If you know me, you’re likely to know I like beers. I have a healthy respect for this fermented beverage and it’s through beer drinking that I first encountered sauerkraut. It must have been either an error in the translation: it read ‘pickled cabbage’ on the menu when in fact it’s fermented cabbage. Perhaps they thought ‘pickled’ was more approachable than ‘fermented.’ Frankly, while pickling and fermenting are different processes, the end result had sourness that worked well when one is consuming fried, oily food (the kind the usually goes well with beers).
A fermentation beginner’s best friend
Sauerkraut was my gateway ferment. What I like most about sauerkraut is that much like Burong Mustasa, considered the sauerkraut of Asia for its ubiquity, it requires just two ingredients: cabbage and salt.
There is greater demand for cabbage rather than mustard greens in the country. This is perhaps because it has a milder flavor versus the sharp bite of mustard greens that tend to discourage people. It is also a sturdier vegetable and can last longer than delicate leafy greens. Cabbage, too, is generally available year-round. This means that if you ever decide to give fermentation a go whatever the season, this ferment would help you ease in.
Where to use sauerkraut
This traditional German fermented cabbage is usually added on hotdogs, used as a side dish, or on a Reuben sandwich. (Sometimes it has caraway seeds like in the featured image.) But just like with any food, not everyone will like eating it raw. Its sourness can be pretty strong for some people. This said, one can cook it in soups, stews, and any recipe that calls for acidity. When cooking sauerkraut, the final dish can be seasoned to taste.
Its brine, which makes a good sour broth base, is also a versatile ingredient. One can use it in salad dressings, sauces, and even cocktails. I use it when making plant-based cheese sauces.
- Salt (do not use iodized salt)
1. Wash cabbage thoroughly. Remove one or two of the outer leaves. Set these aside.
2. Slice cabbage in half. Remove core and set it aside.
3. Cut cabbage into shreds using a sharp knife.
4.Weigh shredded cabbage and multiply by 2%. This is the right amount of salt you will use.
5. In a bowl, salt and firmly massage your shredded cabbage. Set aside for 10 to 30 minutes. This should result with a much-reduced volume of cabbage sitting in its own brine. If using spices (such as caraway seeds for traditional European sauerkraut), add them at this point.
6. Stuff the cabbage into a jar, pressing it so that there are no air pockets. Add a bit more brine to keep the cabbage submerged.
7. Leave about an inch of head space between the cabbage and the mouth of the jar, creating enough headroom.
8. Use one or two of the other leaves you set aside to cover the cabbage and use the core to press it down and seal the jar.
9. Set on the counter for a week or two, tasting daily. Burp daily if you are using a tight lid.
10. Refrigerate as soon as you like the level of sourness.