My sauerkraut has fermented to the point where I am satisfied with the consistency and the taste is mostly acceptable (more on that later). I used the fermentation method described in the Joy of Cooking cookbook, which is also available on their website (see the instructions here). The short version is:
Remove the outer leaves, rinse, and dry 5 pounds cabbage. Quarter the cabbage, remove the cores, and thinly slice the remaining cabbage. Put the sliced cabbage in a bowl, add 3T pickling salt, stir well. Let stand for 30 minutes. Pack the cabbage into a storage container and if it has not released enough of its own water to be completely submerged, add brine (1 1/2T pickling salt per 4 C water) to cover.
Within a day or two the jar should start to bubble; this means that fermentation has begun and you’re on your way. The fermentation is complete when the bubbling stops, which the book says takes 3-6 weeks. After 7 weeks my sauerkraut was still bubbling away, so I gave it a good stir and put it in the refrigerator. I discovered after the fact that the refrigeration doesn’t stop the fermentation, and you can put up the sauerkraut before the bubbling has stopped if it is to your taste earlier in the fermentation process.
The book did not specify to do so, but I opened the jar every day to release the built up gas pressure. The first couple times I did this I was sprayed with sauerkraut brine, which did not smell so great. The version of the instructions on the website said to cover the top of the jar so that it can still breathe (it suggested placing a light dish towel over the top and securing it with a rubber band), which would alleviate the spray issue. I am going to try that with my next batch.
My only issue with my first batch is that it was quite salty. I looked for pickling salt but could not find it, so I guessed that coarse sea salt would work. Again, I found out after the fact that this is not the case (in fact, the website specifically said not to use coarse sea salt… oops). Once I rinsed the kraut a lot of the salty taste disappeared and now I know for the next time which types of salt will work. And yes, there will be a next time because we’ve been converted to the sauerkraut cause.
For the sake of comparison, my kraut went from this:
Two weeks of fermentation
Final product after 7 weeks of fermentation