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Quinta do Vale da Lama
Quinta do Vale da Lama
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Odiáxere, Algarve, PT
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Quinta do Vale da Lama

Quinta do Vale da Lama

Odiáxere, PT

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Sauerkraut for everyone

Project: Quinta do Vale da Lama

Posted by Mari Korhonen over 11 years ago

Tons of cabbage in the garden! Enhancing its nutritional value and storing goodness for months to come: Let's make some sauerkraut!

Cabbage in salads, cabbage in soups, boiled cabbage, wok-fried cabbage, mashed cabbage, red cabbage, chinese cabbage, white cabbage, portuguese cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli….. We want to make the most out of these essential plants that are growing so vigorously in our vegetable beds.

But what to do when you are surrounded by 10 to 20 kg of leaves that are waiting to be consumed? Conserve them in the most beneficial way!

It is Sauerkraut-Day, and with a few pairs of hands, big bowls, a bit of salt, creativity and good conversations we filled an entire afternoon with fun and 10 huge jars with food for the coming months. Now we only have to wait a few weeks for the fermentation process to create a lot of very health beneficial enzymes, bacteria and easier available nutrients for us.


It all started last November when one of our last year interns during the teacher training module gave us a session about making sauerkraut. Until then I had thought the process involves a some kind of laboratory level of precision and skills (which probably is really good if you're doing it in huge crocks for the whole winter) and that it would take some serious study to get there. How wrong i was! And of course there was the cabbage, pouring in from the gardens through doors and windows, and we couldn't manage to eat it all in salads and stir frys.

So, inspired by Sandor Ellis Katz and our intern Hugo we learned how easy it can be to make some in our own kitchen, and since then sauerkraut has been complimenting our meals every day!

The process is very simple:

Get cabbage, salt and glass jars. You can also ferment more or less any other vegetables, crate in some carrot for example, or use wild plants like dandelion leaves, needles of fir tree (yes) and add in some chick peas for protein. Red cabbage makes pink sauerkraut, broccoli leaves make green sauerkraut. Just by looking at the image above you'll see the potential for diversity - and you can improvise and experiment to find your favorite combinations. For flavorings we've used eg. crated ginger, juniper berries and chilies.. 

For sterilising the glass jars you can soak them first overnight to activate dormant micro-organisms and then boil the jars and lids for about ten minutes. If you're making small batches for almost immediate consumption it might do to just boil the jars, which we often do.

Chop cabbage and place it into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and "massage" it with the cabbage to break the cellular structure of the leaves. This draws out the liquid, which in turn helps to create the anaerobic conditions needed for the process - with oxygen what you get is, well, composting, and that's not what we intend to achieve in this case :)


If the liquid is not coming out, add some more salt. The official guideline is to have around 2% of salt, but it seems to go ok for us just by guesstimating it.

Once the cabbage is soft and the liquids are coming out, stuff the cabbage into the jars very tightly, and get out all the possible air bubbles that you might find for example by poking down with a chopstick. In between the layers of cabbage you can put some of the spices as you wish. In the end the liquid surface (brine) should come about 1 cm (half an inch) above the cabbage, and on the top you can fold a piece of a leaf to stop the material from floating, preventing rotting of the layer.

Close the jar and wait! After two or three days the jars start to burb and bubble a little bit which indicates that the process has started. For this reason it's good to put the jars on some kind of trays so your shelves stay clean from brine. Depending a little bit on the time of the year you'll be able to start enjoying the kraut within a week or so and continue doing that virtually as long as there's any left. Once opened it's better to keep it cool but that also isn't absolutely necessary. There's a lot of theory and fine details about fermentation,  that you can study on books which might help you troubleshoot if the result is not satisfying, but with these instructions we have so far managed really well.

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