This sauerkraut recipe has become the most popular recipe on this site and for good reason. It has become my staple, my “go-to” kraut. It’s a very simple ferment to make and never fails to transform into a delicious treat.
I often recommend this sauerkraut recipe to new fermenters as it’s a very satisfying fermentation and can easily get you hooked. There is something about the beautiful, rich red color that just makes it that much more delicious.
I don’t think a day has passed in the past 5 years or so where there hasn’t been some of this particularly delectable sauerkraut available in my fridge. When I see it running low, I head out and get some more red cabbage and start up another batch.
Health benefits of Red Cabbage vs. Green Cabbage
While you can certainly make sauerkraut from red or green cabbage, it’s helpful to note that red cabbage has significantly stronger health-generating capacities than green cabbage. Aside from having 6-8x the vitamin C equivalent of green cabbage and powerful probiotic content, the deep color of red cabbage reflects a strong concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which have health benefits including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities. Red Cabbage also has double the iron, and 10x the vitamin A. Cabbage, especially in its raw fermented form is also revered by some as beneficial in supporting the treatment of ulcers and other stomach and digestive related issues.
When in doubt, from a health perspective, it’s generally a good idea to pick foods rich in color.
Although I’ve been vacillating as to whether to call this fermentation recipe purple cabbage sauerkraut or red cabbage sauerkraut, one thing is clear from my perspective, it’s delicious!
Sauerkraut made with Red Cabbage is far superior in my opinion. It's healthier and certainly more pleasing to the eye.
2 heads red cabbage (approximately 5 pounds)
2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt. Use 1 Tablespoon salt for each 2 pounds of cabbage)
1 1/2 tablespoons juniper berries
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Clean the cabbage - Begin by removing the outer leaves of the cabbage it they are looking a little sketchy. If they look fine, you should at least wash them off a little to remove potential contaminants.
Slice the cabbage - I prefer to cut it in fat ribbons about 3/8 – 1/2″ wide. No need to grate it. I compost the dense nub that remains at it’s base.
Place in a bowl and add salt and spices - In a large bowl, toss the sliced cabbage with the sea salt and let sit for 30 minutes or so until it starts to sweat. Add the juniper berries and caraway seeds as well at any time.
Place in a fermentation vessel - Place everything including any liquid at the bottom of the bowl into a fermenting vessel. I prefer using a fermentation crock, but you can also use a 1 gallon jar or a mason jars with airlocks.
Compress - Press down very hard using your fists or other implement. This compressor/pounder comes in quite handy. You’ll notice that you can squeeze out a little liquid which will pool at the bottom. After you tire of compressing it, place something with some weight on top of the cabbage to effectively continue pressuring the cabbage while you are resting. fermentation crocks come with weights for this purpose. If using a 1 gallon glass jar, using a zip lock bag with water in it can work well as a weight. The salt will help to leach liquid from the cabbage.
Compress further if necessary - Over the next hour or two and try to get the liquid level up higher by compressing further. Your goal is to have the liquid cover the cabbage completely to provide an anaerobic environment within which the fermentation can take place. If, after several hours or overnight, you can’t get the liquid level high enough, add some water (without chlorine please) to cover by at least 1″. Stir well to equalize the salinity level.
Place weight on it - If using a fermentation crock, place the included weights on top of the ingredients. If using a 1 gallon jar, my preferred weighting method is topping with a clear plastic bag filled halfway with water and tied closed while allowing the bag to remain loose (not like how they fill the bag tightly when you buy a goldfish). You can place that loose bag of water (make sure it doesn’t have any leaks) into your fermenting vessel and allow it to settle in and take the shape of the vessel. In that way, a nice seal is made around the edge to keep oxygen and other potential contaminants out. If using a mason jar, using an airlock such as this one is highly recommended. These are great weights if you are using the mason jar/airlock method.
Cover - cover your fermentation crock with a lid, cloth or airlock depending on your choice of fermentation vessel.
Wait impatiently - Let it sit for a minimum of 2-3 weeks. You can easily leave it for 6 weeks or even months if desired. It will simply become more tart over time.
Jar it up - Once it gets a nice tangy flavor and you feel it is ready, place it in the refrigerator. I prefer to place it in mason jars first so they are ready to hand over as gifts as desired.
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Great as a side dish, tossed into a green salad, in a tortilla or on a dosa with almond/cashew butter and avocado. Delicious on a veggie burger, as a beautiful colorful filling when making healthy sushi rolls.
Other Helpful Articles of Interest
Why Everyone Should Ferment with an Airlock
Measuring and Using Salt in Fermenting
What Equipment and Supplies Do I Need for Fermenting?
When I started this sauerkraut, the initial pH was about 5.8. After a few weeks of fermentation, the pH had lowered to 3.35. It’s not a requirement that you measure the pH of your sauerkrauts, but if you find the science aspects of fermentation as interesting as I do, you may want to invest in a nice digital pH tester. Besides testing your veggie and alcohol ferments, it can also come in handy with kombucha making.