This beetroot ginger sauerkraut is an easy introduction into wild ferments, and a great addition to your gut health routine. Filled with health-promoting bacteria, sauerkraut is a wonderful condiment to add to any savoury dish.
Its no secret that fermenting is something I just LOVE doing. It is such a time honoured skill, yet something less and less people seem to doing (until 2020, that is). Fermenting both preserves our food and offers valuable nutrients and benefits into our diet, plus adds umami flavours and variety. It’s truely grand.
If you’re wanting to preserve your summer produce (or even store bought) yet you’ve never tried fermenting before- THIS is a great place to start.
House keeping for fermenting food
Fermenting is easy once you know the basics, and follow simple yet important rules. Before you start, you should;
- Invest in a fermenting crock or jar. I didn’t do this for many years, and I truely wish I did. I love and use Kilner jars for everything, like my much loved fermented cashew cheese.
- Choose a fermenting vessel with an air tight seal. Fermentation is an anaerobic process, meaning the fermentation itself requires no air for success. An airtight jar allows fermentation to occur in a controlled environment and stops unwanted microbes entering (and destroying) your ferment.
- Use the correct amount of salt– this is SO important and cannot be ignored. You must weigh your produce and use 1.5-2% of that weight in salt. For example, if you are using a total of 1kg (1000g) of produce you will need 20g of salt. Salt is the best way to stop petrifying microbes from growing.
- Understand that all of your equipment should be very clean. You may wish to sterilise everything or simply clean with very hot water and allow to air dry. You should not use cloths or tea towels during this process.
- Avoid cross contamination. Using airtight jars will help with this, so too will choosing equipment made from wood, glass and stainless steel. Avoid plastic chopping boards, bowls and utensils (they harbour bacteria).
- Choose organic produce. While this may not seem important- it is! Produce must not be contaminated with agricultural sprays which may interfere with the delicate balance of bacteria that ensure a successful ferment.
- If you need to use water for a ferment make sure it it spring or filtered water. Unfortunately tap water contains high levels of chlorine, a chemical added into our waters to specifically kill bacteria. Chlorine can and will interfere with fermentation.
Tips for perfecting beetroot ginger sauerkraut
Practice makes perfect, however here are some extra tips to get you started.
- FRESH IS BEST. Don’t leave a cabbage in your fridge for a month before making sauerkraut. The fresher the produce, the better the success.
- CHOOSE ORGANIC wherever possible. Fresh produce will have higher water content and will thus have more brine.
- CHOOSE A WARM DARK SPOT. Fermentation is at the mercy of the weather, and whilst in Australian it is possible to ferment all year long, understand that the ambient temperature of your home will alter the rate of fermentation. Choose a spot that is dark and warm- for me, that is in my pantry.
- ADJUST THE LENGTH. There is no correct amount of time to ferment- you can stop at any point that your sauerkraut tastes good to you. In Summer this may only take 5 days, whilst in winter you might leave the ferment for 2 or more weeks. Slower ferments may not be ideal for the impatient, however they often result in a better flavour and texture.
- INVEST IN A SHARP KNIFE or mandolin. the finer you can chop your cabbage, the better. I aim to shave the cabbage with my knife creating super fine pieces.
- DON’T BE AFRAID OF HARD WORK. I salt and rest the veggies for a minimum for 30 minutes, however the real trick is to use your hands and massage the vegetables for 10+ minutes. The more brine you can create, the better.
When to throw out your ferment
Fermentation is a natural process and even if you do everything ‘right’, sometimes things still go wrong. We cannot control what microbes may be in our home at any given moment, so you do need to be aware that sometimes things so wrong.
- First and foremost- trust your senses. A ferment gone wrong looks, feels and SMELLS wrong. Trust your nose– if the ferment smells foul, throw it out. Fermentation has a certain smell- it might not be to your liking (think aged cheese or beer) but it does NOT smell foul or off.
- Looks for signs of mould. Mould can be anything from white to red, brown, pink or black. If you see any mould throw out your ferment immediately. Do not scrape mould from the surface. Mould is fluffy in appearance, and any and all mould must be avoided. Mould has invisible tendrils that spread through the entire ferment, so even if you think you can discard a small amount of mould- don’t. Throw it out.
- Kahm yeast is another contamination often found in home ferments. Yeast is ever present in our homes, and the best way to avoid it is ensuring you use fresh produce, very clean equipment and that you have air tight vessels to ferment in. Having said taht, kahm yeast is harmless and you CAN scrape it from teh top of your ferment and carry on. Kahm yeast is white floaty bits that sit onto of your ferment. If you suspect you have it, click here for a blogpost and see more.
We hope you loved this beetroot ginger sauerkraut as much as we do! It is tangy, spicy, crunchy and sweet and so good for you. If you are after more great recipes, you might like:
- Easy fermented cashew cheese
- Pistachio cranberry cashew cheese log
- Sweet pickled cucumbers
- Sprouted beetroot hummus
We welcome your feedback and reviews! If you have any questions or reviews, please leave them below. We love hearing from you.
An easy ferment that is great for your gut and tastes amazing. Sweet, sour, salty, crunchy and spicy- the perfect accompanist to any meal.
500g (1 medium size) red cabbage, cored
250g (2 medium beets), washed, peeled and trimmed
20–30g (1 small knob) of ginger, peeled
1 tsp dill or fennel seeds, optional
15g fine salt
- Before you start weigh the cabbage. You need 15-20g salt per kilo of produce, so if you are using significantly more or less than the recipe adjust accordingly. For our recipe we are using a total of 750g of produce, so we need approximately 15g salt.
- You want to have very clean hands before handling the vegetables. Wash your hand in hot water- do not use soap and allow to air dry. Soap and hand towels can contaminate your hands with non-beneficial detergents and microbes, so hot water (that does not burn) is best.
- Clean or sterilise all equipment as per your preference. Please read the blog post for more tips on this. You will need a very clean wooden or glass chopping board, a 3L fermentation jar or crock (like this one), very large glass or ceramic bowl, grater and large sharp knife or mandolin.
- Peel off any outer cabbage leaves atet look withered or damaged. If you do not have fermentation weights set aside one large, good quality cabbage leave as we will use this later. Using your knife or mandolin very thinly chop or shave the cabbage into strips. I find it easiest to first quarter the cabbage and then chop along the long edge or the cabbage so as to create long strips of vegetable. Place a layer or the cabbage into your bowl and top with some salt. Repeat until the entire cabbage has been shredded, using the total of salt listed (1 Tbsp + 1 tsp).
- Next, grate the beetroot and ginger and place on top of the cabbage. Cover the bowl firmly with a damp cloth (or plastic wrap if you prefer) and set aside for 30+ minutes. During this time the salt will draw moisture from the vegetables and begin to soften them. You can leave the bowl (covered) overnight in the fridge.
- After the waiting period massage your vegetables until a fair amount of brine (liquid) has released from vegetables. This should take around 10 minutes, and really requires you to massage and squeeze firmly. Fresh vegetables will release more brine, however you may add an extra 1 tsp of salt if needed. Aim to have around 1/2 of brine sitting in the bottom of your bowl before finishing this process. Add optional seeds and mix through.
- Pack vegetables into your fermentation vessel. Take 2 handfuls of the mixture and carefully place into the bottom of your vessel. Use your fist to press down and firmly pack the vegetables down. Repeat until all of the mixture is transferred, ensuring your use your fist to firmly pack down each layer- this is an important step, so ensure you do it. Finally, pour any remaining liquid into the vessel. At the stage a layer of brine/liquid should be sitting about the vegetables. Take your weights and place onto the vegetables, or if you do not have weight use the reserved cage leaf. During the ferment you want the shredded vegetables to sit below the brine, and using weights or a cabbage leaf helps this process.
- Leave to ferment for 5-14 days. Please read the blogpost for mould safety info. During this time you will need to press down the weights/cabbage leaves at least daily, for the first few days. The process of fermentation will create bubbles, naturally pushing the vegetables above the brine. It is your job to observe this process and keep submerging the vegetables. The most important thing to remember here is to wash your hands before hand, as described in step 2.
- The length of the ferment will depend on a) the ambient temperature and b) your personal preference. Taste the sauerkraut after 5 days. If you like the flavour after 5 days, transfer into very clean glass jars and refrigerate. If you want a stronger taste continue to ferment and taste every day or two.
Store your sauerkraut in very clean glass jars or containers in the fridge for up to 6 months. Always use clean utensils when removing a serving from the jars.
- To calculate salt add up the entire weight of your produce- cabbage, beet and ginger then record this amount in grams. You need to use 2% of salt to the total weight of your produce. To do this divide your weight (in grams) by 50. For example, 1000g of produce = 1000/50=20g salt.
- Red cabbage can be substituted for any cabbage. Beets can be substituted for carrots.