A few weeks ago, I tried an apple-fennel sauerkraut at a farmers market in Oakland. It was fresh and tasty, with whole fennel seeds mixed into the shredded cabbage and sliced apple. It inspired me to make my own, but to shape it according to my own taste.
I felt like the apple stood out too much in the kraut from the market. The pieces were big, cut differently from the green cabbage. Also, while the fennel seed was nice, I wanted to see what the recipe would taste like with slices of fennel bulb fermented along with the other ingredients. And while fennel seeds are tasty, I’ve been wanting to put caraway seeds in my sauerkraut for a while. I have a slight addiction to caraway seeds, the kind that happens when you grow up in New York thinking that the term “rye bread” is always preceded by the term “heavily-seeded,” if you want the good stuff.
Hence, this recipe. It’s worked out well. It’s been fermenting for a week and a half now, almost two weeks, and getting better every day. Try it out, and make your own variations. Enjoy!
Apple-Fennel Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds
- 1 small-med head green cabbage
- 1 small-med onion, sweet or otherwise
- 1 tart apple
- 1 medium head of fennel (or more, if you like)
- 1-3 Tablespoons caraway seeds
- 3-5ish Tablespoons kosher salt
- filtered water (Brita or store-bought). The water must be filtered, because chlorine can interfere with the fermentation process.
- 1 ceramic crock, pretty easy to find at Goodwill
- 1 plate that just fits down into said crock
- 1 big jar or glass
- a piece of cheesecloth or a big, thin cloth
1. Chop up green cabbage into very fine pieces, removing any of the white core part. Chop up onion or sweet onion into thin strips. Chop apple into thin strips mirroring the size of the cabbage and onion strips. Chop the fennel into thin strips, discarding the core and using only a little of the green part if it’s tender. Set aside a handful of caraway seeds, some kosher salt, and some filtered water.
2. Put the cabbage shreds in the crock first. Take a few tablespoon-sized pinches of kosher salt. Mix it into the cabbage, coating the pieces. Press down on the cabbage as you do this, to encourage the cabbage to start sweating. Then mix in the other vegetables and as much of the caraway seeds as you want to use (the favor goes pretty far).
3. Now, some people never add any water to their sauerkraut, because they magically get the cabbage to sweat enough liquid to cover the whole thing, which is the goal; you don’t want air touching the vegetables. But I’ve found at least some filtered water is necessary. Still, I give it a little time before I add the water, maybe a few hours.
4. To compress the kraut and help it sweat, take that small plate that fits inside your crock and put it on top of the cabbage mixture, pressing down. To hold it down, take that big jar and fill it with water to make it heavy. You can put a lid on in case it spills. Then drape your cheesecloth over the whole thing to keep bugs out.
5. Check it after a few hours. If the cabbage hasn’t released enough liquid to cover the mixture fully, go ahead and add some filtered water until it is covered.
6. The next morning, taste the water. Does it taste at all briney or does it just taste like water? If it just tastes like water, go ahead and toss in some more kosher salt.
7. Check the kraut every day. If a little white mold grows toward the top (I find this is less an issue with kraut than it is with pickles), skim that off.
8. The kraut should start being good after five days, get really good after a week, and get excellent in the 1.5-2.5 week range. Wherever you like it, at whatever stage of fermentation, put it in the refrigerator to slow down fermentation.