Andrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine.


I think cabbage is an under-appreciated vegetable. Besides its central role in Jiggs’ dinner, coleslaw and cabbage rolls, it is delicious braised with a little cider vinegar and caraway seed, or added to beet borscht and many Asian and European soups and stews. When finely sliced and tossed with green onion, lime juice and thinly sliced fresh chillies, cabbage makes a fantastic addition to sandwiches, wraps and even tacos.

Since I love brined and pickled things, I thought I’d try making German sauerkraut. A hot dog or sausage just isn’t the same for me without sauerkraut! There are two types of sauerkraut: pickled in vinegar or fermented the traditional way, which results in a tangy, but not sour flavour with a certain umami quality that is simply delicious.

The fermentation process takes advantage of naturally occurring lacto bacteria (similar to the process of making yogurt) and is surprisingly easy to do at home. You just need cabbage, salt and a clean glass or ceramic container with an airtight seal. The kind of salt you use is important. You cannot replace the pickling or kosher salt with the same amount of fine table salt; a tablespoon will hold a lot more finely milled table salt than coarser or large-flaked salt, so your end product will be much saltier. If table salt is all you have, reduce the quantity by a third. And remember that this is a fermented product, so the jars or vessels and utensils you use must be clean, and any water you add must be fresh and pure.

Depending on the size and freshness of the cabbage head, the quantity of cabbage and liquid you end up with may vary. This recipe will produce 2-3 one-litre jars of sauerkraut. But since you want the jars to be full to the top and cabbage completely submerged, having other sizes of jars to fill is handy.

Salt is used not only for seasoning. It’s part of the fermentation process; it helps draw the water out of the cabbage and keeps it somewhat crisp while also breaking it down. Freshly harvested cabbage will have a high water content and likely release enough water during the preparation to cover the cabbage in the jar. This is important because while we want the lacto bacteria to grow and thrive, we don’t want other kinds of bacteria or contaminants, such as mould. After you’ve packed the cabbage in the jar and added all the liquid released in the preparation, if the cabbage is not completely submerged, you’ll need to make a little water-and-salt brine to top up the jar.

There has been a renewed interest lately in fermented foods, with the recognition that they have many health-giving properties, including promoting good intestinal health, immune function and emotional health and well-being.


1 medium head of cabbage (about 2 1/2 lbs), outermost leaves removed, head rinsed of any soil
2 tbsp kosher salt (or pickling salt)
Water, and a little more salt, if necessary, to make brine
1 tbsp caraway seeds (opt)


Finely shred cabbage – either by hand with a sharp knife or in the food processor using slicing blade. You will need 10-12 cups. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Using a potato masher, grind the salt into the cabbage, essentially pounding or bashing it; or use your hands to wring the salt into the cabbage. Or do a combination of the two, until the cabbage releases a good amount of water. This will take about 10 minutes. The cabbage will soften and look wet and slightly translucent.

If adding caraway seeds, do it now, tossing them with the cabbage.

Pack sauerkraut fairly tightly into clean jars. Distribute the liquid from the bowl evenly amongst the jars. If you don’t have enough to completely cover the cabbage, make some brine: Boil one cup of water and stir in to dissolve 1 1/2 tbsp kosher or pickling salt, then top up with 3 cups cold water and stir well. Use this to top up the jars. Fit with clean lids.

Place jars in a dishpan or baking tray and store in a dark, room-temperature (15-21°C) cupboard. If the temperature is too cold, fermentation will either not begin or be too slow.  If the room is too hot, it could bubble over and not allow the flavours to develop properly. The “culture” will start to bubble after a couple of days and it will take about two weeks to ferment completely. Check jars every couple of days and shake them by rotating up and down a few times. Don’t worry if it bubbles through the lid – that’s what the dishpan is for. This allows air from the fermentation process to escape.

After a week, check one of the jars and taste the sauerkraut. If it has soured enough for your taste, transfer the jars to the fridge. If not, continue to ferment. If your room is particularly cool, it may take longer – up to three weeks – just check periodically to see if the result is what you like. (If you see mould, throw it out. Either your containers were not completely clean or the lactic fermentation did not start quickly enough to keep out contaminants.) Fermented sauerkraut will keep for months in the fridge, but it’s so delicious it likely won’t last that long! 

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