Sauerkraut (pickled, sour, salted cabbage) is very traditional for Northern and Eastern Europe. Widely known in the world is Sauerkraut of German origin and it is slightly different from traditional Russian sour cabbage. German Sauerkraut has a very sharp salty and sour taste while the Russian pickled cabbage is more sweet and sour. In Russia sour cabbage was and still is made in huge volumes; sometimes once in the autumn for the whole winter ahead. Russian sauerkraut is massively eaten during the Great Lent by the Orthodox church followers, when no meats are allowed. Salted cabbage (sauerkraut) has some health benefits as it is row fermented product. The ferments (enzymes) are produced in the process of salting (pickling) which is fermentation.
Here is a recipe for Russian sour cabbage from my Mother and Grandmother. This recipe has been tested in our family for years. My mother’s recipe mostly requires Russian white cabbage and it’s a bit different from what you can get here in England. Russian white cabbage is large and juicy so it gives out lots of juice of its own during the pickling (salting) process. Local cabbage here in Britain is mostly used for slaws, it is small and tight, quite firm and it doesn’t have much juice in it. Sometimes you can buy this big and juicy white cabbage for pickling in a Polish shop.
Traditional Russian sour (pickled) cabbage (Sauerkraut) recipe
- 1 kg (2.2 pounds) thinly and long cut raw white cabbage
- 150 g (0.330 pounds) largely grated row carrots
- 20 g (1 Tsp) fine salt (natural, not iodised!). If you use sea salt by spoon add some more (as it takes more room so weighs less)
- 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
- 1 Tsp caraway seeds (optional)
- handful of cranberries (optional)
You can slightly change the proportions to your taste. Mix freshly cut cabbage with grated carrots in a large glass or enamelled container (don’t use plastic or metal), add evenly salt, sugar and caraway (if you use it) and mix well with hands, squeezing cabbage as you go (it will help it give out some juice right away). Now add cranberries if you are using them, mix them in evenly. Press the cabbage mix to the bottom of the container tightly (see how my mother does it in the pictures), put a plate on top of the cabbage (not the container!). The plate should just press the cabbage down as it is being salted. On top of the plate put a full tin or jar for some weight.
Keep the container with the cabbage mix in a room or slightly warmer temperature for the first 3 days. Every day prickle the cabbage mix down to the bottom of the container with a long wooden sticker (skewer). This will let the gas out which is produced during the fermentation process. The first day should see your cabbage covered with the juice (yes, this sour cabbage juice is a popular folk hangover cure). If there is too much juice, do not let it escape the container, just reduce the weight on top. If there is not enough juice and the cabbage mix is not covered, add some boiled water to cover the cabbage at least for 0,5 cm (1/4 in). After 3 days move the cabbage into the cold (refrigerator). You can eat it the next day, it is ready!