Preserving homemade sauerkraut is relatively simple and requires just a few steps and basic equipment.
First, you will need to determine the amount of salt that you need to use. This is done by determining the weight of the cabbage you will use and then calculating 2% of that weight in salt (for example, if the cabbage weighs 800g, you would need 16g of salt).
Mix the salt with the cabbage and ensure that all pieces are lightly coated in the mixture.
Once the cabbage has been salted, you will need a glass jar or crock that is wide enough to accommodate the cabbage. Place the cabbage into the jar, pressing it down firmly with your hands as you go.
Once the jar is full, fill it with cold filtered water, making sure to leave an inch of room between the cabbage and the top of the jar. You can add any additional seasoning you like such as garlic or caraway seeds.
Now cover the jar with a lid or wax paper and secure it with a band. If you’re using wax paper, you’ll need to place a smaller jar filled with rocks on top of the paper to weigh it down and ensure it stays in place.
Finally, place the jar in a cool, dark place and let it sit for approximately 3-6 weeks, depending on the strength of flavor desired. During this time, open the jar once a week to check for mold or bubbles and skim off any scum that forms.
After a few weeks, the mixture should have a distinct sour aroma and taste, indicating it’s ready to be enjoyed or further preserved.
To further preserve the sauerkraut, you can cold-pack it in clean glass jars, pressing the mixture down firmly, and leaving at least ¼ inch of space between the top of the mixture and the lid. Then seal the jars and store in a cool pantry or refrigerator.
When done correctly, homemade sauerkraut will last for up to six months in the pantry and up to a year in the refrigerator.
Does homemade sauerkraut need to be sealed?
Yes, homemade sauerkraut needs to be sealed. The purpose of sealing the sauerkraut is so that it can ferment in an airtight environment. This helps the cabbage to soften and break down, producing lactic acid, which is what gives sauerkraut its sour and tangy flavor.
When storing the sauerkraut, you should use an airtight seal such as a lid with a tight gasket as well as ensuring that the fermentation vessel is clean and free of contaminants before using it. Additionally, it’s important to adjust the lid so that it’s slightly loose, allowing the gases created during the fermentation process to escape.
Once sealed, the sauerkraut should be stored somewhere dark and cool (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and allowed to ferment undisturbed for at least a week before enjoying.
Can you ferment sauerkraut for too long?
Yes, you can ferment sauerkraut for too long. Fermenting sauerkraut is an appealing process as it gives the food pleasant beery flavours. However, over a period of time, lactic acid bacteria will convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, and as this continues, the fermentation will be further intensified.
If left for too long, the cabbage can taste unpleasantly sour, and may also become mushy. Additionally, the levels of beneficial probiotics found in the sauerkraut will decrease the longer it is left for.
Therefore, it is important to not overferment your sauerkraut, but to instead taste it during the process to monitor the progression of the flavour and texture.
What kind of salt do you use for sauerkraut?
The best type of salt to use for sauerkraut is non-iodized or pickling salt. Non-iodized salt contains no iodine, which means it won’t affect the flavor of the sauerkraut. It is also the best type of salt to use for preserving and fermentation because it won’t interfere with the bacteria in the sauerkraut.
Pickling salt is also ideal because it helps to draw out the moisture from the vegetables, which helps with the fermentation process.
Do you drain sauerkraut after fermentation?
Yes, it is typically recommended that you drain sauerkraut after it has finished fermenting. This process is not only important for proper storage and extended shelf life, but it is also important for ensuring that your sauerkraut has the proper flavor and texture.
When you allow sauerkraut to remain in its brine after fermentation, it can become overly salty, mushy, and overly sour, ruining its flavor. When you drain the kraut, you get rid of the liquid that is leftover from fermentation, which can prevent it from going bad quickly, allow the sauerkraut to have its desired texture, and minimize any overly salty, sour, or mushy flavors.
To properly drain your sauerkraut after fermentation, you should place it in a colander, over a bowl, and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes. Once it has drained, you can then pack it into mason jars and put it in the fridge for storage.
Why is my sauerkraut slimy?
Sauerkraut can become slimy when it is improperly stored. High temperatures and/or excess moisture can cause the cabbage to release a sticky slime as it decomposes. This slime will usually have a sour smell and can have a soapy taste, too.
To prevent your sauerkraut from becoming slimy, store it in the refrigerator. If it is kept in an airtight container, it can last for several weeks before it begins to spoil. Proper storage is the key to preventing slimy sauerkraut.
You can also help to prevent your sauerkraut from becoming slimy by making sure that it is not exposed to too much air. If it is sitting out in a bowl, be sure to cover it with a lid or foil. If it is already in the refrigerator, you might want to transfer it to an airtight container before it has a chance to go bad.
Lastly, make sure you’re putting fresh sauerkraut in your refrigerator. If it was previously opened and not properly stored, chances are it will become slimy.
Do you have to heat sauerkraut before canning?
No, you do not need to heat sauerkraut before canning. Heating will actually cause your sauerkraut to lose flavor and texture. The most important thing to do when canning sauerkraut is to make sure that all of the ingredients are cleaned and chopped, if necessary.
After all of your ingredients are prepped, it’s time to pack the jars. Fill each jar with chopped sauerkraut, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace, then fill with a salty brine (usually just salt and water).
You’ll need to fill the jars nearly to the top with brine because brine helps to keep the cabbage crunchy. Once your jars are packed and filled with a brine, you can process the jars in a boiling water canner.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to process in your specific canner. After processing is done, it’s time to let the jars cool and enjoy your homemade sauerkraut.
Should fermenting sauerkraut be kept in the dark?
Yes, fermenting sauerkraut should typically be kept in the dark. When exposed to inconsistent light, the vegetables may start to discolor due to photosynthesis. The consistent darkness also helps to maintain more consistent temperatures, allowing the fermentation process to occur evenly.
Additionally, when exposed to light, the probiotic bacteria created during fermentation may break down more quickly and become less potent. Storing sauerkraut in the dark also helps to maintain its taste, crunchiness, and the probiotic qualities.
How long should sauerkraut ferment before canning?
The length of time that sauerkraut needs to ferment before canning depends on several factors, such as the temperature of the fermentation environment, the variety of cabbage used, and the desired level of sourness.
Generally, the fermentation process should take no more than 10 days at a temperature of around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s possible to start tasting the sauerkraut after 5 days to determine if it has reached the desired level of sourness.
Once the fermentation process is complete, the sauerkraut should be canned for long-term storage. Canning can be completed in one of two ways: hot water bath or pressure canning. Hot water bath canning typically takes about 25 minutes for the entire process, while pressure canning will take longer.
Be sure to follow the guidelines set out in the canning instructions for the best possible results.
Should I add vinegar to my sauerkraut?
Whether or not you should add vinegar to your sauerkraut is a matter of personal preference. Some people find that a splash of vinegar adds a desirable tangy flavor to the sauerkraut, while others prefer to leave it out.
If you decide to add vinegar, use a mild version such as white wine or apple cider vinegar, as these generally provide a better flavor than harsher varieties such as distilled white vinegar. When adding vinegar, be sure to use a light hand, as too much can overpower the flavors of the sauerkraut.
Finally, if you are using raw sauerkraut (not cooked), it can be helpful to add a bit of vinegar as it can help suppress the growth of bacteria and increase the shelf-life of the sauerkraut. Overall, adding vinegar to sauerkraut is a personal preference and those who choose not to add it can still enjoy sauerkraut.
Do you need airtight container for sauerkraut?
Yes, you do need an airtight container for sauerkraut. This is because air can cause the sauerkraut to spoil due to oxidation. Moreover, it can also introduce bacteria and molds which will further increase the spoilage rate.
The best option is to get a glass or ceramic fermenting crock that has an airtight lid. However, it is also possible to use a plastic or stainless steel container with a tight-fitting lid. For best results, make sure that the lid fits completely and securely without any gaps or cracks.
Additionally, it is also important to keep a close eye on the sauerkraut for any signs of spoilage. If it starts to look slimy or discolored, it is best to discard it.
Is it safe to eat unpasteurized sauerkraut?
Whether or not it is safe to eat unpasteurized sauerkraut depends on several factors. Eating unpasteurized foods always carries some level of risk, but sauerkraut is generally considered safe.
The most important factor in determining safety is the quality of the ingredients used and the care taken in preparation. The cabbage must be very fresh, free of contamination and thoroughly washed before being cut and combined with the salt, spices and other ingredients.
The mixture should also be kept at the right temperature and humidity levels to ensure fermentation and lactic acid bacteria growth. If any of these elements are not carefully managed, the food can be a source of foodborne illness.
Fortunately, sauerkraut is one of the safest fermented foods and can be safely consumed while still in its raw, unpasteurized form. The fermentation process and lactic acid bacteria that form help preserve the food, inhibit spoilage and enhance flavor.
However, if you want to eliminate any potential risk, you can pasteurize the sauerkraut. Pasteurization will kill any bacteria present, including beneficial lactic acid bacteria, but it does ensure that the food is not a source of foodborne illness.
In conclusion, it is generally considered safe to eat unpasteurized sauerkraut, although care should be taken in the ingredients and preparation to ensure the food is free of contamination. Pasteurizing the sauerkraut may help eliminate risk, although it can also diminish flavor.
How do you know when sauerkraut is ready to can?
When sauerkraut is ready to be canned, it should have a tangy flavor, fragrant aroma and crunchy texture. You will also see some bubbles in the jar or crock which is a sign of the fermentation process that has been occurring.
In terms of enjoying them as soon as possible, you can start consuming them after about a week, but for best results, wait at least 4-6 weeks. It can stay in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. To can sauerkraut, make sure to start with high-quality cabbage and fresh ingredients.
Wash the cabbage and remove the outer leaves. Slice the cabbage very thin and layer it in the jar or crock of your choosing. Press the cabbage down to expel the juices and mix in the salt and other ingredients.
The salinity of the brine will determine how your sauerkraut ferments, so be sure to measure accurately. Fill the jar with more brine if needed to submerge the cabbage. Place a weight on top to keep the cabbage submerged in the brine and cover the jar with a clean cloth to prevent fruit flies and dust from settling in.
You can store your jar in a cool environment for about a month and check on your sauerkraut every few days to make sure everything is doing alright. Once it has reached a good flavor and crunchiness, then it is ready to be canned.
Are you supposed to drain sauerkraut?
Yes, you are supposed to drain sauerkraut before consuming it. Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage that can be an acquired taste. Fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut, can be very salty and often contain a lot of brine or liquid.
This can make them difficult to digest and can be too intense for some palates. Draining the sauerkraut before consuming it can help to reduce the amount of salt and reduce any strong flavors. Additionally, when sauerkraut is cooked, the liquid can be drained off and the sauerkraut itself can be cooked with other ingredients like meats, vegetables, or even added to salads for extra flavor and crunch.
To drain sauerkraut, you will need a colander, a bowl, and paper towels. Place the sauerkraut in the colander, if it is in a bag, open it first. Place the colander over the bowl and wrap a few layers of paper towels around the sauerkraut to absorb any excess liquid.
Allow the sauerkraut to drain for around 15 minutes, then remove the paper towels and prepare the sauerkraut as desired.
Can you drink the water from sauerkraut?
No, you should not drink the water from sauerkraut. The water from sauerkraut is actually a brine which contains a high level of salt, which can make it dangerous to consume. In addition to the high salt content, the water from sauerkraut can also contain potentially harmful bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, and E.
coli. Therefore, it is generally not safe to drink the water from sauerkraut. Instead, sauerkraut should be used as an ingredient to add flavor to a dish or simply as a side item.