sauerkraut
a simple fermented cabbage recipe

When you salt cabbage and leave it in the right conditions something called lacto fermentation takes place. This happens because Lactobacillus – a naturally occurring bacteria that’s on your hands right now, and on the vegetables in your fridge – feed on the sugars in the cabbage, producing lactic acid, which helps to preserve the cabbage. Fermented cabbage is very good for you because it contains lots of vitamins and fibre as well as probiotics – microorganisms that are great for your digestion and general gut health. It’s important not to ignore these remarkable health benefits, but the main reason I like to ferment cabbage is for the flavour and texture, which are almost otherworldly.

Ingredients 

1 or 2 firm white or red cabbages (about 2.5–3kg/5lb 8oz–6lb 8oz), damaged or ragged outer leaves removed

40g (11⁄2oz) salt

1–2 tablespoons caraway seeds

Method 

Before you begin, you’ll need a 2-litre (70fl oz) scrupulously clean, sterilized jar with a lid and a plastic food bag.

Place the cabbage or cabbages on a large chopping board and cut into quarters. Remove the dense core, then use a large, sharp knife to slice the cabbage quarters across their width as thinly as possible. Place the shredded cabbage in a large plastic or metal bowl, sprinkle over the salt, and add the caraway.

Crush the cabbage through your hands repeatedly to break up the leaves and get the salt into it. It’s hard work, but try and do this for 3–4 minutes. Cover the bowl and leave for an hour or so, then repeat the crushing process. The salt will have drawn a lot of liquid out of the cabbage. This liquid is called the brine. Pour the brine into the jar, then pack in the cabbage, pushing it down below the surface of the liquid. If there’s not enough brine to cover the cabbage, simply mix 10g (1⁄4oz) fine salt with 200ml (7fl oz) water and pour this over. Weigh down the cabbage using a clear plastic food bag part-filled with water, as in the photograph.

Leave the jar at an ambient temperature (16–22°C/60–72°F) with the lid left open for five to eight days. Taste the cabbage on the third or fourth day, and see how you like it. It should be sweet and not overly sour at this stage. I like to leave it to ferment for another two to four days before decanting into a large, clean, airtight plastic box. Store the cabbage in the fridge and eat within four to six weeks.