One of my sisters has had the fermenting bug for a few years now and whips up batches of kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha like a pro. She always tells me how easy it is and I always nod enthusiastically then distract her while I stow away another bottle of her amazing kombucha in my bag. It just seems to take way too long, I’m into instant gratification. I want to make it and eat it right away. Three weeks waiting for something to ferment is just torture, but worth it! I usually make Ottolenghi’s quick pickled lemons to keep me going while I have a jar of preserved lemons stowed away at the back of the cupboard. They’re so gorgeous. Last year my sister finally gave me her recipe for sauerkraut so I’ve started to make my own and guess what? It’s super easy! I’ve been making lots recently and love it for so many reasons:
1. It’s so unbelievably cheap to make. An organic cabbage is all it takes.
2. It’s incredibly healthy. A jar of sauerkraut is packed full of all that gut loving healthy bacteria they call lactobacillus bacteria. It keeps the immune system strong and aids digestion.
3. It’s very easy, even enjoyable to make and you’ll feel like a mad Scientist on the brink of discovering something. Something delicious (see reason no.4)
4. It’s delicious. It seems to go with everything. I have it in sandwiches, wraps, as part of a salad bowl, with roast vegetables and hummus, with fish, alongside a roast chicken. It’s amazing. There are so many different versions you can make too by adding extras like spices or other vegetables.
5. This recipe makes a huge amount that will last about 2 months in the fridge.
My best advice is buy some real live sauerkraut and then you’ll know what it should taste like. There are lots of pasteurized cheap versions in supermarkets but you want the live raw one kept in the fridge. The Cultured Food Company, based in Ballydehob make amazing sauerkraut and kimchi. Buy some of theirs and taste it. The Juniper version is particularly good. I have a jar of that in the fridge at the moment and I love it. There’s a really good video here with the brilliant Laura Miller on how to make your own if you want to see the process.
Here’s my Fennel and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut recipe. I hope you make it and love it too!
Fennel and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut
Makes 2 large jars
2 heads red cabbage
2 1/2 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp fennel seeds
2 large kilner jars
1 small piece of muslin or cotton
First clean everything you’ll be using really really well. You don’t want to introduce any extra bacteria so scrub your hands, chopping board, jar etc. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and finely shred the cabbage. Either use a mandolin or a sharp knife. Place the cabbage in a large clay or china bowl. Pour over the sea salt and massage it all really well into the cabbage. This will break down the fibres of the cabbage leaves and make it release it’s natural liquids. Add the fennel seeds and mix well. Leave for an hour and you’ll be amazed how much liquid will come out. Pack the cabbage mixture as tightly as possible into the jar. Pack it down with your fist. Pour the cabbage juice over the top. It’s important that the cabbage is completely covered by liquid so really press it down. I then add a weight. I scrubbed a small jam jar till spotlessly clean and filled with baking beans then press this down on top of the cabbage, cover the top of the jar with the muslin cloth and tie with string or an elastic band. Place somewhere cool and dark for 10-20 days. Check your sauerkraut every few days and feel free to taste it. Once it tastes fermented enough to your liking then place it in the fridge. There may be some harmless scum or bubbles on top so just remove that before you place it in the fridge. You definitely don’t want to see any mould so remove it immediately and discard any pieces if cabbage that have been contaminated. The sauerkraut will keep in the fridge for 1-2 months.