I was always intimidated by the thought of canning sauerkraut. You read all of these horror stories of exploding jars, unwanted yeast, and mold issues. I found a class taught by Marisa of Food in Jars and she showed me how easy fermented sauerkraut could be! Marisa teaches all sorts of classes, in various states, so please check out her blog for her latest class offerings.
Fermented cabbage is basically two ingredients, shredded cabbage and salt. You can add a spice or herb if you wish to change the flavor profile but in the end it is a simple and easy process.
You start by shredding your cabbage, adding the salt and macerating the cabbage to extract water, which along with the salt becomes your brine solution. I add fennel seeds because I like the flavor, but it is completely optional.
Once you have broken down the cabbage and have enough liquid in the bottom of your bowl, pack the sauerkraut into clean, wide mouth jars. You need to tightly pack the sauerkraut and make sure you have enough liquid to completely cover the cabbage. Some people use a small sandwich bag filled with water to keep the cabbage submerged. If the cabbage isn’t submerged, you risk mold growth. I check my sauerkraut daily and (knock on wood!) I haven’t had any issues. I press the cabbage back down into the brine every day to inhibit mold growth.
If you are using glass canning jars, make sure you put the jars in a cabinet to limit the exposure to light. I use the white storage lids and I don’t fully tighten them. You want to give any gas a way of escaping! I put a towel down in the cabinet in case they spill over, makes for a much easier clean up.
You check the cabbage daily, pushing it below the liquid and after a week or two, start tasting it for the level of tartness that you prefer. Once you have that you can either can the kraut or put it in the fridge. I prefer to put it in the fridge for two reasons – fermented sauerkraut has amazing health properties and canning it tends to eliminate those benefits and two, I always have sauerkraut ready to eat!
I use my sauerkraut as a side dish, in recipes and especially in homemade pierogi! It is fun to watch the progression from pale green to beige as it goes from cabbage to kraut. One head of cabbage makes about a pint jar of kraut, if you like sauerkraut, it is a fun and relatively easy way to ease into home fermented vegetables.