This is a simple method for homemade sauerkraut in small batches. Instead of committing to a big crock full of kraut, here the cabbage is fermented in quart jars. The method of fermentation is exactly the same for cabbage, beets, and kale. With the cabbage, you can do green or red or a mix. To any of these you could also add some carrot, turnip, chili, garlic, or ginger. Some people add caraway or fennel seeds, black peppercorns, or juniper berries.
For each pound of cabbage, add 2 teaspoons of salt (I use sea salt; canning salt is often recommended). Two pounds of cabbage will fill a quart jar, with perhaps some left over.
For sauerkraut: remove and discard outer dirty or damaged leaves. Quarter, core, and shred to 1/8- to ¼-inch, either by hand, on a mandolin or kraut cutter, or with the slicing blade on a food processor.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the vegetables with the salt. Get in there with your hands and kind of scrub the shreds against each other—doing so will help get the juices flowing and promote prompt fermentation.
Pack the cabbage into quart canning jars with two-part lids. Fill the jars right to the top and then press down firmly to create a little space, which should fill with liquid expressed by the cabbage. If there’s not enough liquid to cover, top off the jars with a bit of brine made by mixing 1 teaspoon salt into 1/2 cup warm water. Screw on the lids, not too tight.
Place the jars on a platter or baking sheet to catch any overflow. Place in a coolish spot, around 60 degrees, perhaps the basement. In just a day or two you’ll notice bubbling, and juice running over the tops of the jars. If you’re tempted to unscrew the lid to see how things are going, be careful: juice can shoot out like soda from a shook-up can.
Let the jars ferment at cool room temperature for 7 to 10 days. The bubbling will have died down and no more liquid will be coming out of the jar. Tighten lids, rinse jars, and refrigerate. Protected by the natural preservatives created in the fermentation, the vegetables will now keep indefinitely, but I encourage you to use them up within a few months. By that time, you’ll be getting fresh vegetables from your market and the garden anyway.
My Russian friend Tata says that cabbage for sauerkraut is best after a couple of frosts, and I agree. Late-season cabbage tend to be firm, sweet, and mild.
I’ve never had any of my fermented vegetables go “off,” but I’ve heard it can happen. If anything you ferment comes out looking or smelling horrible, by all means do not eat it.
Many good books on the topic of fermenting vegetables, fruits, and other food products are available. I often refer to are Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich and Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, a compilation from the Terre Vivante collective in France.