Classic recipe for small batch fermenting -Get organic high-quality cabbage. In the fall it makes sense to get farm-fresh cabbage, though store-bought is just as good. Select varieties that have very tight heads, and don’t be shy around very large cabbage – big it good. Get about half of the cabbage weight of carrots; daikon radish and some ginger root. Get non-iodized salt (any additives in the salt will make cabbage discolored and soft; kosher salt has additives too if you look at the label. I lately buy pure sea salt for making kraut). Get caraway or dill seed, or both.
Remove outer leaves from the cabbage, discard. Wash and core cabbage. Wash carrots. Start slicing cabbage, by hand or using a machine. Grate carrots. In your crock or large glass bowl start layering cabbage and carrots, in about 4” thick layers. Mix by hand, then sprinkle salt and continue mixing and squeezing the mix until it begins to juice. Rub it with your hands, so salt crystals rub into cabbage and make it juicy.
With each layer, pack the mix tightly with your fist or wooden old-style potato-masher.
Repeat the whole process until done. It is important to compact the mix so that there is no air present. Leave about 2” head space. Your mix should have some juice already, nearly to the top; or it will get more juicy within a few hours.
Once you fill your container, put a clean plate over the kratu (not on the rim of the bowl, but on the kraut itself). Place something heavy to keep the sauerkraut covered with juices at all times – you can use a large glass bottle with water, or a large clean rock. I prefer fermenting sauerkraut on my countertop, where I can see it, and where it is clean and the temperature is nice and warm. It typically takes from 3 days (in the summer) to 5-6 days (in the winter) for kraut to be ready. Cover the crock with clean towel to keep evaporation down and dust out.
Soon the fermenting process will begin. Small bubbles of gas will start escaping through the juice. I have not noticed any unpleasant smell, though it may happen and is part of the process. Take off the weight daily, and using a wooden ladle (its handle) or a similar tool, puncture the cabbage in many places to facilitate gas removal from fermentation process. When done, compact the sauerkraut with your fist so it is covered with juices, and put back the weight. Ready cabbage tastes pleasant, is crunchy (not soft), is not too sour, and has no fizzy flavors.
Now you need to move it into glass jars or other appropriate containers (avoid plastic). Pack sauerkraut tightly and store in the refrigerator, ideally keeping it covered by its own juices. Enjoy this great food – it is full of vitamins, and is healthy and delicious. I serve it with sunflower oil.
Quantities: 2 parts cabbage, 1 part carrots, chopped up ginger and sliced daikon radish. Caraway seed ad lib. One table spoon pure salt per two pounds of cabbage.