Sauerkraut & ginger ale at home

I love fermented food because time does most of the work. My go-to book is Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation, and these two recipes are adapted from it.


Sauerkraut is cabbage and salt, plus time. Two weeks ago I shredded some red cabbage and carrots, added a bunch of salt as I went, packed it all into a crock, covered it with a plate that would fit snugly inside the crock, and some heavy objects (to squeeze the water out), covered the whole thing with a dish towel to keep dust out, and let it sit. For the first day, I pushed down on the plate occasionally, squeezing more water out of the vegetables. But once the cabbage was submerged in brine, my work was done. Over the next two weeks, I tasted the kraut every couple days as it got tangier, until yesterday when I declared it done, transferred it to a jar and put it in the fridge. Honestly, it could have kept fermenting for months.

fresh sauerkraut

Unlike the canned variety, fresh sauerkraut keeps a nice crunch. You can use cabbage, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and a lot of other vegetables. Katz recommends around 3 Tbsp salt per 5 lbs of vegetables. As long as the salt level of the brine is around 10% and the cabbage is fully submerged in the brine, it’s a pretty foolproof process. But there is one thing that may be alarming if you’re not expecting it: surface mold!

sauerkraut: surface mold

It’s harmless, it’s very likely to develop, it looks disgusting, and it probably keeps a lot of people from making their own kraut. Just skim it off, and don’t worry if you can’t get rid of all of it. If the kraut really has gone bad, you will know because it will stink up your entire house.

Ginger beer

This also takes a few weeks to make, but it’s one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve ever tasted. It’s non-alcoholic and it never cloys like supermarket ginger ale. It has a nice light fizz. You will need:

  • A one-gallon glass jug, with a tight fitting top (a screw-top apple juice jug is perfect)
  • Cheesecloth & a rubber band
  • 1½ cups + a few teaspoons sugar
  • a big piece of ginger root
  • two lemons

First, make a starter ferment in a small jar. Start with a cup of cold water, 2 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp coarsely grated ginger in a jar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band, and leave in a warm corner of the room.

ginger beer starter

Every day, add another 2 tsp ginger and 2 tsp sugar and stir it up. Within 2-5 days, you should see small bubbles on the ginger itself or along the inside of the jar. The whole thing will get slightly fizzy. That’s when you know it’s ready for the next step.

Bring 2 quarts water to the boil, add 2-6 inches of grated ginger (more ginger will make it stronger) and 1½ cups sugar. Boil for 15 minutes and let cool to room temperature.

Strain the cooled mixture and the starter ferment, combine them and add the juice of two lemons. Stir and add this to your gallon jug, along with enough water to fill the jug (leaving a little headspace). Let sit for two weeks in the same warm corner. Cool, open carefully, and serve!


2 Responses to “Sauerkraut & ginger ale at home”

  1. 1 joseph May 1, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    I tried the ginger beer once. Two days (into Katz’s suggested two weeks) I couldn’t find the bottle. And then I realized that the room was covered with glass and gingered stickyness. (My sauerkrauts and kimchis have fared much better!)

  2. 2 Cord March 25, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I’m about to start my fourth batch, but I feel like I don’t really have a good grasp on Katz’s directions yet. Batch 3 is the first one where I actually got it to work out to a gallon (add water to make a gallon *after* you add in the bug and the lemons… doh!). That one’s bottled but not ripe yet so… hurry up and wait. First batch was ok, actually. Just not very fizzy– and I’m still not sure how much fizzy to expect, but it certainly didn’t come fountaining out of the bottle like the recipe indicated. Batch 2 was completely flat after 2 weeks– I’ve left the rest of the bottles to mature longer, to see if it gets any better. I have high hopes for batch 3. But I wish I knew what I’d done wrong with the first two…

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