Sunday, July 2, 2017

Purple Sauerkraut, Fermenting with Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut

Go straight to recipe here.

I've been experimenting with Fermenting over the last few weeks, and Sauerkraut is one of the easiest fermented foods to make so that is what I have started with. It is packed full of great things for our gut, including probiotic bacteria. There is no need to buy bottles of probiotics anymore. I have been doing a lot of reading on the topic of Fermentation from books that I have at home, however I was initially inspired by Dr Michael Mosley in his book the Clever Guts Diet. I also refer to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon constantly, and now weigh all of this up with Sarah Wilson's very clever Simplicious book in the I Quit Sugar series.

It's interesting that lacto-fermentation has been around since ancient times, particularly in Europe,  as people knew back then how to preserve vegetables for long periods without freezers or canning machines. Sauerkraut is still the principle lacto-fermented food in Europe, prized for its delicious taste, medicinal properties, and food preservation qualities. Friends of mine from Poland and Germany have fond memories of their parents making sauerkraut and trying to make it taste like it did at home. The experts say it can take up to 6 months for the flavour of sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables to fully mature. Well I won't be waiting that long to try mine, but it is reassuring to know that this valuable fermented vegetable will still be edible in 6 months, however it needs to be kept in the frig after 3 days of fermenting in warmer climates.

So why should we bother with fermentation, and I have certainly been asked that by friends who are suspicious that it is just another fabulous foodie fad. Firstly, it promotes the growth of healthy flora in our intestine and in the process can reduce sugar cravings. That has to be a good thing. Unlike pickling, which uses heat, vinegar and sugar, lacto-fermentaion uses salt, and sometimes whey as well as recommended by Sally Fallon, particularly in cold countries. The salt and brine mix encourages the vegetable's good bacteria (lactobacillus) to flourish, by producing lactic acid that repels the bad bacteria, and this prevents spoilage of the vegetables. It is also a brilliant form of food preservation ensuring that our pantry and refrigerator will be stocked with nutritious and interesting vegetables which can be purchased when in season.

Red cabbage, carrot and spices before the salt is added to extract juices

Using normal salt is risky, therefore good quality salt needs to be used, not your average household table salt. Sarah Wilson recommends using Himalayan Rock Salt, which I have used  in my second edition of Purple Sauerkraut, and it seems to be more alive and is fermenting faster than my first attempt did using using just a good quality sea salt. Just don't use iodised Saxa Salt apparently or it can kill the fermenting process. Himalayan Rock Salt is a dry salt and contains no harmful moulds which are present in some sea salt.

So I think that is enough science for now, and I am convinced that my gut and well being will benefit if I can regularly eat Fermented foods as a condiment, which is how they are meant to be consumed.  If you are reading this, I would be really interested to know if you have tried fermentation and if it was successful.

Dr. Mosley's Purple Sauerkraut recipe, using Red Cabbage

(makes enough for one 500ml jar)

300g grated red cabbage or finely sliced
200g beetroot, grated (or use carrot.)
1/2 small apple, peeled cored and finely diced
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp Himalayan Rock Salt or very good quality sea salt (not ordinary table salt)
(For a larger batch of Sauerkraut, I use 1 tblsp. salt to 800 g. of cabbage)


When handling the red cabbage and beetroot, I wear gloves so that my hands don't become stained red. Put the grated beetroot or carrot in a large bowl with the grated cabbage and the diced apple.

Add the seeds and the salt and massage them well into the vegetables until water is released from the vegetables. Crush the vegetables firmly between your hands to release the last of the vegetable juices. If the cabbage has only been finely sliced and not grated, you will need to crush the vegetables with a blunt object like a pestle to beat out the juices further. I grated the cabbage and carrot in my food processor for my second sauerkraut attempt, and that worked well.

Pack the mixture into a sterilised resealable 500ml glass mason jar, leaving about an inch or 2cm space from the top for the fermenting mixture to bubble and fizz in the jar. My second lot did just that when I took the lid off to check it on the second day, which I took as a sign that it was working. Remember it's alive in that jar.

I used a chunk of cabbage stalk to push the vegetables down hard into the jar, so that the juices would come to the top and the vegetables would be totally submerged in their juices. Any clean weight will do. It is important that the vegetables are totally submerged below the liquid, with more room at the top as the level of the sauerkraut will probably rise up toward the lid.

Leave the sauerkraut at room temperature for at least 3 days. Open the jar daily for the first 2-3 days to release the carbon dioxide, and keep checking that the vegetables are fully submerged in the brine, and push the contents below the surface if necessary.

It's alive in there and bubbling away

I needed to add extra liquid and salt to the first bottle I made as it was drying out. Filtered water needs to be used, not tap water as the chlorine has been removed and chlorine will kill the fermentation. 1/2 tsp sea salt to 100ml filtered water can be used to top up your brine if it is drying up.

In warmer climates it is recommended to put the jar in the frig on the top shelf after three days. It will continue to develop more flavour in the frig.

Dr. Mosley says that yeasts may form on the surface of the pickle, well mine isn't old enough yet for that to happen but apparently it can just be scraped off.

Any discoloured vegetables can also be removed from the top if necessary. My purple sauerkraut should keep in the frig for several months, so my fermentation stories and experiences are going to continue.

Over the next few weeks I will be trying Kimchi, the famous Korean version of sauerkraut, some white cabbage sauerkraut and perhaps try some other vegetables.

I am told that if the ferment goes off, it will be quite obvious from the smell of it and we won't want to eat it so that is reassuring.

If you have tried fermenting I would like to hear from you, as I am still learning and I hope to be able build up a reliable resource of information based on our experiences. My apologies if I have missed any typos, my spellcheck isn't working:)

Have a good week everyone.

Best wishes



  1. I made up a bottle of fermented veggies a couple of weeks ago, Pauline. I used red cabbage, carrot, apple and something else I think. We have had a number of fermentation workshops at our Simple Living Toowoomba group and it is a lot of fun. I am currently re-reading 'Wild Fermenation' by Sandor Katz and 'Fermented Vegetables' by K and C Shockey. Both are from our city library.

    1. Thanks for the names of those books Chel. I'll try and find them at our library.

  2. That's very informative, Pauline, I am inspired to give it another go. Plus its not too much quantity as I am the only one who will eat it! you know what Dave is like!

    1. Ha, ha he just might surprise you. Tell him it is fermented just like red wine. He might have already eaten it at some stage in England although it doesn't seem to be as much a part of their culture as in Europe. Good luck.


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