Want a showstopper side dish? Are you searching for color and flare to dress up your Rueben sandwiches and hamburgers? Have you recently taken an interest in immunity-boosting lacto-fermentation dishes? Well, my epicurean friend, look no further. Ruby red sauerkraut is the swanky alternative that’s sure to impress — especially if you can say that you made it yourself.
The process is fairly straight-forward. The first step is to find a suitable container for your cabbage and then immerse the container (and lid) in boiling water for ten minutes. I like to use antique glass canning jars or those nifty throwback varieties with the attached glass lids with rubber seals because I love the way they look and they are ideal for fermentation projects. After ten minutes of boiling, carefully lift out the jar & lid and set them on a kitchen towel to dry. It isn’t vital that the jars be sterile but I find it is always wise to begin any sort of long term food-storage with a clean slate. If you are not as cautious as I am, then simply washing the jars in soap and water should be just fine.
Quite a few people have asked me about the lidded jars with rubber seals and I’ve decided that I like Le Parfait French glass canning jars best of all. There’s a little link to them at the bottom of this post, if you are interested in adding them to your collection. I’ve never seen mold grow on any of my fermented food when I’ve used their jars and since I live in Hawaii right now, I’d say that I’m well-qualified to speak about mold-growth potential. I use them for kimchee and other fermented yumminess, too.
You will need:
- 4-5 pounds of red cabbage (you may use green but then it wouldn’t be ruby sauerkraut)
- 3 tablespoons sea salt or canning/pickling salt
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries (optional)
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 jar with rubber seal and lid with metal clasp
- Rinse the cabbage (this could be one head or a few depending on the season and your source), allow it to dry, and carefully inspect for any discoloration or wilted leaves.
- Remove all of the unsatisfactory portions, set aside a nice cabbage leaf to use on top of the sauerkraut, and then shred the rest. I cut cabbages in half lengthwise and then chop then into very thin strips but there’s no set method as long as you are careful not to chop up the core (ewww).
- Place it in a bowl, sprinkle in the salt, juniper berries, and caraway seeds (click the links to see the kinds I use).
- Massage the cabbage with your hands until it becomes soft and malleable. The cabbage will produce plenty of juice, too.
- Pack the jar with the cabbage mixture, ensure that the cabbage liquid covers all of the shredded cabbage, place the reserved cabbage leaf on top, and be sure that you leave some room at the top for cabbage expansion.
- Wipe the rim of the jar and then close the lid. Place the jar in a pan to catch any liquid and store the jar at room temperature in a dark place for a week. It will bubble and release gases (it may even push some liquid out so it’s a good idea to place the jar on a pan to catch spills & splatter).
- After a week, move the jar to a cool place (such as the refrigerator) and after a month, the sauerkraut will be ready for use. Refrigeration slows fermentation but doesn’t stop fermentation.
Now, let’s chat about lacto-fermentation! Lacto-fermented foods are rich in probiotics which keep the bad bacteria from taking over our digestive tracks. Eating lacto-fermented foods, such as sauerkraut lowers the pH of your digestive tract and creates a hostile environment for harmful bacteria. That’s a very good thing so please be sure to eat plenty of ruby kraut!
It should be noted that this recipe is exactly the same for green cabbage and makes lovely “normal” sauerkraut. You can also make it by omitting the berries and caraway seeds altogether. If you omit the berries & seeds but want some spice, you may add five dried bay leaves (just put them along the sides of the jar as you add the cabbage).