Spicy Sauerkraut

This kraut is a staple at my house because it is really tasty and goes with everything. We love it on sandwiches, chili, pizza, quesadillas, soup, or just on it’s own! I started with a recipe from Nourishing Traditions and added some other ingredients that I think make it pretty fabulous. This post is a fairly detailed overview of the sauerkraut making process, but I also have a more in-depth post here: Klassic Kraut.

Spicy Sauerkraut – Delicious!

Spicy Sauerkraut
Makes 2 Liters

1 green cabbage (2-2½lbs.)
1 yellow onion
2 large carrots
4 cloves garlic
1T dried oregano
2T salt
1 jalapeno (or more, depending on size and heat)
2L jar (or 1/2 gallon jar, or two one-quart jars)

Everything you need to make Spicy Sauerkraut!

Begin by rinsing the cabbage under cool water and discarding any leaves that are blemished. Then remove one outer leaf and set it aside. Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the core. Shred the cabbage by slicing across the grain to make very thin ribbons. Once you’ve shredded half the cabbage, place it in a large bowl and sprinkle it with some of the salt.

Shredding the cabbage.

Prepare the onion by slicing off the ends and removing the tough outer skin. Cut it in half lengthwise and then slice thinly into slivers. When you get halfway turn it around and begin slicing from the other side for easier handling. Add the slivered onion to the bowl.

Slivered onions.

Gently scrub the carrots under cool, running water. Slice into thin rounds and add to the bowl.

Carrots sliced in thin rounds.

Peel the garlic, smash it and chop fine, then put in the bowl.

Finely chopped garlic.

Add the oregano to the bowl and sprinkle with some more salt.

Add the seasonings in the middle.

Shred the remaining cabbage and add it to the bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining salt. At this point you will have a lot of vegetables. You’re probably thinking it won’t all fit in one jar, but it will!

That’s alotta cabbage!

Using your hands, mix everything together well to evenly distribute the salt and the spices. Massage the salt into the vegetables as you are tossing and turning them. Next you must pound the veggies to break down the cell walls and get them to release their juices. If you have a fabulous sister-in-law who buys you a lovely kraut-pounder now is the time to use it! You can also use a pestle, a potato masher, a jar, or your fists. Keep tossing and mixing as you pound the veggies. I usually do this for about 5 minutes, until it starts to get juicy.

Mix & pound.

Next, place a plate that fits inside the bowl on top of the veggies. Put something heavy on top of the plate for a weight. (I’ve used my jar of coconut oil here.) Cover the whole thing with a towel and let it sit for 1-2 hours. This give the vegetables time to release their juices without having to work too hard. If you want to skip this step then just keep mixing and pounding for another 5-10 minutes.

Let it sit for 2 hours.

After a couple hours the volume will be significantly reduced with quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Now it’s time to add the jalapeno. Please wear gloves or you will spend the next 2 hours whimpering on your couch. (Don’t ask me how I know this – I just do!) Slice the jalapeno into thin rounds and toss it with the wilted vegetables.

Be sure to wear gloves!

Now it’s time to pack it all in the jar! Add about two inches of wilted veggies to the jar, then use your fist, a pestle, or kraut-pounder to pack them down firmly. Continue packing the jar until you’ve used all the veggies or it is filled to about 3 inches from the top. It’s important not to overfill the jar because sauerkraut is a very active ferment – it will make a lot of juice, get really bubbly, and swell up. If you overfill the extra liquid will ooze out. This doesn’t harm the kraut, but it can be messy and then you don’t have as much juice to drink when it’s done. 😉

Pack down firmly so there aren’t any air pockets.

Take your reserved cabbage leaf and cut it to fit on top of the kraut. This will keep any little bits from floating on the surface and getting moldy.

A cabbage leaf on top keeps everything submerged.

A weight on the cabbage leaf will help keep the vegetables under the brine. Use a glass disk, a small cup or shot glass, or jar. I like to use a 4oz. quilted jelly jar. Pour brine in the jar to make it heavier and more stable. The brine should be 1 teaspoon salt dissolved in 1 cup water.

A little jelly jar makes a perfect weight.

Seal the jar and write the date on top with a Sharpie. This is an important step! Once you get bitten by the fermenting bug you’ll have jars bubbling away all over the house and it can be hard to keep track of them.

Write the date on the jar.

Now you just need to find a cool (not cold) dark place for the kraut to ferment. Temperatures in a range of 65° to 70° will be best. If fermenting on the counter you should keep it out of direct sunlight by wrapping a towel around the jar. At this point there may not be enough brine to cover all the veggies. This is fine; over the next 24-72 hours the cabbage will release much more juice and it will soon be submerged. Below is the kraut after 3 days of fermentation. The liquid has risen to cover the veggies and it is starting to bubble. I popped open the lid to poke the cabbage leaves down under the brine and there was a rush of effervescence!

Day 3 – It’s getting bubbly!

At 1 week the kraut is very active and bubbly. You may even have noticed that it has swelled up in the jar or is foamy on top. This is all normal and good signs of an active ferment. If you are using a mason jar, you should not screw the lid on tight at this stage as excess pressure could cause the jar to explode. Were you to taste it now the kraut would be fairly tangy, but still a little salty and rather “green.” I did add about ½c. brine to the top – since the cabbage was not fresh from a farmer’s market it did not make quite enough juice.

Week 1: Kraut is very active!

At 2 weeks the kraut is still bubbling and fizzing away, but is starting to lose some of its bright color. Some recipes will tell you to begin eating the kraut at this point, but it still has a lot of fermenting to do. It would taste nice now, but still be salty and crunchy. For best flavor, allow the bacteria to complete their life cycle, which will take another 2+ weeks.

Week 2: Still bubbling, but losing its bright color.

I checked on the kraut at 4 weeks and it was still very bubbly. By 5 weeks the activity had ceased. I gave it 1 more week after that for the flavors to mellow – at 6 weeks this kraut is perfect! You can see that the cabbage has lost all of its green color and is now indistinguishable from the onions. The texture is both tender and crisp. The oils from the jalapeno have permeated the whole jar so every bite has heat, and the little carrot medallions add a pleasant crunch. Perfect texture and a perfect bright, tangy flavor with just the right amount of afterburn. Success!

Wait 6 weeks and your kraut will be perfect!

I love this kraut and will happily eat it every day. In fact, I think I’d better start another batch because we eat it pretty fast! My brother reports that it is excellent on a grilled peanut butter sandwich. Sauerkraut is versatile and makes a wonderful accompaniment to many different kinds of food. If you need suggestions let me know because I can put it in just about anything!

I hope this tutorial has taken some of the mystery out of fermenting vegetables at home, and will give you the encouragement you need to get started.

Happy Fermenting! 🙂

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15 Responses

  1. Thank you for very informative post. The pictures and instructions are straight forward.I can’t wait to make my 2nd batch using this recipe!

  2. Deb says:

    Thank you so much! Didnt have jalapeno’s or garlic 🙁 but I did put some daikon radish in. Your instructions and photos motivated me to do this. I kept thinking of my Grandmothers on the farm making their kraut long ago.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I just switched jars so I could fit the weighted jar on top and still close it. If I have one like pictured above, do I need to take off the rubber gasket part? Also, this should take about 4 weeks right? It smells so good I want to dive in! lol

    • Sarah says:

      It’s best to leave the gasket in place; it will allow gases to escape while preventing oxygen from entering. 4 weeks is the minimum – it will be even better at 6-8 weeks! 🙂 Mine is now 3 weeks old and still bubbling.

  4. Phyllis says:

    I just bought my jar, do I use the seal that came w it? I fear no escape for the bubbles if its to tight, thanks for the help

  5. Pam says:

    Thanks so much for the very informative tutorial and invaluable photos. I made my first batch of kraut yesterday and wish I’d seen this first. You answered a lot of the questions I had as I was making it.

    • Sarah says:

      You’re welcome! My goal was to take some of the mystery out of fermenting so everyone can see how easy it is.

  6. shwe says:

    Hi,

    How do you store the sauerkraut after 5 weeks ?

    • Sarah says:

      If you think you’ll eat it all in a couple weeks then it’s fine to leave it on the counter. Otherwise, I recommend storing it in the fridge. Sauerkraut does not go bad, but it will keep on fermenting, so if you leave it out at some point you may find that it’s a little too sour for your taste, or perhaps a bit soft.

  7. Deb says:

    When can you take the weight off and tighten the lid? I just got everything to make this,and want to do it right 🙂

  8. Ann says:

    Love it! I don’t do the garlic and use green onion instead. Try it with some ripe Thai chilis! Really makes the kraut zippy!! Funny, I can eat habaneros, etc but garlic bothers me. Go figure! Lol!

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