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How to Make Your Own Sauerkraut

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September 21, 2014 / German / By
Nicola

'Sauerkraut with Sausage - Pavich's Pizza - San Pedro, CA' by Marshall Astor via Flickr

 

When you think of German cuisine, the first thing that probably springs to mind is sauerkraut. Literally translated, 'sauerkraut' means 'sour cabbage'. I'll admit that it doesn't sound the most appealing, but it's a fair reflection of what sauerkraut actually is. Essentially, it's shredded cabbage which has been fermented, in the same way that pickles and other fermented vegetables are made.

Sauerkraut is a wonderful accompaniment to so many dishes; in Germany, you'll find it commonly served with a large sausage known as a bratwurst.

Although the idea of fermenting your own vegetables might cause you to break out into a cold sweat, it's not as difficult as you might think. In fact, it's a really resourceful way to cook, as you can prepare plenty of it in advance, and kept in the refrigerator until you want to eat it.

Here's a quick guide to getting started on making your own sauerkraut from scratch. If you look online, many guides will tell you to use a crock pot, but it's actually a lot quicker and easier if you carry out the entire process in glass jars. Mason jars are perfect, or you could re-use any other glass jars which you already have - provided that they've been sterilised first.

To begin with, shred your cabbage (if that hasn't already been done) and wash it thoroughly. Then squeeze it well, until as much of the juice as possible has come out.

At this point, you'll need to add some sort of starter culture. Salt or celery juice are probably the easiest ones to get hold of, but if you want something fancier try kefir grains. The purpose of these starter cultures is to actually get the fermentation process underway - without them, unwanted bacteria would multiply, causing the cabbage to go 'off'.

Next, push down firmly on top of the cabbage. You need to remove as much oxygen as possible - once again, the less oxygen there is, the less likely it is that bacteria will grow. Weigh down the top of the cabbage with an unshredded cabbage leaf, then seal the jar (or whatever container you're using) with the lid.

Now, it's just a waiting game. Make sure that the jars are kept at room temperature while they ferment - it should certainly not be a cool environment. How long you leave them is up to you, as it's all a matter of taste. The fermentation process can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so keep tasting it until you think it's ready. However, just remember that the more you taste it, the more oxygen you're introducing. Whenever it's ready to your taste, transfer the jar to the fridge and use it to garnish your meals!

This is the quickest and easiest method to make proper German sauerkraut, although you can do home fermentation with a whole variety of vegetables. The main thing to remember, regardless of which food you're using, is that the fermentation process boosts flavour. This means that onion, garlic and other seasonings will probably be too overpowering. It's just something to bear in mind, but the beauty of making your own sauerkraut is that you can make it to your own personal tastes!

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