Try this naturally fermented red cabbage with shredded apple and lemon zest. It’s easy to make and has flavors way beyond any sauerkraut found in jars at the grocery store.
Prep Time: 30-40 minutes
Actual Work: 15 minutes
1/2 Red Cabbage Head
1 tbsp Kosher Salt
1 Green Apple (tart varieties work best)
Zest from 1 Lemon
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
When zesting the lemon, be careful to avoid collecting too much of the lighter colored rind. Too much can impart an unpleasant bitterness. If omitting the lemon juice, increase the kosher salt to 1 1/2 tbsp.
You’ll need a cutting board and a knife to prepare the red cabbage and apple. A cheese grater will make prepping the apple much easier, but certainly isn’t mandatory. You will also need a large bowl and something sturdy like a thick wire whisk or potato masher to press the red cabbage. Although, lately I’ve been foregoing the masher and squeezing small fistfuls at a time. That seems to make things go much quicker, but make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and wrists before and after.
For packaging I recommend pint and/or quart glass jars. This particular batch yielded 1 of each. Small glass jelly jars, coffee filters, rubber bands and a couple of small rocks work perfectly as weighted covers.
Step 1 – Prepping The Ingredients
Add the salt and sweat the red cabbage just like you would for a batch of Simple Sauerkraut. Knead in the salt and let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to draw the moisture from the red cabbage. The salt will “sweat” the cabbage by drawing the moisture out through osmosis. The resulting brine helps ensure the final sauerkraut is crunchy, while also providing an environment for the beneficial bacteria to ferment.
In the meantime, zest the lemon then core the apple before shredding it on a cheese grater. Once the time has elapsed, use a sturdy whisk, potato masher, or your bare hands to press and work the cabbage to extract as much moisture as possible.
Now it is safe to add the shredded apple, lemon zest and juice. Mix until fully incorporated.
Step 2 – Packaging
All that is left is to get the sauerkraut into the jars. Transfer one handful at a time into the jar, tamping down the contents after each addition. I use the handle end of a whisk to press it down. Bare hands work well here too. The goal is to press out as much air as possible. Any excess brine water at the bottom of the bowl should be poured over the top of the jar.
It is important to keep the solids submerged in the brine to avoid molding. Here I use the same technique of rock weights in a jelly jar and coffee filter cover described in Homemade Dill Pickles and Super Simple Sauerkraut. Drop a couple small clean rocks or marbles (or whatever you have lying around) into a jelly jar that can fit inside the mouth of the larger jar. That little bit of added weight is all that is needed to keep the sauerkraut fully submerged. Cover the entire opening with a coffee filter or some cheese cloth and secure it with a rubber band.
Set the jar in a draft free, room temperature location to ferment. The Lactobacilli bacterias used for fermentation are already present. Now that you’ve created the proper environment for them to flourish, all you need is time. After 10-14 days the color of the cabbage will have faded, and the tartness from the lactic acid will be way up.
Let your taste buds be the final judge in determining when the sauerkraut is ready. If you like a strong tartness, allow two weeks to pass before sampling. For a lower level of acidity, begin tasting it daily after 7 days. Seal the jar with a screw-on lid and place it in the refrigerator when your desired level has been reached.
This is a natural process and inherently variable in both the time required and resulting flavors. That’s part of the fun! If it goes longer than 3 weeks, just make sure to check the water level every few days and top up with a brine solution if needed. If the cabbage becomes exposed there is a risk of mold forming. It’s always a good idea to mark any food with a preparation date, but sauerkraut will stay crisp and delicious for several months in the fridge.