Whoever said that sauerkraut results from the trio of cabbage, salt and time had it about right. The process of making homemade sauerkraut begins with placing sliced and salted cabbage into a large pot, where it is mashed to extract its natural juices. Once the cabbage is submerged, it is covered and put on a shelf, where it ferments anywhere from one to six weeks. In the end, you might find that your sauerkraut packs too much of a flavor punch. To tame the strong taste of sauerkraut, try one or several tactics.
Choose a cabbage head that is large and mature. Weigh it at your grocer; fully mature cabbage heads weigh between six and 15 pounds. The larger the cabbage head, the sweeter the flavor of the cabbage.
Shorten the length of time that you ferment the cabbage. In general, a shorter fermentation time results in sauerkraut that is less bitter. Experiment to find the “right” fermentation time for your taste buds. Sample the cabbage as soon as it begins to ferment—usually five days after you’ve first covered it—and then every day or two thereafter.
Rinse the sauerkraut under the faucet and squeeze out the juices in a colander after the sauerkraut is done fermenting. Then repeat the process again before cooking the sauerkraut. Draining the liquid also will drain some of the acidity, resulting in milder sauerkraut.
Take a page from German kitchens and cook the sauerkraut in a sweet white wine to tame the strong flavor. Or cheat, American style, and add diced apples or pears to the sauerkraut.
Tips & Warnings
- Nailing the “right” fermentation time is probably the trickiest part of making sauerkraut, especially if you’re making it for people with different acidity preferences. Still, making homemade sauerkraut allows you the flexibility to make multiple batches: sauerkraut that appeals to your preference for a mild flavor and sauerkraut for those who prefer a stronger taste.
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