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The key to the best homemade sauerkraut is organic cabbage, because then you can be assured that the right bacteria to start fermentation is present. Sterilize jar and lid by boiling for several minutes in water and draining on a clean dishcloth.
If you have chlorinated water, just let it rest in the open air for about an hour, the chlorine will quickly evaporate into the air.
The sauerkraut will ferment on its own, just keep it between 65°F and 72°F for 2-3 weeks in a dark area. When life gives you cabbage, you make sauerkraut — and homemade sauerkraut is a world apart from the stuff that comes from the grocery store. Today I'm showing you how to make a small batch of sauerkraut in a mason jar — it's just enough kraut to get you hooked! Sauerkraut is often one of the first fermentation projects recommended to curious DIY-ers, and with good reason: It's beyond easy to make, it requires very little special equipment, and the results are dependably delicious. Lacto-fermentation has been used for centuries to preserve seasonal vegetables beyond their standard shelf-life. At the most basic, all you need is cabbage, salt, and some sort of container to store it while it's fermenting.
The cabbage near the surface tends to float, so when fermenting in a mason jar, you need to either tamp down the cabbage a few times a day or place a large outer leaf of cabbage over the surface of the shredded cabbage to hold it down. For a small quart-sized batch like we're making today, the minimum time is about three days, although the kraut will continue to ferment and become tastier for many days after that. It is possible you might find mold growing on the surface of the sauerkraut, but don't panic! I have been making fermented beverages and foods for years, and I have always been amazed by how easy they are and how delicious the results can be.
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz - This is a great all-around resource on fermentation in general, fermentation problem-solving, and fermentation health benefits.
Cultures for Health - This is an online resource for fermentation cultures and equipment, but I also turn to them for a lot of information on fermenting.
Here's how to make a small batch of sauerkraut in a mason jar — it's just enough kraut to get you hooked! Clean everything: When fermenting anything, it's best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Combine the cabbage and salt: Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top.
Pack the cabbage into the jar: Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them into the canning jar. Weigh the cabbage down: Once all the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, slip the smaller jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. Cover the jar: Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine. Press the cabbage every few hours: Over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often with the jelly jar. Add extra liquid, if needed: If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage. Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it's fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F.

Because this is a small batch of sauerkraut, it will ferment more quickly than larger batches. While it's fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white scum.
Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. Sauerkraut with other cabbages: Red cabbage, napa cabbage, and other cabbages all make great sauerkraut. Canning sauerkraut: You can process sauerkraut for longer storage outside of refrigeration, but the canning process will kill the good bacterias produced by the fermentation process.
Larger or smaller batches: To make larger or smaller batches of sauerkraut, keep same ratio of cabbage to salt and adjust the size of the container.
Hot and cold temperatures: Do everything you can to store sauerkraut at a cool room temperature. This easy recipe for making German sauerkraut produces 1 quart at a time by fermenting it in a Mason jar. Sauerkraut came to Europe via Asia, where people have been pickling cabbage for thousands of years. In a clean, non-metallic bowl, mix together cabbage, juniper berries, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, and pickling salt. After bubbling stops, check container and top off with salty water (1 teaspoon pickling salt per cup of water, warmed slightly to dissolve completely) if level falls below rim. Stuff the right amount of cabbage, salt and water into a jar and the friendly microorganisms do the rest.
Add filtered, or non-chlorinated, salty (1 teaspoon salt per cup of water) water to rim of jar and cap loosely with a sterilized canning lid. It's crunchy and delightfully sour, perfect for topping a round of beer-braised brats or layering into a big sandwich. All you need to do is combine shredded cabbage with some salt and pack it into a container — a crock if you have one and want to make a lot of sauerkraut, but a mason jar will do just fine for small batches.
To put it (fairly) simply: There is beneficial bacteria present on the surface of the cabbage and, in fact, all fruits and vegetables.
The fermentation process itself is very reliable and safe, and the fermented sauerkraut can be kept at cellar temperature (around 55°F) for months, although those of us without cellars can make do with storing the kraut in our fridges. Also be sure to keep the jar covered at all times with a clean cloth or piece of cheese cloth. As simple as it sounds, the best rule of thumb is to keep tasting the kraut and refrigerate (or take it cellar temperature) when it tastes good to you. You may see bubbles, foam, or white scum on the surface of the sauerkraut, but these are all signs of normal, healthy fermentation.
Mold typically forms only when the cabbage isn't fully submerged or if it's too hot in your kitchen. They just released a free e-book on lacto-fermentation that is available if you sign up for their newsletter. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents dust or insects from getting into the jar.

As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, screw on the cap, and refrigerate.
See this tutorial from the National Center for Home Food Preservation for canning instructions. Because of its high vitamin C content, it was very useful in preventing scurvy and keeping people healthy throughout the winter months when no fresh food was available.To make your own sauerkraut, you will rely on the bacteria found on the cabbage leaves. Don't worry about needing a special crock or making so much you'll be eating it for months. Lactobacillus is one of those bacteria, which is the same bacteria found in yogurt and many other cultured products.
Besides preserving the cabbage, this fermentation process also transforms it into something incredibly tasty and gives it additional health benefits — fermented sauerkraut contains a lot of the same healthy probiotics as a bowl of yogurt. When making sauerkraut in a crock, you usually place a weighted plate over the cabbage to pack it down and keep it submerged. The sauerkraut is safe to eat at every stage of the process, so there is no real minimum or maximum fermentation time. The sauerkraut is still fine (it's still preserved by the lactic acid) — you can scoop off the mold and proceed with fermentation. You'll be using your hands to massage the salt into the cabbage, so give those a good wash, too. At first it might not seem like enough salt, but gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage.
Submerged in this liquid for a period of several days or weeks, the cabbage slowly ferments into the crunchy, sour condiment we know and love as sauerkraut.
When submerged in a brine, the bacteria begin to convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid; this is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
When fermenting in a mason jar, inserting a smaller jelly jar filled with rocks or marbles in the mouth of the larger jar serves the same purpose. If you get a very active fermentation or if your mason jar is very full, the brine can sometimes bubble up over the top of the jar. If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don't eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.
Canned sauerkraut should be rinsed in a colander prior to eating, to reduce the briny flavor, but fresh sauerkraut does not have to be.
This is part of the reason why I recommend using a larger mason jar than is really necessary to hold the cabbage.
Add filtered, or non-chlorinated, salty water (1 teaspoon pickling salt per cup of water) up to the rim of the jar and cap loosely with a sterilized canning lid. Sauerkraut may be eaten raw, as a garnish or salad, or cooked, with apples, bacon and onions.
If you do get a bubble-up, it's nothing to worry about — just place a plate below the jar to catch the drips and make sure the cabbage continues to be covered by the brine.

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