How to Make Sauerkraut

Or Natural Pickles From Any Vegetable

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

Appears in

From Scratch: 10 Meals, 175 Recipes, and Dozens of Techniques You Will Use Over and Over

From Scratch

By Michael Ruhlman

Published 2019

  • About

Sauerkraut is another one of those preparations that you can buy anywhere, but it tastes so different from what you can make at home in a week that the store-bought stuff should be called something else.

Using the magical proportion of the 5 percent brine (which I learned from my first instructor, chef Michael Pardus), you can pickle a single jar of sauerkraut in 5 to 7 days. It will have that distinctive sauerkraut tang, the same pickled cabbage flavor, but it will also have a crunch, a brightness, and a freshness that you can’t get any other way.

Indeed, any vegetable can be pickled this way with great results. Make your own carrot and daikon pickle for a homemade Bánh Mì. Or pickle your own Thai chiles, then seed and chop them to garnish anything from a sautéed steak to roast chicken to any of the curries. The flavor of the chile pickling liquid—salt water alone—creates its own delicious tart condiment to be sprinkled on anything that needs a little kick. Or make your own kimchi, with cabbage and daikon and Korean chili paste (the chef Judy Joo has a fantastic paste recipe online).

Of course, it’s best to use a scale, but if you don’t have one, you can still make a close-enough 5 percent brine using Morton’s coarse kosher salt: 1 tablespoon weighs just about ½ ounce/14 grams.

Ingredients

  • cups/500 grams water
  • 1 ounce/28 grams kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons Morton’s kosher salt)
  • Vegetables of choice, sliced or chopped as desired

Method

Combine the water and salt in a saucepan and heat on the stove till the salt is dissolved (or use a bowl in the microwave). Let cool to room temperature.

Fill a 1-quart/1-liter canning jar with your vegetables, then pour in the brine almost to the top. Put plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar. Use a clean stone or other small weight (I use a shot glass) to push the vegetables and the plastic wrap down, then fill the rest of the jar (and the shot glass) with more brine. Fit the lid on loosely (the fermenting vegetables will release gas) and set the jar on a plate or tray (some of the brine will eventually spill over).

Fermenting is best done in normal to cool room temperatures. In the summer, if your kitchen is hot, spoilage bacteria can take over (it will look like foam and scum and mold), so find the coolest spot available.

The vegetables should be nicely pickled after 7 days (perhaps even 5) and ready to use. For long-term storage, make a 3 percent brine and cool to room temperature. Drain the pickled vegetables (taste the liquid; you may want to reserve some for use as a vinegar or seasoning alternative, especially when pickling chiles). Pour the 3 percent brine over them, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 weeks.