Known as a Western-style pickle, sauerkraut originates from Germany, right?
Wrong! The delectable salt-pickled cabbage originates from China and is one of the oldest known forms of lacto-fermentation. It seems Germans are aware of this and little disposed to argue. In fact sauerkraut consumption in Germany has been declining, while at the same time increasing in the rest of the world.
Sauerkraut differs from kimchi in that the shredded cabbage is salted and allowed to exude a brine. The whole thing is then bottled for fermentation. Hygene is important and your fermentation jar should be airtight and previously sterlized. Details are given within the recipe below.
How Much Salt?
The best concentration of brine for lacto-fermentation is 2%. Here’s an easy way:
Use 1 tablespoon of salt for every 800g (1 3/4 lb) of cabbage or other vegetable.
After optional addition of sweet spices like caraway the cabbage and brine are bottled, weighted down to keep the cabbage submerged in its brine and fermented for about a week before it’s ready to eat. Sauerkraut has a long shelf life, keeping for many months in the fridge or other cool place while its flavour continues to improve
Here’s a recipe using 800g of fennel. Substitue with cabbage, white or red, if you like. Make more ore less, changing the proportions of salt accordingly.
- 800g fennel bulbs
- 1 tablespoons of medium coarse sea salt, pink Himalayan salt is also GREAT
- 1 tsp each of whole caraway and black peppercorns optional
- Wash all utensils and bowls thoroughly, finishing by pouring-on a kettle-full of boiling hot water
- Sterilize your bottling jar by washing, rinsing and drying in the oven at 100C; rubber seals can be sterilized in boiling water as above
- Cut away the tough fennel tops and slice the bulb thinly with a knife or food processor. Save a couple of large pieces to cover the top of the bottled fennel
- In a large bowl massage-in the salt, cover with a cloth or cling film and leave to rest for 10 minutes
- Massage again and leave another 10 minutes. Your fennel should have lost much bulk and have produced some brine by releasing water
- Add the spices and bottle the fennel with its brine. Cover with a couple of large slices of fennel and weight this down, keeping ALL of the fennel submerged in the brine.
- Leave in a cool, dim place (15-20 degrees C) to ferment. The sauerkraut will be ready to eat in about 5 days but will improve over the forthcoming weeks and months. Putting it in the fridge slows down the fermentation once the product has developed to your taste
- Remove any scum or mould which may form on the top and carry on regardless
- Always trust your nose. If it smells bad, chuck it and start again!