In this time of year filled with cookie exchanges and ubiquitous fruitcakes, why not rebel and give something that’s both tasty and healthy?


In this time of year filled with cookie exchanges and ubiquitous fruitcakes, why not rebel and give something that’s both tasty and healthy? Fermented foods run the gamut from simple pickles and kimchi to kombucha and yogurt. Here, fermentation expert Sandor Katz (author of The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation) offers a super-easy method for making homemade sauerkraut.

So round up some mason jars and start brewing. The best finishing touch for this gift is a homemade tag listing the ingredients and the day it was jarred.

courtesy of Sandor Katz

1-quart wide-mouthed jar, or a larger jar or crock

2 pounds of vegetables per quart: any varieties of cabbage, or ½ cabbage and the remainder of any combination of radish, turnip, carrot, beet, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, onion, shallot, leek, garlic, greens, seaweed, peppers or other vegetables

Approximately 1 tablespoon salt (start with a little less if using a coarse grind)

Other seasonings as desired, such as caraway seeds, juniper berries, dill, hot peppers,
ginger, turmeric, etc.

1. Chop or grate vegetables into a bowl. The purpose of this is to expose surface area in order to pull water out of the vegetables, so they can be submerged in their own juices. (Fermenting whole vegetables or large chunks requires a saltwater brine.)

2. Salt vegetables lightly and add seasonings as you chop. Sauerkraut does not require heavy salting. Taste after the next step and add more salt if desired. It is always easier to add salt than to remove it.

3. Squeeze salted vegetables with your hands for a few moments or pound with a blunt tool. This bruises the vegetables, breaking down cell walls and enabling them to give up their juices. Squeeze until you can pick up a handful and juice releases, as if from a wet sponge.

4. Pack salted and squeezed vegetables into the jar. Press vegetables down with force so that juice rises up and over them. Fill jar almost all the way to the top, leaving a little space for expansion.

5. Screw the top on, but be aware that fermentation produces carbon dioxide. Pressure will build up in the jar and needs to be released daily, especially the first few days when activity will be most vigorous.

6. Wait. Be sure to loosen top to relieve pressure each day for the first few days. The rate of fermentation will be faster in a warm environment. Some people prefer their krauts lightly fermented for just a few days; others prefer a stronger, more acidic flavor that develops over a longer time. Taste after a few days, then at regular intervals to discover what you prefer. In a cool environment, kraut can continue fermenting slowly for months.

Enjoy your kraut! And start a new batch before this one runs out.