Directions for 4 gallons of sauerkraut: This is the size of crock I have - adjust for your size of container. Also, this batch is for our family.... I added beet greens, apple, black peppercorns, carrots and some parsnips. This is what I had in my fridge, so this is what I cultured. That is why it looks so colorful. Yours might not be so many colors and flavors.... we like intense.
#1 - Gather ingredients: 6 heads cabbage, 9 tbsp or more sea salt, whey, (directions here: Whey recipe) juniper berries or caraway seeds, and any spices you like. Spices are INTENSE when cultured, so use with caution. Our family likes cumin, cayenne, and onions.
#2 - Shred the cabbage. Use a food processer if possible. Reserve the outer leaves to top it off. You need at least 8-10 leaves.
#3 - Mix as you go - I usually put the first bunch of shredded cabbage, some of the salt, and all of the spices in the bottom and mix with my hands. I then continue to mix as I add more and more of the cabbage. This allows the salt to pull the juice from the cabbage.
#4 - If you want to add spices - 1/3 cup of Juniper Berries, 1/4 cup whey, 1/3 cup cumin, 1/4 cup cayenne. If you have someone in the house that likes bland and someone else likes spicy, you can leave the cayenne out and put about 1/4 tsp in each jar as you bottle it.
#5 - Layer some outer leaves of the cabbage on top of your mixture. Don't wash them, just rinse. The white stuff is what you want to culture your sauerkraut.
#6 - If necessary, add salt water to top off. Liquid must cover the cabbage and leaves - If there is not enough cabbage juice, just add salt water (1 tbsp per quart of warm water)
#7 - Put a dinner plate upside down on top of the whole leaves. Put another plate upside right on top of that. Push everything down using the plates. The sauerkraut cultures in the absence of oxygen, so this is how you keep it away from the air.
#8 - Put some more salt water into a 1 gallon zip lock bag or glass container that is sealed tightly. If you are using a zip lock bag, put the first bag into another zip lock bag. Put on top of the plates as a weight. You use salt water in case it breaks (which happens more often than not to me-that is one reason I switched to glass) Then you don't ruin your brine.
#9 - Cap your sauerkraut and put it into a cool, dark place for a few weeks. (ideally between about 55-68 degrees)
#10 - When you are ready to bottle it up, undo everything carefully and try to get all the scum or bloom off of the top. Work at the sink. Have a clean rag to wipe the sides of the bucket. It stinks - but not for long!
Bottle up and top off with the brine. Cap tightly and put into refrigeration to "put your sauerkraut to sleep". The smell does go away!
Have lots of fun and take some pictures. It is a totally messy, family friendly project.