(Recipe included at the bottom of the post.)
I’ve come a long way since my first foray into making raw sauerkraut at home. I started out with a great deal of trepidation, reluctance, and even a bit of nose-wrinkled condescension towards the lowly cabbage. Yes, I was making kraut, but it wasn’t because I enjoyed eating it or felt that I benefited from consuming it. Nope. I was just making it because Kimberly (nutritionist and overall goddess) said I should, and I am nothing if not obedient.
Well, dear readers, have I ever turned a page in that book! I now enjoy boatloads of raw kraut– every day!– and I even have a hard time jarring enough of it at home to keep up with my frenetic, kraut-consuming pace. Our cupboards and fridge are filled with jars of kraut, and I even bring smaller jars of it with me in my purse if I know that we will be eating out or visiting with friends. (Yes, you heard me correctly. I am your Nerdy Friend who will show up at your door with a small Mason jar of sauerkraut. To make matters worse, I rarely bring enough to share! I’ll just cover the bases for Marty and I and leave you– my host– scratching your head and wondering when the heck I became so possessive of my cabbage. <– To explain my sauerkraut stinginess: Experience has shown me that most people– shockingly– aren’t all that enthusiastic to partake in a raw sauerkraut munch-down, and there’s no way I’m wasting my homemade kraut on anybody who is less than on-their-knees grateful for it. So I generally only bring enough for Marty and I. Just so you know.)
It nearly killed me to start this epic road trip of ours, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to take a crate of raw sauerkraut with me across the border. You’re (usually) allowed to bring (certain) food items across “for personal consumption”, but I was pretty sure that a border guard wouldn’t greet gallons of sauerkraut jars with kindness or understanding. ‘What’s that glass clinking sound coming from the back of your van? Are you a bootlegger? Wait a second– what on earth is that smell?? Smells like… rotten cabbage!’ Awkward…
I pictured myself hollering “ALL THIS SAUERKRAUT IS FOR ME, OFFICER, I SWEAR IT!! THERE’S NO WAY I WOULD TRY TO SELL IT!” as I was being dragged off to Border Violations Prison, and then I had the horrific vision of being forced to throw away all of my raw sauerkraut in front of a guard’s watchful eyes before being permitted to dock in Port Angeles, WA. What a waste of good bacteria! It was too much to bear. Yes, I am a Crazy Sauerkraut Lady, but I’m not an International, Border-Regulations-Flouting Crazy Sauerkraut Lady. Hence, I packed a solitary, small-ish jar of kraut in our cooler and braced myself for around 2 weeks without the good stuff.
After painstakingly rationing out that one jar of kraut and making it last as looooong as possible, we were faced with the great, kraut-less unknown. I’m not going to lie: both Marty and I suffered without regular doses of raw kraut en route to Arizona. Our bodies had become accustomed to healthy portions of probiotics on a daily basis, and the combination of being on the road + camping + eating for convenience (oh, hello gluten!) + sauerkraut withdrawal proved to be pretty deadly. Let’s just say that I nearly wept at the altar of Whole Foods when we finally rolled into Tucson and purchased several “transition” jars of raw kraut to tie us over until I could make our own again.
I am now in the process of buying canning jars so that I can whip us up an apocalyptic amount of raw sauerkraut for our two month visit. Yes. I’m buying jars. That I will eventually leave in Tucson when we head back up to Canada. I am nuts for kraut! (And for some strange reason, every grocery store in Canada seems to sell canning jars and supplies, but none of the grocery stores in Tucson do. I had to google search “canning jars + Tucson” to discover that jars are mainly sold in hardware stores here. Insane? Yes! Now I just need to find me a hardware store. I already bought six organic cabbages at Whole Foods. They are waiting for the jars.)
And finally– the recipe part! I am no longer making kraut the way it is specified in Kimberly Snyder’s Beauty Detox Solution book. That recipe calls for miso paste and ginger, neither of which I am using anymore. Instead, I’m keeping it simple and kicking it old school. Read on if you’d like to try making what I call “Royal Kraut”… which is basically purple and red kraut instead of the usual green version. 🙂
Royal Kraut (Vegan, Gluten Free, Soy Free)
You Will Need
Sterilized mason jars with tight-fitting lids
Food preparation gloves (highly recommended)
Large purple cabbage
2-3 red beets
1-2 tsp high-quality sea salt or celtic salt
1 tsp caraway seeds (or to taste)
½ cup filtered water
How To Make It
- Remove outside leaves of the cabbage (approx. 5-6 leaves) and set aside for later.
- Chop rest of cabbage into thin ribbons and place into large mixing bowl.
- Shred beets using the grating blade on a food processor (easiest) or using a cheese grater (good luck!). Add to cabbage in large mixing bowl.
- Add sea salt and caraway seeds to mixing bowl, and use your (gloved) hands to coat kraut well. Dr. Obvious Warns: Beets will stain your hands, countertops, and anything else if given the chance. Use caution and try not to touch with your bare hands! (Also: do not wear a white shirt while making this recipe!)
- Once kraut mixture has been well coated with salt and caraway, use your gloved hands to stuff it, bit by bit, into your mason jars. Add a small layer of kraut and then use the handle of the wooden spoon to pound the air out of the layer before adding more cabbage to the jar. You want to make the mixture as anaerobic (air-free) as possible to avoid mould and to allow the friendly bacteria to flourish.
- Continue adding kraut mixture to the jar, layer by layer, pounding out excess air throughout, until there is between 1 and 2 inches of free space left near the mouth of your jar.
- Roll outside leaves of the cabbage into tight, burrito-style rolls and stuff on top of the shredded kraut mixture. The aim is to pack the jar as tightly as possible, right up to the top with the rolled outer leaves.
- Slowly add filtered water to the jar, until it levels with the shredded kraut mixture (not all the way up to the top of the jar). Unless your jar is very large (or you didn’t pack enough air out of the mixture), you will need very little water in your jar. A half a cup is a generous amount– I usually use more like 1/4 cup water or less.
- Slide the lid onto your mason jar and close it to make an airtight seal.
- Label your jar with the date, and leave it in a dark cupboard to ferment for between 4 days (warmer climates) and 4 weeks (cooler climates). Kraut does best in a room temperature environment, and cooler locales will take longer to ferment.
- When kraut is ready to consume, break airtight seal on jar, discard outer cabbage leaves, and fork as much cabbage onto your plate as you desire. (I eat between ½ cup and 1 cup of kraut every single day, with any type of meal—except breakfast.)
- Store opened jars of kraut in the fridge and consume within 2 months.
If your kraut develops a black mould or film on the top of the jar while it is fermenting, believe it or not, the rest of the jar should be okay to eat. (The mould will develop where there are still air bubbles.) Simply pick off the mouldy bits and chow down on the kraut further down the jar… using your common sense, of course.
Kraut can sit in a cupboard fermenting for longer than 4 weeks, too. Longer sitting periods make for a tangier kraut in the end. Do not fear the healthy bacteria!
Fermented kraut will taste zesty, a bit salty, and almost like a pickle (i.e. vinegar-y). It is an acquired taste (at least it was for me), but once you get familiar with it, you may find yourself shoveling it back with no restraint whatsoever (at least I did/still do).
Use organic ingredients, the highest quality of sea salt you can afford (not iodized or table salt), and filtered/distilled water (not tap water). Table salt and/or tap water can disrupt the naturally occurring enzymes and living cultures inside the cabbage, making your kraut-making adventures a waste of time, ingredients, energy, and money.
Variations on the theme:
Make kraut with red or green cabbage (or both)
Use caraway seeds or not. Try adding dill, fennel seeds, dried sea weeds, shredded ginger root, etc. Make the kraut yours!
Sub shredded carrots or golden beets for the red beets, or just go with a simple cabbage mixture.
Some people use special sauerkraut crocks, but all you really need is a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Questions? Holler at me! I’m determined to convert the whole of North America to raw kraut eating, so if anything needs to be clarified or elaborated upon, just let me know. Otherwise, enjoy your Royal Kraut! It’s so good… and good for you. xo