Homemade Sauerkraut Using Red Cabbage

The deep red-violet hue of red cabbage makes such a beautiful end product you may want to have these jars on display.  I wanted my red sauerkraut to have a different flavor profile than my regular kraut so I chose a unique blend of spices for this batch.  I measure the spices whole then grind them in a coffee grinder dedicated to this purpose.

Ingredients for a 10 Liter Crock

  • 10-12 pounds of cabbage 
  • 2T Kosher Salt per 5# cabbage
  • 3T Sugar per 5# cabbage (opt.)
  • 1/2 Large sweet onion
  • 2T Cardamom Pods
  • 1T Fennel Seeds
  • 2   3" Sticks Cinnamon
There is room for more in this crock but I based my recipe on the amount of cabbage I had on hand.  You can adjust proportionately for your fermenting vessel.

Although you can take shortcuts if you wish I find the following specialty equipment to be worthwhile both in maximizing the success rate as well as productivity.

I make my sauerkraut in specially designed .  The reason this type of crock is preferred is that it has a water-sealed airlock.  This is imperative to increasing your success rate as the water-sealed airlock allows gasses created during the fermentation process to escape while keeping oxygen out.  Oxygen can cause spoilage of your fermented vegetables and you would have to discard the entire batch.  Some use plates, weighted with brine-filled bags (which often burst) in hopes of keeping the sauerkraut or other vegetables away from harm but this is a hit-or-miss proposition.  To use this crock you will also need  stone weights to keep your cabbage submerged in the brine.  In addition to regular kitchen equipment, a wooden sauerkraut stomper is helpful.  fermentation crocks

Next you will slice the cabbage one-head-at-a-time.  To do this you can use a sharp knife, a mandolin slicer, a cutter specifically designed for cabbage or a vegetable slicer. After shredding 35 pounds of cabbage on a mandolin slicer I decided to invest in a Nemco vegetable slicer and it was worth every penny.  This commercial hand-crank slicer requires no electricity and will breeze through a head of cabbage in a minute or less.

Begin by removing the loose outer leaves and then quarter the cabbage with a sharp knife.  Cut the core from the cabbage quarters and shred each head of cabbage onto a tray.  When your tray is full add the cabbage to the crock and top with a layer of thinly sliced onions, one third of your spice mixture and 2 Tbsp. of salt per 5#.  Stomp the cabbage with the wooden stomper to break it down and release the juices.  The cabbage will compact considerably.

 Continue the process of shredding the cabbage and adding the salt (plus seasoning and onion as desired) then stomp aggressively to compress the cabbage.The salt will pull the moisture from the cabbage to create the brine.

After the final addition has been stomped down you should have enough brine to cover the cabbage and the weights.  

Make sure all of the cabbage is off the sides of the crock and below the brine.  Add the weights and press down so that the brine rises to cover the weights completely.

Place the lid on the crock and fill the air lock with water.  Within 24 hours you should hear the "bloop" of air bubbles being released through the water in the rim of the crock. Remember to top off the water in the airlock periodically so that you retain the seal.

The temperature at which you ferment the cabbage will affect the speed of the process.  At temps below 60 degrees the cabbage may not ferment; above 75 and it may become soft.  When fermenting the cabbage at 60-65 degrees it will take 5 to 6 weeks while storing the crock at 70-75 degrees your cabbage should be fully fermented in 3-4 weeks.  
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