My homemade Christmas sauerkraut recipe
A festive sauerkraut recipe made with spicy red cabbage, blueberries & juniper berries
You’ve probably noticed a bit of a theme of late on the blog – homemade Christmas foodie gifts – well it continues today with my Christmas Sauerkraut recipe.
I listen to Radio 4’s The Food Programme podcast most weeks and a few months ago I found myself being inspired by one particular episode: “A practical masterclass in fermentation with Sandor Katz“. Sandor Katz is an American food writer who describes himself as a fermentation revivalist, he’s written two books on fermentation and he teaches fermentation workshops around the world. He has also lived with AIDS since the 1980s and considers fermented foods to be an important part of managing his health with the disease.
Now I know lots of people who will turn their nose up at the thought of fermented cabbage but the more I’ve read around fermentation the more I’ve realised how good it is for you! Sauerkraut, specifically, is high in fibre, as well as vitamins A, C, K and various B vitamins. It’s also a good source of iron, manganese, copper, sodium, magnesium and calcium. You can find a long list of the health benefits of fermentation on the BBC Good Food website, but in summary: fermented foods are rich in probiotics (stomach-friendly bacteria) and help balance the good and bad bacteria in the gut, improving:
- Your digestive health and balanced gut flora
- Your immune system and protection from disease-producing microorganisms
- Energy levels and vitality
- Natural radiance & healthy skin
But what does it taste like I hear you ask… well it’s crunchy and sour and very tasty! It’s best eaten raw (e.g. in a sandwich or salad) to absorb the full health benefits but it also tastes great in soups/stews or cooked with a stock, sausages are salted meats or smoked fish. I’ve also seen it spread on Ryvita with smoked salmon – nom!
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never fancied the look of white fermented cabbage, which is why I challenged myself to come up with a more appetising looking recipe. My mum also makes an amazing spicy red cabbage at Christmas so I thought why not take inspiration from that and invent a festive version of Sauerkraut – so I have.
The brilliant thing about making a basic Sauerkraut is ingredients-wise all you need is cabbage and sea salt (don’t worry about it being a fancy salt either). You will also need a fermentation jar or crock with a weight to weigh the cabbage down and cover it with the brine – but that’s it!
Lakeland kindly sent me one of their large fermentation jars (£7.99) to work with, these pretty hexagonal glass jam jars for presenting as gifts (£10.49 for 6) and a great little book called ‘Fermented Foods for Vitality & Health‘ (£14.99) to guide me and then I was off on my way.
So here’s my sauerkraut recipe and some of my learnings from making my first batch – been sure to read the full instructions and notes below the photos to ensure it all goes smoothly! I also found this blog post here very helpful when I came down in the morning and discovered the brine in my Sauerkraut had bubbled out of the sealed jar and created a purple river in my kitchen… (side note – that’s completely normal and it pays to put a tray underneath your jar to catch the brine).
- 2 medium cabbage heads
- 2-3 tbsps sea salt
- 2 green apples
- 10 dried bay leaves
- 340g of blueberries
- 2 tbsps juniper berries (these are spice despite their name suggesting otherwise)
- 2 tps coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp of allspice
- 1 tbsp of ras el hanout
- Thoroughly wash and dry all your equipment before use – you don't need to sterilise the jars but they must be clean.
- Wash the red cabbage thoroughly - I like to use a brush with a dash of vinegar in a bowl of water.
- Slice the cabbage in half and remove the hearts in the middle.
- Finely grate the cabbage (a Veggie Bullet on the chop function will make light work of this).
- Put the chopped cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt.
- Start squeezing the cabbage with clean hands – this encourages the salt to pull water out of the cabbage and create enough juice to serve as a brine in which the cabbage will be submerged during fermentation. Do this for 5 minutes, stop and wait and repeat again for another 5 minutes. Afterwards, the cabbage should be reduced and sitting in its own brine.
- Core and slice the apples into thin matchsticks and add to the salted cabbage.
- Wash the blueberries, add them to the cabbage and mix well.
- Then add all the spices – juniper berries, coriander seeds, bay leaf etc.
- At this point, the cabbage should be dripping wet. To ensure a successful fermentation without the presence of oxygen, carefully pack the spiced cabbage with its juice into the jar. The cabbage must always be submerged in its own brine, so stuff it tightly and place a weight on top (a clean stone or marbles in a freezer bag will do the trick).
- Check after 12 hours and press again; the cabbage will wilt further and more juice will come out. The sauerkraut will be ready in 3 days but the longer you wait the better. My recipe book recommends at least 7 days but ideally 4 weeks.
- During the fermentation you will need to check the jar every other day and remove any foam/and or mould that might form on the surface of the brine – this is completely normal and nothing to worry about as it will not affect the quality of your sauerkraut.
- After the 4 weeks transfer the sauerkraut into small jars, cover in brine and keep in the fridge. It will stay fresh for at least 1 month and possibly 2-3 months.
1. Don't fill your fermenting jar right to the top (fill no higher than the bottom of the shoulder of the jar).
2. Keep your jars on a tray to catch any brine that escapes.
3. Put a lid on the jar to keep out the air, but don't do it up really tight. If you use a jar without a pressure valve, loosen the lid slightly to allow pressure to escape.
4. Don't over salt your sauerkraut, just give the cabbage time to release the water and squeezing the juice out of it.
5. Once the sauerkraut is ready, bring to room temperature before eating to ensure that you're taking in the maximum amount of good bacteria.
If you’re interested in learning more about fermentation and Sandor Katz I recommended watching, listening and reading the following:
WATCH: Sandorkraut: A Pickle Maker – via the New York Times
LISTEN: Sandor Katz and the Art of fermentation (Sandor’s personal story) – via Radio 4 + The Art of Fermentation – A Masterclass (a how-to guide to listen to as before you start making Sauerkraut.
READ: Fermented foods for Vitality & health by Dunja Gulin – via Lakeland
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