It’s funny how much something so basic can add such a variety to your life.
Almost everyone has had sauerkraut in one form or another, and if you haven’t, you should try it.
Sauerkraut is a traditional German dish consisting of chopped cabbage and salt.
Its main flavors come from the fermenting process that it goes through, the same one that turns cabbage into Kimchi or cucumbers into pickles.
Sauerkraut is great on its own, but to make it extra tasty, try adding in different spices during the fermentation process.
In this article, we’ll be covering nine different spices that will take your sauerkraut from something tolerable to something you’ll ask for seconds.
Why is My Sauerkraut Bitter?
The biggest deterrent for trying sauerkraut is that its bitter flavor.
When most people think of traditional fermented recipes, they’re thinking about this very flavor; but did you know that you can prevent it?
Bitter sauerkraut happens when the cabbage begins to ferment before all the salt has dissolved in the brine.
This means that the cabbage retains some of its starch and begins to ferment independently.
Since starch equals sugar, this results in a bitter flavor.
You can prevent this by dissolving the salt in brine before mixing it with your cabbage.
The easiest way to do this would be to make sure that the salt is completely dissolved in water, not simply dissolved on the surface of the water or mixed into a pile at the bottom of your container.
What Other Spices are Good for Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut tastes great on its own, but its flavors are so rich that they can.
5 Ingredients I NEVER Use in My Sauerkraut
The worst thing that can happen to your sauerkraut is being exposed to the elements.
This means exposing it to air, sunlight, and extreme temperatures.
As soon as you place your sauerkraut in a jar or crock for storage, the outside of the cabbage will begin fermenting immediately.
If not properly sealed, this will prevent the inside of the cabbage from fermenting and cause harmful bacteria to develop.
To make sure that your sauerkraut is safe for consumption, always double-check that it’s been properly sealed with a weight or lid.
Also, remember to store it in a cool area away from sunlight, such as a refrigerator.
That being said, there are certain ingredients that you should never use in your sauerkraut, even if they will keep it from being exposed to the elements.
1 – Starter Cultures.
These are cultures that contain beneficial bacteria.
You can purchase them to add to your sauerkraut to help it ferment faster, but the truth is that these cultures will only make things worse by introducing foreign particles into your fermenting cabbage.
If you choose to introduce a starter culture, make sure that the label states “for use with fresh vegetables” and that you’re not using it in a brine filled with salt.
2 – Whey.
Whey is the water-like substance found when separating milk into curds and whey.
It can be used to add extra calcium to your sauerkraut, but the truth is that it will only add an off-putting flavor.
3 – Vinegar.
Vinegar is an acidic substance used to make pickles, but it can also be added to sauerkraut to speed up the fermentation process.
The problem is that vinegar isn’t a traditional ingredient found in any old-world fermenting recipe.
Its use will only add a foreign and unpleasant flavor to your fermenting cabbage.
4 – Celery Juice.
Celery juice is extremely high in sodium, which makes it a popular ingredient in squeezing recipes for sauerkraut; however, the truth is that it will add an off-putting taste to your fermenting cabbage.
5 – Brine from a previous batch.
Brine is the liquid solution used to cover fermenting vegetables.
It’s necessary to create an environment where beneficial bacteria can survive, but it also contains high levels of salt, which will only prevent your cabbage from fermenting properly.
If you were to use brine as an ingredient in new batches of sauerkraut, you’d end up with a salt-loaded batch of sauerkraut that was charred on the outside and raw in the middle.
Why Put Caraway Seeds in Sauerkraut?
Caraway seeds are very popular in traditional sauerkraut recipes.
They add a pleasantly sweet and earthy flavor to your fermenting cabbage and help cut through its sourness.
They also make your sauerkraut more nutritious, adding calcium and vitamin C to the mix while discouraging harmful bacteria from forming during fermentation.
Before adding caraway seeds to your sauerkraut, make sure that you’re using fresh ones that have been stored in a sealed jar or container.
Caraway seeds are also known as cumin seeds.
You don’t have to use caraway seeds, but they will help improve the flavor of your traditional sauerkraut.
7 Ingredients to Spice Up Store-bought Sauerkraut
When it comes to store-bought sauerkraut, the flavor hasn’t been properly cultivated, and there’s a good chance that it’s been exposed to air.
Additionally, many brands have been pasteurized so much that they no longer contain beneficial bacteria.
While making your homemade version of sauerkraut is a time-consuming process, it’s one of the healthiest foods you can consume because it will help you get rid of harmful bacteria in your digestive tract while improving your overall health.
For the best results when spicing up store-bought sauerkraut, think about what ingredients would be best suited to make your fermenting cabbage taste great.
Here are some ingredients that you can use:
1 – Juniper Berries.
Juniper berries can be added to sauerkraut to add a subtle flavor that will make your fermenting cabbage taste like it was made generations ago.
This classic topping can be found in traditional recipes from Europe.
When picking out juniper berries, make sure that you’re using ones that are crispy and green.
2 – Beets.
Beets are a sweet root vegetable that has been used for centuries to spice up sauerkraut and bring out its natural sourness.
For the best results, grate raw beets into thin strips and use them as a topping when serving your fermented cabbage dish.
3 – Ginger.
Sauerkraut isn’t the best thing to eat if you’re trying to improve your digestion, but that doesn’t mean that it has no benefits.
One of the most popular ingredients in traditional sauerkraut recipes is ginger, which helps cut through the sourness and adds a pleasant taste to fermenting cabbage.
4 – Lemon Peel.
Lemon peel has a bitter taste that balances out the sourness of fermenting cabbage.
You can add it to your sauerkraut for a burst of flavor, or you can add it to the water that you’re using to cover your fermenting cabbage.
5 – Dill.
Dill provides a fresh and rich taste that will make your store-bought sauerkraut more appetizing while also adding nutrients.
Use dill while fermenting your cabbage, or add some to the water that you’re using to cover it.
6 – Fennel Seeds.
Fennel seeds are an essential ingredient in many sauerkraut recipes.
They can be added directly into the jar with your cabbage, or they can be added to the brine solution that you’ll be using to ferment your cabbage.
7 – Garlic.
Garlic is a strong and intense spice that can be added to sauerkraut, but you have to use it sparingly because too much of it will overwhelm the other flavors.
If you decide to add garlic, make sure that you crush a few cloves first and mix them into the brine solution before fermenting your cabbage.
How Do You Make Sauerkraut More Sour?
One of the most important things that you can do to improve the flavor of your sauerkraut is to sour it.
Sour kraut tastes great, but it’s difficult for many people to make because they don’t properly cultivate flavors during fermentation.
If your sauerkraut isn’t quite sour enough, it may be due to the cabbage you used.
Allow it to ferment for a few days longer, then check again.
If you don’t detect any increase in the tang, the sugars in cabbage can prevent it from fully fermenting, which usually results in incomplete souring.
Depending on what kind of cabbage you used, this may take up to 10 days.
If your first batch was on the sweet side, try fermenting it with rice bran to reduce sugars, if possible.
If this still doesn’t do the trick, consider using different vegetables for future batches.
The type of food you add also plays an important part in souring.
If you use fruit such as grapes or apples, fermentation takes off faster, and you’re more likely to achieve the sour flavor you desire.
However, if you’re fermenting vegetables such as turnips or beets, let them ferment for a few weeks before tasting.