Culturing vegetables like cabbage with salt produces lactic acid and lots of beneficial bacteria, creating a probiotic health food that can improve digestion and build immunity. While krauts can be made in almost any vessel, I prefer to use a specially designed German sauerkraut crock made by Harsch. It comes with fitted stones that weigh down the kraut, and the lid features a moat that acts as an airlock, letting air out as fermentation happens but keeping molds from entering. If you don’t have one of these handy crocks, you can use a bucket, pot, large jar, or almost anything that will hold the cabbage. The Harsch crocks are designed to culture the vegetables over the course of about five weeks, but I find that this is sometimes too long for other vessels—the liquid evaporates and mold can form on top of the kraut. This doesn’t ruin the kraut underneath—just scrape off the top and then transfer the good kraut to jars and put them in the fridge. Eaten in midwinter, this kraut is a lovely reminder of the harvest season!
Yields about 1 gallon
- 6 pounds green cabbage
- 2 pounds peppers (Gypsy, bell, poblano, or other)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, if available
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice (“jamaica pepper”)
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup minced scallions
- 4 tablespoons sea salt, or as needed
Core, quarter, and shred cabbage finely. Sprinkle with sea salt and massage or crush the cabbage with your hands to begin to bring out the liquid. Set aside.
Slice peppers into very thin strips, discarding the seeds. Add peppers and all remaining ingredients to cabbage, and mix to toss thoroughly. Taste and adjust salt (it should taste saltier than you would like at this stage), and add more spice if you like.
Pack into a 5-liter sauerkraut fermentation crock, or a 1-gallon bucket or pickle crock. Weigh down the kraut using the stones that come in the crock or a plate with something heavy placed on top.
Unless the cabbage has released LOTS of liquid, you will need to add enough brine to submerge the cabbage entirely. Make the brine by dissolving 2 tablespoons sea salt in a quart of filtered water. Pour over the kraut to cover the plate or stones by at least ½-inch of liquid. Cover with a cloth or with the fermentation crock lid.
Allow to ferment for 2–5 weeks. The time it takes will depend on your fermentation vessel as well as how the kraut looks and tastes. When it’s ready, transfer to mason jars and refrigerate.