Sauerkraut is probably one of the easiest ferments to do at home. It doesn’t require that much knowledge, experience or hustle – it is really simple to make even if you are a complete beginner in the fermentation world.
With this recipe, you will learn how to make pink sauerkraut from red and green cabbage. This is a wild fermentation, which means it will happen on its own because of the microorganisms that are naturally present on cabbage leaves. All you will need is cabbage, salt, water and a mason jar.
Lacto-fermentation is often a brilliant idea when it comes to food preservation – not only do you get to keep some of your favourite seasonal groceries for much longer than their harvest season lasts, but you also get a super healthy food that is bursting with that crazy and beautiful fermented flavour.
Fermented foods are easier to digest and have some of the nutrients more easily available for our bodies to use. They are also rich in probiotic bacteria that help us maintain good gut health.
Sauerkraut is a real winter staple
This lacto-fermented cabbage has always been one of my winter staples. Having grown up in Croatia, sauerkraut was always on our menu. You either buy it at the farmers’ market from the farmers who make it in big barrels, or simply make your own at home, in a jar.
I love the classic sauerkraut made with green cabbage, but sometimes I also like to experiment with ingredients and add a little “twist”, like here with this pink sauerkraut recipe.
I just added a bit of red cabbage along with the green one, which made the colour of the whole thing turn into a nice shade of pink after the fermentation microorganisms did their magic.
Making sauerkraut at home
To make sauerkraut at home, you will need fresh cabbage, salt, some water (I use filtered tap water) and clean jars.
You will need to cut your cabbage into thin strips, add salt, and massage the cabbage for a couple of minutes to soften it up a bit. Then you will add water and transfer everything into mason jars, making sure that you keep the cabbage submerged (you can do that with a fermentation weight or a small glass jar).
The fermentation will go well if you keep the jar at room temperature, or between 21 and 25 °C. Usual time required to make sauerkraut is between 3 and 4 weeks. You should be able to tell when it has fermented when you give it a taste.
Be mindful of the amount of salt – with less than 2% salt in the overall weight you may risk your ferment spoiling or becoming mushy, while too much salt can slow down or stop the fermentation process.
When making sauerkraut, I like to use around 2.5% salt and it has given me great results so far. I wrote this recipe with approximately 2.5% salt content (I was not being super exact, but the bacteria won’t mind a small deviation). If you are calculating your own, just make sure that you don’t forget to include the added water in your equation.
The ratio of green to red cabbage is completely up to your taste. I have experimented with different ratios, and I will share my favourite one with you in this recipe. My personal preference is to use less red cabbage because it results in a lighter sauerkraut, flavour- and colour-wise.
Red cabbage colour change explained + how to choose the amount
Red cabbage is packed with anthocyanins, those plant pigments that are responsible for its purple colour. They are also responsible for the colour change during the fermentation – from deep purple that leans more towards the blue side of the spectrum, to vibrant pink.
The reason for this is a pH value change – as the bacteria responsible for lacto-fermentation feed on sugars from the cabbage leaves, they produce lactic acid and make the content of your jar change from neutral to acidic (hence the sour flavour as well).
Before you have tried to ferment the red cabbage, you might not be aware of just how much colour there is in its leaves. Trust me, it is a lot. As an example, I made a batch that was 50% green cabbage and 50% red. It was really full of that anthocyanin colour.
If that is your preference, great! And if you like it a bit lighter, adding the red cabbage in quantity up to ¼ or even ⅕ of the whole cabbage mass will be perfectly enough.
Also, if you prefer just the plain old green sauerkraut, you can follow this recipe for that as well, just replace the amount of red cabbage with more of the green one.
- 550 g (19.4 oz) green cabbage
- 150 g (5.3 oz) red cabbage
- 25 g (0.88 oz) sea salt
- 300 ml (10.2 oz) filtered water
1. Cut the cabbage into thin strips.
2. Add the salt, and mix/massage with your hands for a couple of minutes, or until the cabbage softens up a bit and lets some water out (don’t throw any liquid away).
3. Add the water and mix everything.
4. Transfer the cabbage and water into mason jars and press with a spoon - not too hard, just enough to let any air bubbles out, and to submerge the cabbage.
5. To make sure that cabbage stays under the liquid level, you can use a fermentation weight, or improvise by putting a smaller jar on top of the cabbage. This smaller jar should be pressed a bit with the lid of the bigger jar, to make sure it will keep the cabbage submerged.
6. Close the jar with a lid and let the cabbage ferment for at least three weeks. You can check on it every now and then to see if all the cabbage is properly submerged - if not, press it a bit with a spoon or a fork (this should be done on a daily basis in case you are not using any weights to keep it down).
7. After three weeks, you can give it a taste. It should taste nice and sour (I mean, like sauerkraut..), and should have a vibrant pink colour. Now you can decide if it is sour enough, or if you want to leave it for another week or so. When you are happy with the taste, you can store the kraut in the fridge to slow down the fermentation.
* When fermenting foods at home, always make sure that you utilise sterilised equipment, bowls and jars. This way you will avoid any possible contamination.
* This quantity is enough to fill up a quart mason jar (about a litre or 32 oz). Make sure that there is always some space between the ferment and the lid (I like to leave at least 3 cm or 1.2 inch), because there will be bubbles developing during the fermentation process, and the level of fermenting vegetables and liquid will rise.
* If there is a bit too much to fill up a jar, I would rather put the extra amount in a small jar to ferment than try to overfill the big jar. Overfilling will lead to leaking once the fermentation process has heated up.
* If it looks like there is not enough liquid when you fill up the jar, keep in mind that the cabbage will release more of its liquid in the following hours, and there is no need to add more water; even more so because that would change the salt percentage that we want to keep around 2.5%.
* When you taste your sauerkraut, you will be able to tell if it has gone bad - in that case the taste will be unpleasant and not like something you would like to eat. If you are new to fermenting, don’t worry, you will know if it turned out good or not. But the chances are, if you followed all the steps, it will turn out at least perfectly fine. It is hard to mess up this one.
* However, if you see that it has developed mould or just smells foul, it is time throw it away and try again with new cabbage and thoroughly cleaned equipment.
* After your cabbage has fermented to the point where you like its taste, you can keep it in the fridge for many months to go. It can keep good for quite long, but for the best health benefits, try to consume it within about 6 months.