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Garlicky Kraut

I don’t steer too far from the norm when it comes to sauerkraut, but I do love garlic and have witnessed some yummy sauerkraut made by friends that use a lot more than just cabbage. It’s never a bad time to restock my sauerkraut supply either!

Instead of having whole cloves of garlic, I chose to press mine. I think that opens up more surface area and garlic juices so the fermenting can be efficient. Plus, eating the fermented pressed garlic might be easier than a whole clove!

unpeeled garlic and garlic press on kitchen counter

There are many recipes to make sauerkraut, but basically you are just chopping or shredding the cabbage, pounding and pressing it to release the natural juices, then submerging it under a salt brine. Wait 3-10 days, or longer if your room temperature is really cool. Sauerkraut can be done for months in a root cellar for example, because it’s much cooler in there, being in the lower 50s. At room temps of 60-70º, you can safely do it for about a week. If you go above 70º, you tend to get blech-y results: way too soft, mushy, rotten smelly, moldy.

If I’m doing a gallon size jar, I can usually get 3-4 heads of cabbage in it. My rule of thumb is 1 medium head of cabbage per quart.

Then it goes into a very large bowl, and I pound it for about 4 minutes with a wooden goody like this:

wooden tampener next to other fermentation supplies

Then I sprinkle a tablespoon of sea salt on top of my cabbage. I mix with my hands really quick before I pound again. Then I let it sit for 30 minutes to allow the salt to draw out more liquid from the cabbage. I’ve heard that you can mix and let it sit without pounding, too.

After 30 minutes, I pound again until it looks like I have a lot of juice. Sometimes I’ll let it sit again for another 30 minute period if I didn’t get enough juice out.

Then I put and push all that cabbage into the jar. I like to leave the juice in the bowl just so I can eyeball about how much I have. We want a brine that will be a total of 1-3 Tablespoons of salt per 1 quart of liquid. You’ve already put 1 Tablespoon of salt in there, so experiment with batches as you go on – you might not add more salt this time. Then next time, you might try 2 Tablespoons total. The pounder comes in handy again here because you can push hard to get the juices to come to the top. If you do not have enough natural liquid, it’s fine to add water so long as you are keeping the ratio in mind (1-3 Tablespoons salt per 1 quart liquid). Salt is your protection against mold, but on the flipside, too much salt can inhibit fermentation.

After pressing the cabbage down and ensuring there’s enough salt brine to cover the top, you’ll put your weights on top. Ceramic or glass weights are great, but you can also use cabbage leaves to tuck down over your cabbage. You want the weights under the brine too. Finally, you’ll want to make sure you still have 1” of headspace between the top of the liquid and your lid.

After fermenting a few days, you can open and taste it if you’d like. If it’s not done, close it up and ferment a few more days. Make note of that so next time you don’t have to open and test, you’ll just know to do “x” amount of days at that particular room temperature. The more you open the jar, the more opportunity for oxygen to get in your brew which can cause mold to form on the surface – but don’t freak out…a little surface mold is fine. Some mix it back in or scrape it off….if it’s pretty and colorful though, or super thick, your brew might be contaminated with spores, so it’s best to scrape away everything and smell/taste what’s a good inch or so below what you removed. If the whole batch smells like mold, then toss it, but don’t beat yourself up…try again!

Removing the weights made that garlic aroma evident!

ceramic weights on a kitchen towel

See how lovely this is…still lots of firm pieces!

metal spoon stirring freshly made garlic sauerkraut

Now to portion it out into quart size jars for the fridge. Again, press down the cabbage so the brine will be on top.

bubbly garlic sauerkraut fermenting in quart size jars

I should be good to go for a few months with this supply! You can age your kraut 3-6 months in the fridge, but I’ve had year old kraut before that tastes divine too!

Get garlicky fermented!