a head of freshly-harvested cabbage
five lemons, sliced into rounds
several cloves of garlic, crushed
salt (around 2-3 tablespoons)
large glass or ceramic fermentation vessel
glass weights or clean stones
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, keeping them whole. Wash them well under cold water and set aside. Core the head of cabbage, then slice or shred into thin strips.
Put the cabbage into a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss to mix. With your hands, begin squeezing and crushing the cabbage, breaking down its cellular walls and causing it to release liquid. Continue this until the cabbage has noticeably softened and liquid begins to accumulate in the bowl.
Add a couple handfuls of the softened cabbage and a clove of crushed garlic into the fermentation vessel. Use your fist to press the cabbage downward, compacting the mass, and forcing additional liquid from the vegetable. Top with a layer of sliced lemons. Continue this process—adding cabbage and garlic, pressing down firmly, then topping with lemons—until all the ingredients are layered in the vessel. As a final layer, place the washed whole cabbage leaves (these will keep the shredded cabbage from floating to the top during fermentation), then top with several glass or stone weights.
At this point, the cabbage should have released enough of its own liquid to cover the mass. If it has not released enough liquid after resting for three to four hours, add a small amount of saltwater brine (1/4 tablespoon salt : 1 cup dechlorinated water) to fully submerge the kraut. If your cabbage is fresh, additional brine should not be necessary.
Ferment at room temperature for a few days to a few weeks, making certain the kraut remains submerged in liquid. A warmer ambient temperature accelerates fermentation, but may also the kraut to lose its crisp texture.
Taste your kraut after a few days. When it is to your liking, transfer to smaller jars and put into cold storage. Refrigeration dramatically slows down fermentation, but it remains active and flavors will continue to develop.
Ours was ready in a week, and continues to get better as it ferments in the fridge.
Try on salads, burgers, sandwiches, or as a side.
We will cover this general fermentation process—dry salting vegetables—in more depth in a future issue of Daily Ferments. Until then, enjoy!