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I know that making Sauerkraut is basically putting layers of cabbage and salt in a jar and then filling with water. However, I have been told that doing this at home can allow generation of good bacteria (probiotics) in the sauerkraut. How can I promote this growth while keeping the sauerkraut edible and tasty?

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Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, hence it contains bacteria, mostly Lactobacilli. –  nico Jan 21 '12 at 18:47
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You should study the correct method for Sauerkraut, your description is very wrong. The anaerobic bacteria in Sauerkraut (lactic) is just another of the many bacteria that the human digestive system uses, it is not something magic. Extra volumes of it may or may not be good for you, everyone is different. Sauerkraut is one source of it, there are many others. AFAIK Most claimed pro-biotics fail reasonable scientific tests –  TFD Jan 21 '12 at 20:57
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@TFD: indeed most claims of supposed probiotics have been so far been rejected by the European Food Safety Authority. Evidence is really scarce for any supposed probiotic to work at all. –  nico Jan 22 '12 at 0:19
    
@nico much fermentation (beer, etc) is accomplished via yeast (kingdom fungi), so don't assume bacteria –  zanlok Feb 14 '12 at 22:34
    
@zanlok: sure you are right, in retrospective my sentence was badly written. I probably used "bacteria" instead of "microorganisms" as that is what the OP wrote but, sure, yeast can be used for fermentation too. –  nico Feb 15 '12 at 5:52

2 Answers 2

I usually leave fermenting vegetables out for about a week. Some variables in the final product are crunchiness and sourness, which I believe depend on time, temperature and the amount of salt used. You should taste your kraut a few times over the first few days to see how you like it, and when you think it's done then cover and put in the fridge to stop the fermentation.

By the way, you want your vegetables completely submerged to get the anaerobic effect, and you may see some foamy scum on the water surface which is harmless. You can skim and throw it away if you like, or just stir it down into the mix.

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The ingredients of sauerkraut are very basic--its basically just cabbage and salt (the water is drawn out of the cabbage). Given this, you will produce the most nutritious kraut using high-quality cabbage and salt with natural minerals. A high quality sea salt will contain additional minerals that processed kosher and table salts lack (also, it is typically advised not to use salt with iodine--as it apparently prevents the growth of the desired bacteria). Additional ingredients such as spices will add their relative nutritional value to the mix.

Obviously this doesn't necessary maximize or preserve any "probiotic" aspect in particular, but as commenters have mentioned these claims are dubious as best.

Also, by the way, you only need to add water if the cabbage fails to produce enough brine to cover it after being salted. If you do add water you'll want to add additional salt so as to preserve the salinity--typically I've used 1Tbsp of salt per quart of water.

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Why not use iodized? Does the additional iodine interfere with the fermentation? –  Sobachatina Feb 23 '12 at 0:38

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