This post illustrates the process of making sauerkraut, starting from 10 pounds of red cabbage, and ending up with a two half-gallons of kraut, ready to ferment. For detailed written instructions for lacto-fermentation of vegetables, see Post #G23.
Let me start by noting one big advantage of red cabbage sauerkraut compared to more traditional green cabbage sauerkraut. Aside from the looks (a deep purple) and the taste (tangier than regular sauerkraut), it is exceptionally crisp when it is done.
So crisp, in fact, that you can freeze it. And by that I mean, you can freeze it and still be willing to eat it afterwards. It won’t be as crisp once you’ve done that, but it is still on the right side of “edible”. It ends up just about as crisp as traditional sauerkraut. By contrast, if you freeze traditional sauerkraut, you pretty much get mush when you thaw it. It’s still edible, but it’s not something you’d care to eat raw.
For the casual reader, that may not seem like much. But those of you who are into lacto-fermentation or probiotics or food preservation understand the advantage to this: You don’t have to can it to preserve it. Canning is a lot of work, and it (by definition) kills all the bacteria in the sauerkraut. But with red cabbage sauerkraut, you can make a big batch, eat some fresh, put some in the fridge for the next couple of months, and put some in the freezer for next year. And in each case, those probiotic bacteria will still be alive. And it’s all good enough to eat raw. It’s better when it’s fresh, but it’s still not bad after it’s been frozen.
And that’s why I’m not afraid to make it by the gallon, as shown in this posting. Some will go in the fridge. The rest will go in the freezer.
And that means I can do this seasonally. When the new cabbages start showing up at the farmers’ markets in the fall, that’s when I make kraut. Sometimes I get some odd looks, buying half-a-dozen cabbages at a time. But they’re always willing to take my money.
The only disadvantage of red cabbage sauerkraut is that you can’t cook with it. Not unless you like (e.g.) purple pork chops. It will dye any food that it is cooked with.
If you’ve never made sauerkraut before, everything you really need to know about the basics of making sauerkraut can be found in the USDA guidelines, Section 6 (.pdf).