Sauerkraut – or ‘surkål’ (literally meaning sour cabbage) as we call it in Norwegian – is the perfect pairing to many of the winter roasts we enjoy here. It’s also delicious with fish and in its own right, and can vary considerably with the inclusion of say apples, smoked meats or a lick of cream. A sour component next to sizzling joints or fat sausages actually helps your digestive system and provides good bacteria for your gut – a wonderful counterbalance when feasting with abandon. Today we’re sharing head chef Rich’s tasty sauerkraut recipe with beetroot and horseradish.

Fermenting vegetables is a simple and ancient tradition, handed down from generation to generation. We are harnessing the power of a friendly group of bacteria named Lactobacillus (or LAB for short). As they multiply in the right conditions they produce lactic acid, which acts as a tasty preservative. Although the science can sound intimidating, humans were fermenting vegetables before they even knew what bacteria was. All you need are these two simple rules to create the right conditions for LAB to thrive…

Rule one: Just add salt.. LAB love salt (don’t we all) 
Rule two: Remove oxygen.. this sounds complicated but is actually really simple, all we need to do is completely submerge the vegetables in their own juices. 

Sauerkraut with beetroot and horseradish 
1kg Red cabbage (sliced very thinly, with the bottom stalk saved for later use)
30g Salt (use nonionized salt such as sea salt)
450g Beetroots (coarsely grated)
50g Fresh horseradish (finely grated)
2 Star anise 
1 tsp Coriander seeds

Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. This achieves two things: a better mouthfeel and more surface area for the LAB to multiply on. A food processor can do this easily, or a mandoline, but a knife will also do the trick.

Once you have prepared your vegetables, place them in a large, deep sided tray and sprinkle with salt and spices. Use your hands to vigorously massage (or ‘scrunch’) the salt thoroughly through the vegetable mix. Leave to rest for half an hour while the salt draws out the liquid naturally.

After thirty minutes, give the mixture another scrunch and leave for another thirty minutes. Repeat this process one more time. After a total of an hour and a half of scrunching and resting, there should be a substantial amount of liquor at the bottom of the tray. Give the vegetable mix an extra squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible.

Next, tightly pack the mixture into a sterilized Kilner jar, leaving roughly 6cm of space at the top. Trim the cabbage stalk to fit the neck of the jar, place it on top of the mixture and gently push down. As you press down, liquid should swell up over the vegetables, removing any remaining oxygen from the jar. Make sure the mixture stays completely submerged when you close the jar.

The rest is up to nature! Leave the sauerkraut at room temperature for 5-7 days to burp, hiss and fizz away, making sure to leave the jar standing in a tray to catch any juices that might escape. After five days, test your kraut and see if you are happy with its acidity. If it tastes good, relocate the jar to the fridge. If you want it to taste more acidic, leave it for a few days longer at room temperature. Enjoy!

You can also watch this short video below where Rich is demonstrating the basic steps to make fermenting work.