In this post we’ll share how to make sauerkraut, a healthy, delicious fermented food, one mason jar at a time.
My first ever batch of sauerkraut was a disaster.
I spent what felt like hours chopped and kneading and packing the crock.
Then a few days later I noticed a white slime across the time of it. Ew!! Never again.
Luckily, I found a small batch sauerkraut recipe that is not overwhelming and is fool proof!
I recently found this adorable book called Can It Ferment It by Stephanie Thurow.
It’s a small but mighty book full of the best, basic, down to earth canning and fermenting recipes.
I love Stephanie’s straight-forward instructions. But her sauerkraut recipe still calls for 3 heads of cabbage!
(She has another book about small batch preserving, but I haven’t read it yet.)
That’s where True Leaf comes in. True leaf has mason jar fermenting kits – wide-mouth mason jar tops that allow the gases created by fermenting to escape while keeping oxygen out. See, my first try at sauerkraut fermented at too high a temperature, causing certain bacteria to multiply too rapidly.
The solution? Put it in the fridge to ferment at cooler temperatures.
The problem? I forgot about it in the back of the fridge until it was so old I was AFRAID to look at it!
Why Make Sauerkraut?
Our modern lifestyle wreaks havoc on our gut health – and modern research is proving what we’ve instinctively known all along – that the health of our entire bodily systems begins in the gut.
Our modern diet is full of sugar and salt – more than any other time in our history.
In addition to our diet, we are constantly bombarded with chemicals – in our homes (paint and carpet), our drinking water (fluoride and chlorine), our cosmetics and laundry detergents and plastics.
One thing we can do (besides work to remove these chemicals) is to bolster the good microbes in our gut to help bolster our immune system and the best way to do that is by eating fermented foods and drink.
How does this work?
Some bacteria in the gut play a role in creating certain neurotransmitters. Since sauerkraut is lacto-fermented, the bacteria involved in it’s fermentation are in the Lactobacillus family. Some Lactobacillus bacteria create Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), Acetylcholine, Tryptophan (a serotonin precursor) and Histamine.
So what does all that mean?
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that when it binds to a GABA receptor, it produces a calming effect. This can help reduce anxiety, stress, fear and even may help prevent seizures.
Acetylcholine works on both your peripheral nervous system and central nervous system and facilitates contractions of skeletal muscles and glandular functions in the endocrine system.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid – meaning the body cannot produce it itself and it must be consumed. After we consume tryptophan, the body converts it to serotonin, melatonin, and vitamin B6. Serotonin makes us feel happy, melatonin helps us sleep, and vitamin B6 affects our energy levels.
Histamines work to engage your immune system and protect you from pathogens.
The result? Eating and drinking lacto-fermented foods is incredibly good for your mental and physical health!
How to Make Sauerkraut
The trick behind making only one quart of sauerkraut at a time is True Leaf Market’s fermentation kits.
To start, you’ll want to thinly slice your cabbage – 1/2 a head of cabbage fits in about one quart. Massage the cabbage with the salt to “bruise” the leaves.
Pack your cabbage into a wide-mouthed quart-sized mason jar and cover with the brine.
True Leaf Market has these cool “pickle helixes” that use the pressure of the lid of the mason jar to push down your cabbage and keep it beneath the brine. This prevents mold forming.
Then their nifty mason jar top air locks turn any wide-mouthed mason jar into a fermentation crock! No need for those massive, super expensive crocks. (That you forget about in the back of your refrigerator).
Then simply store your sauerkraut in the pantry for 3-4 weeks and let the natural bugs go to work making this powerhouse healthy food for you!
Even better – once fermentation is finished (after the bubbles have stopped forming), you can wash the jar with hot soapy water, replace the air-lock lid with a traditional canning lid and can your sauerkraut for later.
According to Ball, you’ll want to leave a 1/2 inch headspace and boiling water can quarts for 25 minutes and pints for 20. Boom! Done!
- To make the sauerkraut:
- 1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- To make the brine:
- 2 cups water
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- On the stove top, dissolve 1 Tbsp of salt into 2 cups of water.
- Slice the cabbage thinly and place in a non-reactive bowl (like glass).
- Massage the salt into the cabbage, bruising the leaves.
- Pack the cabbage into a sterilized quart-sized mason jar and add the brine.
- Using a chopstick or nonreactive knife, release any trapped air bubbles.
- Add your pickle helix and air-locked lid.
- Allow to ferment at room temperature for 2-3 weeks.