Sauerkraut is a popular dish in my hometown, Trieste, Italy. It is usually served cooked with sausages and potatoes or as a soup with beans, onions and potatoes called jota.
Sauerkraut, like many fermented foods, is packed with probiotics, which are good for gut health, and cooking destroys most of the active properties so it’s recommended to eat it raw as a pickle or in a salad.
Homemade sauerkraut is easier to make than you think. Its sour taste doesn’t come from pickling but from fermenting fresh cabbage with salt. That’s it! If you are patient enough to wait a whole month the sour flavour will be stronger however you can already eat fresh sauerkraut after one week from making it.
1 whole white cabbage
10 gr fine sea salt
Wash the cabbage in distilled water (chlorinated water from the tap stops the fermentation process). Cut into quarters and slice very thinly. If you hate waste, slice the core thinly too otherwise discard it.
In a large bowl add one layer of sliced cabbage and sprinkle with salt. Repeat until you have used all the cabbage and salt.
With your hands scrunch the cabbage for 5-10 minutes to allow some liquid to come out. If you have any cuts in your hands or fingers wear gloves or the salt will sting. The cabbage will start changing colour slightly and will give out more liquid as you go along.
Put a plate over the cabbage and weigh it down with some filled water bottles or a heavy pan. Alternatively, cover the cabbage with cling film and place a heavy flower vase over it.
Leave for 3-6 hours. After this, the cabbage should be submerged in its own liquid but if not top up with brine (10 grams of salt per 1 liter of water).
Sterilise a large glass jar with hot water and pack in the cabbage using a spoon, making sure there are no air bubbles. Leave about 2cm space at the top and make sure the cabbage is submerged to avoid rotting. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper and put it on top of the cabbage.
Screw the tap on loosely and each day unscrew the jar to let some air out and pack the cabbage in a bit more with a spoon. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Taste after 1-2 days: if it starts tasting sour it’s ready to serve but it’s better to let the flavour develop over at least a week (some say a whole month). After the initial fermentation keep in the fridge. If the sauerkraut tastes unpleasant, changes colour or develops mould you need to throw it away and start again.