plant, which is the first step in fermentation.
  3. The cabbage will begin to release liquid, also called the “brine”. This is the liquid the sauerkraut will stay submerged under during the fermentation process once it is in the jar. It is important the brine completely covers the sauerkraut. Any vegetable that is not under this brine will oxidize from the air and may begin to mold.
  4. Once the cabbage has released a lot of liquid (it should rise above the cabbage in the bowl), add in the optional vegetables and spices. Continue to massage everything together.
  5. Evenly distribute sauerkraut and brine into two mason jars. Use the cabbage leaves you set aside in the beginning to put on top of the sauerkraut, to full submerge the sauerkraut under the brine. Cut the bottom of the cabbage in two parts and put each in the jar on top of the cabbage leaves. This will act as your weight to keep the sauerkraut submerged under the brine (if this is not heavy enough, you can also use a clean rock). If there is still not enough brine to cover the sauerkraut, add a little bit of water until the kraut is fully covered. Make sure there is about half an inch of air above the kraut before the top. This allows space for the kraut to bubble as it ferments.
  6. Cover a cheese cloth or nut milk bag (if you do not have one of these, a paper towel with a few very small holes poked on top will do. Add a rubber band around the top to keep it in place. Alternatively, you can cover the jar with the lid, but you will want to “burp” the kraut every few days by taking the lid off to allow air into the jar. Store the kraut in an a warm, even temperature area of you house, such as above the refrigerator or in the pantry.
  7. This is not supposed to go into the refrigerator, as the cold will not allow fermentation. Let the sauerkraut sit for about 7 days to ferment. The jars will have bubbles, and when you take off the top, you may even hear it bubbling. The taste will have a taste similar to the way a fermented pickle tastes and the texture of the cabbage will be softer.
  8. Once the kraut has fermented to your liking, you can store it with a lid in the refrigerator. Add it to salads, put it on top of stir fry’s, or just enjoy it straight out of the jar. The good bacteria in your kraut provides probiotics, which are great for gut health and digestion.
  1. Note: Feel free to experiment with other complementary vegetables and spices!