Red Cabbage, Ginger, Apple Kraut is hands down my favorite of the many fermented foods we make at home – though my white kimchi is a close second. Gorgeous purple color, and a solid punch of pure salty-sour flavor with not too much funk, but just enough to make you want more, is the dream of a good sauerkraut. 

Why is sauerkraut awesome? Let me count the ways:

  1. Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria (the really good kind that helps keep your micro-biome, i.e., gut/intestines/tummy, happy). It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage. 
  2. Fermented veggies are SO f*ing good for you. Have you heard about the magic of probiotics? These foods contain bacteria that line your digestive tract, supporting your immune system and efficiently absorbing nutrients from foods.
  3. Plus, you are getting all the benefits of the raw veggies: vitamins, minerals, etc. And ginger is a super immune booster too. 
  4. Every culture in the world ferments vegetables, and has been doing so for millennia, because fermentation is healthy, efficient for preservation and shelf-life, and easy to make and transport.
  5. Sauerkraut is one of the greatest probiotic foods, and there are way more active, live, healthy bacteria in sauerkraut than a $40 bottle of probiotic pills. 
  6. The process of making Sauerkraut is lactic acid fermentation, the same way traditional pickles and kimchi are made! 

  7. Fully fermented sauerkraut keeps for several months in an airtight container stored at 15 °C (60 °F) or below. Neither refrigeration nor pasteurization is required! How cool is that?

  8. Fermentation by lactobacilli happens naturally from bacteria and yeast in the air.

  9. Properly cured sauerkraut is sufficiently acidic to prevent a favorable environment for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the toxins of which cause botulism, i.e., it's safe to eat and good for you!

I recommend using organic cabbage and apples for this recipe, as the surface of the produce will still have the good bacteria present, which encourages fermentation.

It takes about a week for the this recipe to "ferment", but you can let it ferment for longer if you prefer a stronger taste. I recommend no longer than 3 weeks. I love this kraut as a side dish to almost any meal. Try it alongside eggs, in salads, with protein like fish or chicken, or just grab a forkful for a healthy snack.

1 small head organic purple cabbage
1 tbsp high-quality sea salt (I like Celtic or Himalayan)
2 thumb-sized piece of ginger, skin removed (use the side of a spoon to scrape it off), and very finely julienned (thin matchsticks)
2 organic apples (peel on), cored and grated or cut into matchsticks
(Note: My favorite apples to use are Honeycrisp and Gala varieties, as they retain a nice, firm, crisp texture)

  1. Remove 1 outer leaf from cabbage; set aside. Quarter and core remaining cabbage and thinly slice. I like to use a mandolin. 
  2. In a large bowl, add sliced cabbage and salt. Using your hands, vigorously massage cabbage until softened, beginning to turn translucent and about 1/3 cup juices are released. This means you massage the heck out of it for at least 10 minutes! If 1/3 cup juices are not yet released, let cabbage mixture stand for 20 to 30 minutes. Then massage again until enough juice is released. Add the apple, and massage for 30-seconds to combine.
  3. Transfer cabbage mixture and juices to a 1-qt wide-mouth glass jar. Using a spoon or your hand, press mixture down firmly to release liquid and remove any air pockets, pressing until cabbage mixture is completely submerged and leaving 2 to 3 inches headspace between cabbage mixture and rim of jar. (Press hard! You're trying to break it up and have it release even more liquid!). Don't worry if you don’t have enough to totally fill the jar.
  4. Place the reserved cabbage leaf directly over top of cabbage mixture like a little blanket (night, night, kraut!). Fill a gallon or quart Ziploc bag half-full of water, seal really well. Shove this in the jar so that holds down the cabbage and ensures that all the kraut is submerged in water. This is the most important rule of kraut: SUBMERGE the veggies. They cannot be exposed to air. That is when bad stuff happens (see note below on bad stuff). Place the jar in a shallow bowl to catch any overflow and cover jar with a clean tea towel. I like to secure the towel with a rubber band.
  5. Let ferment in a cool place away from direct sunlight, pressing down on bag of water as needed to keep cabbage mixture submerged in liquid, and skimming off any scum that forms on top, for 7 to 14 days. Taste it! Is it yummy and sour? Then it is done. Remove the water bag, skim off any scum, and toss out that whole cabbage leaf "blanket". Seal your kraut jar tightly with a lid, and refrigerate for up to 4 months. You'll notice that it will get more sour and funkier by month 3 or 4, which is the sign it is probably ready for the compost bin.

BAD STUFF: the main thing that can go wrong with fermenting is that you do not fully submerge your veggies and it goes bad. Or you don't add enough salt and it goes bad. Stick with the recipe, and really make sure there is at least 3 inches of liquid above your plant material. You will know if it goes bad. It will stink like a dead body/dead foot body/worst thing ever. Like, you will want to barf. There is no recovery, this is dead kraut. Compost that shit and start over. 

Laena McCarthy