These tips will help you to make perfect sauerkraut every time
For best results, use unrefined salt with no additives. Himalayan salt and Celtic sea salt are the easiest of these to find. The next best choice, and the kind that’s easy to find in a supermarket, is rock sea salt without additives. (When I last bought salt from the supermarket, other than an expensive packet of Maldon, every single packet of finely ground salt contained anti-caking agent, a chemical that we don’t want in our ferments.) Rock salt can be ground in a pestle and mortar, some spice grinders and some grain mills. Most natural fermenting recipes call for unrefined salt, which has a higher amount of trace minerals and less sodium in it, so if you’re using a refined kind such as generic sea salt, reduce the amount of salt to 3/4 teaspoon for every teaspoon of salt in the recipe.
I’ve made good ferments with just vegetables and salt, but I’ve also made some bad ones that way. That’s why I’ve found that using a starter such as whey or the liquid from a successful batch of sauerkraut means a faster and more reliable fermentation, which also keeps for longer.
The ideal vessel for fermentation is something which allows gases to escape, but doesn’t let any oxygen in. There are a few options for this, ranging from inexpensive and easily found Fido jar, through to fermenting jars with airlocks in the lids, with specialist fermentation crocks as the most expensive option.
Whichever jar you’re using, be sure to put enough vegetables in it so that it’s filled almost to the top. Excess air in the fermenting jar to begin with causes the same problems as having a jar open to the elements.
While there’s no need to cover your food preserving gear with nasty chemicals, it’s important to observe a few rules of food hygiene in order to have good ferments. Before making your ferments, make sure your jars are clean, and if they’ve been used for kombucha, wine or any other yeasty ferments, heat-sterilise them in the oven or dishwasher (see my post on how to do this, here). The idea when making any type of fermented food or drink is to encourage the cultures that benefit it, and avoid the chances of any ones that you don’t want there taking over. With sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, we’re encouraging lactic acid fermentation.
After you’ve made the ferment, always use a clean spoon for taking it out of the jar.
It’s best to leave it for a month or longer before eating it. See this post for more explanation about the different stages of fermentation. Eating kraut before it’s ready won’t harm you, it just won’t have as much good bacteria in it as a six week old batch of kraut will, so it’s best to plan ahead and make sure you have plenty of time for it to ferment.
Sauerkraut should be covered with brine, either the brine that’s formed when you’re mixing the cabbage, salt, and whey, or a brine added on top if there wasn’t enough natural brine formed. I make a brine by mixing 1/4 teaspoon salt with 1/2 a cup of water and a splash of whey.
For step by step instructions for making a good batch of sauerkraut, perfect for beginners, read my Superkraut post.