Korea not only exports funky hip moves to pop music, but also kimchi, a dish of fermented vegetables. A Korean meal without kimchi is like skiing without snow. And yes, kimchi is a close relative to its Central European “cousin”, the sauerkraut.Fermentation, a very ancient preservation process – used for both sauerkraut and kimchi –makes vegetable durable and tasty. Our ancestors also used this procedure to conserve vegetables during winter. In addition, almost all cultures employ fermentation in their cooking tradition (sauerkraut in central Europe, kimchi in Korea, miso in Japan, kefir in Central Asia,…), also as a mean of healthy and valuable food. Talking nutrition, it is full of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) for our digestive system, hence regular consumption is highly recommended. The good news is that sauerkraut or kimchi can easily be made at home!

There are two major benefits versus the supermarket version: First, the homemade version is not pasteurised and therefore so much richer in nutrients (as heating destroys a certain amount of minerals, vitamins  and phytonutrients and all enzymes). Secondly, the regular supermarket version is mostly not cultured (=fermented) sauerkraut, but a bland mixture of cabbage and vinegar (=pickled).

So, let’s roll up your sleeves! Here are 10 easy steps to your own homemade sauerkraut:

  1. Clean all required kitchen material (knife, mixing bowl, crock…) with boiling water for sterilisation and to reduce later risk of mold during fermentation process.
  2. Shred you cabbage (white, red, Chinese cabbage,…) by hand, with a mandolin slicer or food processor. I personally add other vegetables for more colour, texture and flavour, such as cauliflower, beets, carrots, radish, bell pepper, and broccoli. You can also add apples, onions or dulse sea algae. Cut them in different shapes (half-moons, full-moons, julienned,..)to make them distinguishable once fermented.
    Ingredients for a colourful sauerkraut
  3. For basic sauerkraut add salt (sea salt, Himalaya salt) and massage the vegetables thoroughly to release their juices. Let sit for 10 minutes and repeat (several times, if necessary).
    Mixing and massaging veggies
  4. If you go for a more flavoured version (“kimchi style”) here are suggestions of add-ins to the mix: grated ginger, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, garlic, lemon juice, juniper berries, nama shoyu, agave syrup, miso. I do not use any vinegar in my sauerkraut recipes!
  5. Place the mixture in a large glass container or a sauerkraut-crock. Important: Push the mixture down as hard as you can. You want to remove as much air (no air bubbles) as possible and make the brine cover the vegetable mix entirely. Close the crock and put in a dark, cool place. Place a heavy weight (such as a plate with a big jar of water on top or specific weight stones in case of the sauerkraut-crock) on the vegetable mix to push it down and keep it submerged in the brine. The cabbage must not come into contact with the air, otherwise it will spoil. Make sure that air pressure can escape (the fermentation process creates gas and air pressure will build).
  6. Important: If after 2 – 3 hours the brin do not cover yet the vegetable mix, add water (boiled and cooled down) to cover the vegetables fully. Make sure that the area above the liquid is clean (no vegetable bits) to reduce risk of mold.
  7. Let sit for about 5-20 days. I check every day the smell (nicely sour) and also for mold. It is mandatory that the sauerkraut is submerged under liquid the entire time, as sauerkraut fermentation is an anaerobic (without oxygen) process! Hence, add more boiled and cooled water only if necessary.
  8. If you should discover any mold, your kraut better goes to the compost! Try again, check all above steps!
  9. The number of fermentation days depends on the warmth of the environment and the desired sourness. The longer the porcess goes on, the more the odour will become more acidic (and less sour) and less salty. Once ready, pack it into storage containers (such as mason jars) and keep the sauerkraut in the fridge. You can keep cultured vegetables for weeks.
    And voilà! Ready to savour!
  10. For your next batch of sauerkraut, keep a bit of the liquid from the previous batch as a starter. This enhances and triggers fermentation faster.

To support a healthy gut, several spoons of cultured vegetables before/with every meal are highly recommended. You can be creative: Serve fermented vegetables on crackers, add it to salads or eat it alone. It is so good for your body! Bon appétit!

©The Vibrant Factory
About Stefan Lehner: Nutrition Coach & Educator based in Paris, available worldwide. He previously worked in management in an international corporation. Advocates the tremendous impact of food and lifestyle choices on our health and wellbeing. He puts his focus on durable transformations and challenges quick-fixing., on Facebook and Instagram

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