This is our Go-To Recipe for sauerkraut. It turns out fantastic every time, however if you are unaccustomed to the flavors of juniper, caraway and mustard seed, you may want to use less of these spices the first time. They impart subtle but meaningful flavors that Central and Eastern Europeans (and those who grew up with European style sauerkraut) find to be absolutely mouthwatering.
6lbs Organic Green or Red Cabbage (approximately two medium cabbages)
First remove the outer leaves and the center core from the cabbages and throw them in the compost. Give the cabbages a quick washing.
Using a cabbage shredder or mandolin slicer, carefully cut the cabbages into razor thin shreds. Don't use a knife unless you really, really have to. They ruin the consistency of the shreds and you'll never get them thin enough.
Sidebar: Alex @ Raw Rutes loves to go on and on about that one time he had a man vs machine style sauerkraut face-off. His chef friend had a knife and Alex had a cabbage shredder. Both were convinced that they would get great results, but Alex's kraut was determined to be superior in quality by Chris @ Raw Rutes who was chosen as judge of the contest. Some sources say the chef cast his knife into a nearby ocean in grief at seeing Alex's Kraut-tastic results. It will forever be known around the water cooler as the Kraut-Off of 2013.
In a big bowl or container, mix all the ingredients and knead it with your hands until it starts to release some juices.
Pack it tightly into your fermenting crock using your fist or a vegetable stomper.
Make sure the cabbage is completely submerged in juices. If not, top it off with brine made of 1 cup filtered water and 1 tsp sea salt.
Place clean ceramic weights in crock and make sure they are completely submerged in brine.
Sidebar: The weights may seem insignificant, but they do play an important roll in keeping everything submerged. Try fermenting without them and you'll see what we mean. As a substitute for weights, when using open style crocks, a clean ceramic plate and a large rock that has been scrubbed clean and boiled are often substituted for the ceramic half moon style weights.
If your crock has a water channel around the rim, fill it with brine as well.
Ferment for 3-5 days at 68-72° or until the sauerkraut starts to bubble, then move to cooler (but not cold) temperature (between 58° and 64°).
Sidebar: Let's take a minute to dive into the bubbling and temperatures aspect of sauerkraut a bit more. Bubbling levels tend to vary widely from an occasional bubble gurgling up through the water channel to crazy, radioactive level bubbling almost as if your sauerkraut is boiling! Generally this level of bubbling is due to starting your ferment in a temperature warmer than mentioned above. It's okay! It means the lactobacteria in your sauerkraut are off to a great start. If you're in a warmer southern climate with no basement temperatures available, keep it going a few extra days on the counter then sample and move to the fridge. It will still continue to sour, just much, much slower.
After two weeks, sample the sauerkraut and see if it’s sour and tangy enough for your liking. If not, continue fermenting until it reaches the desired flavor. Periodically check the water level in the water channel.
Once fermentation is complete, store finished sauerkraut in sealed containers in the refrigerator.