Food & dining

How to make sauerkraut

This is the most basic recipe for sauerkraut. It can be infinitely adapted. You can add virtually any other vegetable (radishes, carrots, beets, turnips, chiles, etc.), aromatics (garlic, ginger), and/or spices (caraway, juniper berries, mustard seed). The salt should be noniodized, sea, or kosher salt, as iodized inhibits microbial activity. Be sure to wash your hands before you start.

2pounds green cabbage
2to 8 teaspoons of noniodized salt, to taste

1. Wash the cabbage. Remove and save the outer leaf to use later as a “lid” for your finished sauerkraut. Core the cabbage and cut into ¼-inch strips. (Thinner strips soften and ferment more quickly than thick ones.)

2. Place strips (and other vegetables, if using) in a large bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, then massage and wring out the cabbage with clean hands for a minimum of 10 minutes. (You can also salt the cabbage, toss it, and let it sit for 20 minutes, which will speed up the subsequent massage process.) Work the cabbage until it has given up a puddle of liquid and holds together in a clump when squeezed. (Reserve liquid.)

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3. Taste for seasoning and add more salt (along with any aromatics or spices) if desired. Then press and pack the sauerkraut into a clean 1-quart, wide-mouth Ball jar. The cabbage should be an inch or two from the top of the jar. Cut reserved cabbage leaf to fit, and place it on top of the sauerkraut. Press down hard, then pour leftover liquid over the top and weigh it down with a rock (boil it for 20 minutes ahead of time), a smaller jar filled with water, or a snack-size Ziploc bag filled with salted water.

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4. Put your jar on a plate (the liquid is likely to overflow a bit), then let it sit out at room temperature for 2 to 6 weeks. Check every few days to make sure the sauerkraut is still submerged in liquid. Top off with a little brine (1 cup water to 1 ½ teaspoons salt) if it is not. Taste regularly with a clean fork. When it reaches the desired level of sourness, transfer to the refrigerator.

Adapted from Jeremy Ogusky and “Ferment Your Vegetables,” by Amanda Feifer.

Ted Weesner

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Ted Weesner can be reached at tedweesner@gmail.com.