I’ve been wanting to experiment with adding different herbs and spices to sauerkraut. Since German sauerkraut is traditionally flavored with juniper berries, I decided to be adventurous and picked some up from my local spice retailer, Savory Spice Shop. Juniper berries, which are the female seed cone produced by juniper trees are used as a spice, especially in European cuisine. Incidentally, they are also the spice used to give gin its flavor. In addition to flavoring foods and beverages, juniper berries have also been used medicinally throughout history to remedy various ailments. Sounds good, right?
Here’s the recipe I used to make a quart of Purple Juniper Berry Sauerkraut:
1 medium red cabbage (aim for 2 lbs. give or take)
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
10 juniper berries
1. Rinse and core the cabbage. Slice it very thin and place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Toss with the salt.
3. Pound with a wooden pounder for 10 minutes to help release the juices. If you do not have a wooden pounder, you can massage the cabbage with your hands for 5-10 minutes. Don’t be afraid to be a little rough with it. It will soften and get quite juicy.
4. Add the juniper berries and stir to incorporate.
5. Pack the cabbage into a one quart, wide-mouth (these are easiest) glass jar. You really want to stuff it in there so that the juices rise above the level of the cabbage. Don’t be shy. If the juices do not cover the cabbage, you can add a little bit of salt water to cover it (about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1/2 cup of water).
6. Leave at least an inch of air space in the jar as the cabbage will expand slightly as the fermentation process begins and air bubbles form in the the liquid.
7. Cover your jar with a plastic lid (I like these) and leave it on the counter for 3-7 days!
8. When it is done to your liking, keep it in the fridge. It will keep well for several months and the flavors will continue to develop and ripen.
Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful:
- Try using a wooden spoon to really cram the cabbage into the jar, moving the jar in a circular motion as you tamp down the middle and edges of the cabbage.
- I like my sauerkraut best when it has fermented for 4 days or more. Experiment with different fermentation durations, keeping the minimum at 3 days, or 72 hours.
- I’ve gotten in the habit of “burping” the jars. Once the process really gets going, they can put off a lot of gas (mainly ethanol and carbon dioxide). Starting on day two, I’ll twist the lid twice a day to let some of the gasses escape. This lessens the risk that liquid will overflow out of your jars.