When the garden gives you too many cabbages, you make sauerkraut (or at least I do anyway). These past few weeks have been all about preserving in my kitchen, as the summer season draws to close & thing’s start to wind down, all of my wonderful vegetables have all reached their peak for harvesting, including my monster cabbages.
They’re perfectly imperfect (much like the rest of my garden!), their outer leaves have clearly provided a feast to many a slug & caterpillar over the summer, but their hearts, they’re just for me. Big, heavy & dense, I’ve actually impressed myself this year.
Whilst the sweet, earthy crunch of cooked cabbage is a great addition to my plate alongside my Sunday roasts, there’s only so much cabbage we can naturally eat (I don’t think I need to tell you why!), hence the sauerkraut. Whenever fruits or veggies can be popped in a jar, I’m there!
Always regarded as a German delicacy, with it’s name literally translating as ‘sour cabbage’ in German (A-level German clearly payed off), it was actually the Chinese who first fermented cabbage. For over 2,000 years they would ferment shredded cabbage in rice wine. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Europeans began to adopt the fermented cabbage. However, instead of using wine, in Germany, they began to dry cure shredded cabbage with salt, which would then draw out the juices that produce the lactic acid bacteria for fermentation, producing the sauerkraut we know today.
It all sounds very fancy, but essentially, it’s just another kind of pickle & it’s so simple to make that I wasn’t even sure whether it would be worth me posting a recipe for it, I mean, the cabbage basically does all of the work here (seriously!). All you’ll need are your fingers & a jar! Mix it up, leave it alone for a week or two & you’ll have your very own delightfully sour, crunchy sauerkraut, far better than anything you can buy ready-made.
Sauerkraut is actually very good for you, everything from your digestion & immune system to your heart & bone health, I generally have less health based uses in mind for mine however, namely generously topping lengths of meaty Bratwursts, but at I least I can feel good about it (it’s all about balance right?). With it looking likely that all Christmas markets will be cancelled this year, having a jar or two of this around means at least I don’t have to miss out on some of my favourite festive treats, luckily it has a long shelf-life, so it’ll definitely see me through.
- 1 large white cabbage
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage before shredding & finely slicing
- Place in a large bowl with the salt & use your fingers to rub the salt into the cabbage
- Continue to rub & massage the cabbage in this way until it has released its juices & reduced in volume (around 10-15 minutes)
- Add the caraway seeds to the bowl & stir though
- Place all of the cabbage & its juices into a large jar, if the juices don’t rise above the cabbage then top up with a little cold water
- Use either a cabbage leaf or a small piece of baking parchment to level & cover the surface of the cabbage inside of the jar
- Fill a smaller jar with some baking beans or water & place it inside the larger jar, on top of the cabbage to keep it weighed down & submerged
- Leave the lid of the jar open & place the jar in a cool, dry place to ferment for 7 days (don’t worry if it starts to smell or develops a small amount of mould as it ferments, this is perfectly normal & can be removed without harm to the sauerkraut)
- After 7 days, remove the smaller jar & cabbage leaf or parchment from the inside & close the lid to store or use straight away