How to Make Sauerkraut

How to make sauerkraut

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut

I love sauerkraut (well I love cabbage in general, but that’s another story), and I know that ‘real sauerkraut’, i.e. homemade sauerkraut, is full of not only all the nutrients and phytochemicals that make cabbage a superfood but it contains probiotics as well. It tastes great and it helps with digestion too, well that’s what I notice anyway. The store-bought variety may in some cases taste good, but it’s not that healthy for you, and it’s expensive. It usually has way too much salt, not necessarily good salt at that. And in most cases it’s pasteurized, which means all the healthy probiotic bacteria that make sauerkraut so much more awesome and easily digestible than just plain cabbage have been killed off. Along with most of the nutrients I imagine. Mind you, you could do far worse as far as food choices go. But why settle for mediocre? Why not choose awesome? You’re worth it.

For a very long time I have wanted to make my own sauerkraut. I talked to people who made their own, I read about how to make sauerkraut and watched some videos. It sounded so complicated. I thought it was difficult to make, that there was some ‘knack’ to doing it, and if I didn’t get it right the result would be a mushy, smelly disaster. Well, I finally got up the courage to try, and found out that making sauerkraut is so easy! It’s got to be one of the easiest things to make. It takes a bit of time, not too much considering what you get in the end though. And I chop all the cabbage by hand, so if you use a mandoline* or food processor it won’t take that long at all.

My sauerkraut came out beautiful the first time, using green cabbage. The second time I put in too much salt, but I made both white and red cabbage sauerkraut, and the red cabbage kraut is such a cool color that’s all I want to make. It’s more nutritious too because of the anthocyanins in the red cabbage. So last time I made it, I wrote down the recipe, and I think I got the salt just right.

Now don’t let the length of this recipe scare you off. The process is really easy, it’s just that it looks like a lot because I’ve tried to explain the process really thoroughly. If you have any questions just ask them in the comments area below. And if you want, skip down to the bottom and watch the video by Sandor Ellix Katz, author of one of my all-time favorite recipe books, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

Ingredients:

8 cups finely chopped cabbage (red/purple or green)
1 tbsp Himalayan or Celtic sea salt **

** I like to use coarse sea salt, during the process of massaging the cabbage the grains of salt will break down. I usually put on some good music, or listen to an audio book while I’m doing it and I know I don’t have to pay much attention until all the grains of salt have dissolved. It should work just as well with finely ground salt as well.

Here’s a tip if you’re using red/purple cabbage, as you’re massaging the cabbage your hands will get stained purple. An easy and effective way to get the stain off is to rub a cut lemon on your skin where it’s stained and then rinse your hands. So if you don’t want to have slightly purple hands, be sure to have a lemon on hand (no pun intended) if you’re using red/purple cabbage.

Special Equipment:

You’ll need a 1 litre (1 quart) glass jar with a tight fitting lid. I like the jars with a glass lid and rubber seal that clamp down. A canning jar with a tight fitting lid will work fine too.

Instructions:

Wash and drain the cabbage well. Cut off any outer leaves that don’t look so good. Cut off and save one of the nicer looking outer leaves and put it to one side. After you’ve made and packed all the sauerkraut in the jar, you’ll fold up this leaf and put it on top to help press down the cabbage to keep it under the brine.

Finely sliced red cabbage

Finely sliced red cabbage

Slice the cabbage as finely as you can. You can also use a mandoline*  or food processor to slice the cabbage as finely as you can. The reason you want to slice it so finely is to maximize the surface area. This will make it easier to massage and quicker to ferment.

Add the sliced cabbage to a large mixing bowl, along with the salt. Using your hands massage the salt into the cabbage by grabbing handfuls of the cabbage and squeezing it like you would squeeze out a large sponge then let go and drop the cabbage back into the bowl. Grab another handful and do the same. Repeat this until the cabbage starts to get soft.

As the cabbage softens you’ll notice more and more juice in the bottom of the bowl. The juice will dissolve the salt, which will in turn draw more juice out of the cabbage. That’s exactly what we want. Don’t drain the juice off, it’s the brine that will allow the cabbage to ferment without going ‘off’. You’ll also notice that the volume of cabbage gets smaller as you massage it.

Homemade sauerkraut

Homemade sauerkraut

Keep massaging until the cabbage is quite soft and limp, almost the consistency it is after being stir-fried or steamed. You want to keep massaging until the volume of the cabbage is reduced by about half. If you used coarse sea salt, it should all be dissolved. If you taste a bit at this point, you’ll notice that the cabbage has lost that sharp, pungent taste that raw cabbage has. I love the cabbage like this, even before it’s fermented. I often use this technique for cabbage and kale when I’m making a salad, sometimes adding a bit of olive oil and massaging that in as well.

Now it’s time to pack the jar that you’ll ferment your sauerkraut in. Grab a few handfuls of cabbage and put them into the jar and add a bit of the brine, just to the top of the cabbage. Reach in with your hand or a wooden spoon and press the cabbage down into the bottom. You want to release any air pockets and pack the cabbage in as tightly as you can. Continue to pack the cabbage into the jar in this way, a few handfuls at a time until you nearly reach the top of the jar.

Add more brine if you need so that all the cabbage is under brine. This prevents bad bacteria from forming during the fermentation process. Take the outer cabbage leaf you saved at the beginning and fold it up so that it will just fit inside the mouth of the jar. You want to use it almost like a lid to keep the sliced cabbage pressed down underneath the brine.

It's easy to make sauerkraut

It’s easy to make sauerkraut!

Put the lid on the jar, and leave it out at room temperature for about 4 days. Your fermentation time may vary depending on the temperature and how fermented you like your kraut. Keep out of direct sunlight.

Take off the lid once a day to release any gasses that may build up from the fermentation process. Use a wooden spoon to press the cabbage down and release any gas bubbles that have formed. That helps it ferment better and ensures that the cabbage is kept under the brine level and helps prevent the brine from overflowing your container.

You’ll notice the color of the cabbage has changed after massaging it, and it will keep changing over the next few days as it ferments. I always do a taste test starting at day 3, and then daily after that. Once the sauerkraut gets to the point that you like it, put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process. I’ve had some last for about 2 months before I ate it all, and it just kept maturing and getting better.

Makes 1 litre of sauerkraut

This is a great video by fermentation guru Sandor Ellix Katz that shows you just how easy it is to make sauerkraut. This video was really instrumental in getting me started making my own sauerkraut. It shows just how easy it is and gave me the confidence to try it myself. It does a really good job showing how to massage the cabbage. Some good info on the benefits of fermenting vegetables too.

* What is a Mandoline?

Swissmar Borner V-Slicer Pro Mandoline V-4000A mandoline is great for slicing fruits and vegetables. They are usually made from plastic, or less commonly from stainless steel, with a very sharp set of interchangeable blades that fit into a ‘ramp’. The best blades are made from surgical steel and will keep their edge for years. They are probably the quickest way of slicing anything. Far faster than a knife, and easier to to set up and clean than a food processor. Those who have and use mandolines swear by them.

The interchangeable blades allow you to slice at different thicknesses, julienne, and shred. Because the blade is so sharp slicing is quick and easy, but it’s also easy to slice your finger. So be sure the use the safety holder. They are not as awkward to use as you might think at first glance. Cleaning is easy, in most cases you just have to rinse.

Swissmar Borner V-Slicer Pro Mandoline V-4000, 7-Piece Set

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DISCLAIMER: The statements enclosed herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information mentioned on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information and statements found here are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional.

107 Responses to “How to Make Sauerkraut”

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  1. Easy Recipes says:

    Every summer while I was growing up my mother used to make her own sauerkraut. This post brings back a lot of old memories. Thanks for sharing.

    • Eat Healthy says:

      Wow, that’s awesome that your mom made her own sauerkraut! Really, homemade is the best, and the best for you. I hope you ate lots of it (and got those great probiotics in you)! :-) I’m so glad my article could trigger those great memories for you.

  2. looks great i shall try to make this asap. :)

  3. Yen says:

    I haven’t tried something like this.. but i just would like to know how does it tastes…

    • Donna says:

      Hi Yen, thanks for asking. Sometimes it’s a bit hard describing a taste, but I’ll try. It’s a little bit tart, and a little salty, similar to a pickle. The longer you leave it to mature in the fridge, the sweeter it becomes, although it’s not a sugary sweetness. Have you noticed how cabbage becomes sweeter as you saute or roast it? It’s like that kind of sweetness, but it still has a sour/tart taste too. It’s not as crunchy as raw cabbage, quite tender and juicy. You should try some, it’s really nice and great for your health. It goes really nice in sandwiches (like a pickle). I also put it in salads, and I love to eat it with grains like rice and quinoa. I also chop it up a bit and use it in recipes that call for pickles, like this Raw Pate made from Sunflower Seeds and Walnuts.

  4. Heather says:

    Yum! This is next on my cooking adventure! Since I lived in Korea for a year, I came to love the taste of their version of spicy fermented cabbage (kimchee) and make that all the time. It never crossed my mind to make my own sauerkraut and I lived in Germany for two years!

    • Donna says:

      Hi Heather. I hope you do try the sauerkraut and let me know what you think.

      I love sauerkraut, but the canned stuff is pasteurized so all the friendly bacteria are dead, and it’s usually got way too much salt in it. I was so happy when I found out how easy it was to make my own. And a German friend tried some and said it was delicious and just like she remembered from her childhood – what a compliment!

      I’ve only tried kimchee once I think. I really liked it, although it was a bit hot for me. But the beauty of making your own is that you can make it just as hot as you like. I have tried making kimchee. I didn’t have the kind of cabbage that it’s traditionally made of, and I’m not sure what else happened but it didn’t turn out as nice. So I have to work on that recipe a bit more. Everyone I know who has lived in Korea, or spent time there and leaves to live somewhere else really misses the kimchee.

      Do you have a recipe for your kimchee? I’d love to try it if you do.

  5. Teresita says:

    I tried to make this recipe, but a week have passed and still no fermentation has happen. It’s been really cold, Could be this the reason? and also, Is my sauerkraut ruined? Thanks for your help.

    • Donna says:

      Hi Teresita, can you tell me more. Does it have a bad smell, or does it smell like cabbage and/or sauerkraut?

      If it’s been really cold that will definitely slow down the fermentation, and traditionally that’s how many people made it because of when cabbage was naturally harvested (it’s a cold weather vegetable). They made huge amounts in crocks, that they put into cold cellars so it would take a quite a while to ferment, but it would preserve for longer. If it still smells okay (not rotten) then give it a chance, it is probably just fermenting more slowly because of the cold.

      Do you see any little bubbles? Often they will appear between the shreds of cabbage, so what I do is every day, while it’s fermenting, I push the cabbage down to push the bubbles out. You may not need to do it every day if it’s cold and fermenting more slowly. When you start to see the bubbles appear, it is definitely fermenting. Also if you taste a little, the taste and texture will be different when it starts fermenting, it gets softer (not so crunchy) and will become a little sour at first.

      If you can find a place that is a little bit warmer, try putting your sauerkraut there. Do you have a closet where the hot water heater is? If you can put it in there it is usually warmer than the rest of the house. If there is a shelf above the water heater that would be a good place to put it. That should speed up the fermentation.

  6. Joe says:

    It’s been really warm this last week. The temp in the house has been ~68-74. After 2 days I’ve found brine on my counter so I opened the bottles to see what’s going on. I see that there are bubbles forming in the cabbage bringing the cabbage to the top and expanding the volume in the bottle, causing the overflow.
    I had 1/2″ head space but I suspect I should have left more space and probably more brine on the top. So I’ve pushed the cabbage down into the jar and removed some of the cabbage and not the brine.
    So I’m wondering – does this sound right?

    I’m using mason jars with the 2 piece lids. They’re loosely screwed on… should they be on tight?

    Also, it doesn’t taste salty. I’m not sure what it should taste like – it sure doesn’t taste like store bought.

    It seems to me like fermentation is underway. Is that what the bubbles are about?

    – Joe

    • Donna says:

      Hi Joe, thanks for your great question. It sounds like fermentation is definitely underway. You’re absolutely right, that’s what the bubbles are about. It’s been pretty warm in your house, so your sauerkraut is going to be done very soon. If the brine no longer tastes salty it’s very close to done, if not already. Taste some of the cabbage and see what you think. When it’s ready, the texture will be softer than with raw cabbage, and it will not be very salty, and it will be more tart. The longer you leave it the more tart it will become. Refrigerating it will slow that down considerably. Basically go with what tastes good to you. You’re doing everything right by the sound of it… the lids should be loosely screwed on.

      Also important, every day while it’s fermenting, more than once a day when you see lots of bubbles take the lid off and then put it back on. If the lid is on too tight and the gas can’t escape it can explode the container. So I generally take the lid off each day and push the cabbage down if necessary. If the fermentation is really active I’ll just take the lid off to release the pressure maybe 2-3 times a day even if I don’t need to push the cabbage down. Once you deem fermentation finished and put in the fridge you don’t need to worry about it… but if you’re like me you’ll be taking the lid off to eat it every day anyway.

      That overflow has happened to me on many occasions too. The best thing I’ve found to do is remove some of the brine if necessary to make enough free space, but don’t throw it out. Then use something like a wooden spoon to push the cabbage down. What you are aiming for is to push those gas bubbles out and compact the cabbage again. Make sure all the cabbage is pushed below the brine level. You can add more of the brine that you removed back, maybe don’t fill it quite so full. You might want to save whatever doesn’t fit, store it in the fridge, in case you need it later. Later on the cabbage will tend to re-absorb a lot of it.

      Thanks so much, those are really important questions you’ve asked and it adds to the information that other people are sure to want to know too.
      Donna

  7. Nancy says:

    I’m in the process of making this saurekraut–never done this before. The cabbage made alot more that I expected. There is no way I can eat all this saurkraut within a few months. How long is it good for? Is there something I can do to preserve it longer?

    • Donna says:

      Hi Nancy. Good on ya for making sauerkraut for the first time! Where are you located, I’ll come help you eat it! (just kidding). It will last for a really long time, the fermentation is a preservation method basically. The trick to making it last longer is to keep it cool. Refrigerate it, or traditionally people would put it into a cold cellar over the winter. The longer it sits for, after the initial fermentation, the more it mellows. So tuck it away in a cool spot, out of direct light if possible. It will be actively fermenting for a time, you’ll see lots of bubbles in it. Then the fermentation process will slow down. Read some of my comments above for tips on what to do when it starts to bubble a lot. Enjoy it! :)

  8. nancy k. says:

    After fermentation has finished to my liking, I put it in 1# freezer bags and freeze it. To use, thaw and heat. I have yet to find anyone who has eaten my frozen kraut comment on the texture, but I get non-stop requests for more to take home, please, just a little. I keep thinking there is a place in the local farmer’s market for some of this gourmet food. On occasion I have sauted a veggie sausage and added it to my kraut and with mashed potatoes: heaven.

    A tip: lay the bags of kraut flat in the freezer and then they can be stood up and they take very little room. Add a couple red cabbages to a batch of white and you get pink saurkraut. Now for some blue mashed potatoes and the kids will love it.

    • Donna says:

      LOL! Nancy I LOVE the blue potatoes idea! I love the red cabbage sauerkraut too, I have made one mixed batch and gotten that amazing pink color too. I wish I had taken a good photo of it. The only thing I would say is that if you heat the sauerkraut it will kill the beneficial bacteria. Unless you can keep the temperature low, like in a dehydrator on the lowest setting. But it’s great to know that the texture is still fine after freezing it. I definitely think it would go down well at a farmers market. Especially if gave out samples for people who’ve not tried it to taste. In fact, if you could bring a BBQ to the market and sell veggie sausages with sauerkraut and nice homemade whole-grain mustard… wow, I would buy one from you! And you would probably sell jars of the sauerkraut and mustard too once people have had a taste. Thanks for the great info and ideas!

  9. Carole Staatz says:

    My purple cabbage is fermenting nicely~ I wouldnt call it kraut just yet. I really appreciate your webpage & the great info. My question is: I just changed the metal ring & lid on it because the jar was leaking a bit (kind of a dark blue color)I have a drip bowl under it and a small bit of liquid in the bowl was also a dark blue color ~ just want to make sure no one gets food poisoning ~ could you please get back to me on this ~ Thank you

    • Donna says:

      Hi Carole, I’m sorry I haven’t replied sooner. It’s hard to say without being able to see it. It sounds like some of the brine leaked out, and that can corrode the metal lid, but in the case of purple sauerkraut, the brine itself will be that dark purple/blue color.

      Are you using like a mason jar (or similar brand)? I use a type of jar that has a glass lid, with a rubber seal. There is a metal wire around the glass lid and it clamps down with piece of metal. If anything leaks out of my jar, it will touch and start corroding the metal, but there is no way it could leak back into the jar after touching the metal. I think even with the mason jar type lids, if the lid was new, they are coated with enamel or something, and thin strip of rubber for the seal where it touches the glass. The metal ring is actually outside of the jar. So I’m thinking if the lid was new, or otherwise not scratch or corroded, it should be food safe (because think about canning tomatoes, they are very corrosive too and they would be touching the inside of the lid), even if the brine touched it. The ring would not be, and the brine would corrode it, but since it’s on the outside of the neck of the jar, it’s unlikely that any brine would have touched it and ended up back inside the jar. I think whatever brine touched the ring would have been what ended up in your drip bowl. So, see what you think given what your setup looks like, do you think it was even possible for the brine to touch the metal and end up back in the jar?

      Was the metal of the original lid and ring already corroded when you replaced them?

  10. Bethany says:

    Hi there,
    This is my first time making sauerkraut as well. I had been doing well with pushing the kraut under the brine but the last couple days I forgot to check (I started it two weeks ago) and when I looked this morning the brine is well below the cabbage and its drying out on top. Is the whole batch ruined? Can I just take out the bits that have dried out? I have only ever eaten sauerkraut once (!) and so I don’t know whether I could tell by smell if its gone bad or not.
    Thank you!!

    • Donna says:

      Hi Bethany, that’s happened to me sometimes too. If you don’t push down the cabbage frequently enough when the fermentation is really going it can overflow the brine, then you end up with too little a few days later. In my case, the sauerkraut was fine. It sounds like your sauerkraut may well be done. Taste it and see, I reckon it’s done when it tastes good to you :) You can just take the dry stuff off the top, the rest that is under the brine is probably fine. The drier stuff on top may well be okay too. I would suggest taking it off and putting it in a separate bowl. Then taking some of the stuff under the brine out, and comparing the two both by smell and taste. If the stuff that was on top is slimy, smells or tastes funny I would advise throwing it out, but if it smells and tastes the same and isn’t slimy or moldy it’s probably okay. Thanks for your question :)

      • Joe says:

        Couldn’t you also make some extra brine and use that in addition to the brine you generate from squeezing the cabbage? So for instance, if you have ~1/2″ of brine on top of your cabbage, it seems like you could make a little more, brine (salt water) to add to that so that you have something like an inch on the top. While not perfect, it would help avoid this kind of problem. Just a thought :)

        • Donna says:

          Hi Joe, yes that’s a great idea actually. You’re right in that it wouldn’t be quite as good as what you get from squeezing the cabbage, but if it saves some of your sauerkraut from being thrown out I think it’s worth it. I’ll remember that next time if I need more brine. Great idea, thank you for sharing it!

  11. Sandy says:

    My family has been making sauerkraut for generations so I won’t eat that imitation stuff you can buy in the store. I’m excited to see so many people making their own sauerkraut, I was afraid it was becoming a lost art. My friends are usually shocked at how easy it is to make when I invite them over for a demonstration. I would encourage anyone thinkning about trying their hand at this to give it a try – what do you have to lose? We usually can anywhere from 50 to 100 quarts so that we can enjoy it all year long and still have some to share.

    • Donna says:

      Wow, that is awesome how much sauerkraut you make Sandy. Do you make it all at once? Any guess how many cabbages that is?

      I think sauerkraut making was becoming a lost art, for sure. But there has been a revival in fermented foods, yay! I think having your friends and neighbors over for a demonstration is a great idea. It is really easy to make, but if you have never made it before, and never seen it made even, then it can be a bit daunting for many people. So, kudos to you for spreading the knowledge!

      • Sandy says:

        We have a number of ceramic crocks in various sizes, but usually we use two 20 gallon so that we can make it all at once. We have a system down and can shred 200 pounds of cabbage in a couple of hours using two triple bladed mandolines. The number of heads we use varies depending on their size. This year the farm produced 4 pound heads of cabbage – which is great because you have fewer hearts to throw away.
        After inviting friends over for a demonstration I send them home with an illustrated recipe. Those who’ve made their own loved having the pictures to help them remember the process.
        I love the pictures you have here of red cabbagecabbage sauerkraut. Maybe next time I’ll have to try making some.

  12. Jane says:

    We have been making sauerkraut for several years with great success. We make it in a 5 gallon plastic pail and had the leaves over the top, then a plate for weight. Our son-in-law stored it for us in his heated basement for approximately 6 weeks. He dropped it off today. When we went to heat it to can it, it had a “weird” smell and taste to it. As I said, we love sauerkraut and know that it definitely has a distinct smell but this was different. It was just a different – “off” smell. There was not as much of the “scum” or “bloom” on top as we have had in past years. Was it maybe not done? We went ahead and canned it and will open a jar in a few days and see what we think. Would love to hear if you have any suggestions or comments. Thank you!

    • Donna says:

      Hi Jane. It’s hard to say what happened. Was the cabbage under the brine the entire time? Is there any way it could have gotten too hot during the time it was fermenting, maybe killing off the beneficial bacteria? Those are the only things I can think of that may have resulted in the batch not fermenting properly. I never heat my sauerkraut because it kills all of the beneficial bacteria, so instead of being a healthy, living food, the only food value would be that of the cooked cabbage.

      • Jane says:

        Thank you so much for responding! I believe the cabbage was under the brine the whole time. The bucket was at our daughter’s house but they are aware that it needs to be under the brine and had only poured off a little to transport it to our house.

        We did heat it and can it and it tastes much better now. I was very interested (and saddened) to learn that heating the kraut kills the beneficial bacteria. What do you suggest for storing? I have read where people continually keep a crock going all the time and it is fine. I do not care to keep a continuous bucket in my basement because of the odor. Does freezing kill the bacteria?

        Again, thank you so much for your time and sharing your expertise. It is greatly appreciated! :) Jane.

  13. Marty says:

    This is what happens when red cabbage is mixed in the kraut process… Regards…

    • Donna says:

      Hi Marty. The mixed red and white cabbage sauerkraut I made was a much more intense pink than in your photo. But the color would vary depending on how much of the red cabbage you mixed in. Thanks for showing us that photo though.

  14. Amber M says:

    I hope you do not mind, I linked to this entry in a cabbage entry of my own! Thanks!

  15. Karen says:

    I made my first attempt at making saurkraut in late Oct 2010. I followed the directions in my pickle book but am not totally satisfied with the result. The kraut is still crunchy, but too salty for my taste, and it doesn’t have the tart or sour taste I was hoping for. I took a couple of samples and added a small amount of rice vinegar to one and cider vinegar to the other. Still not what I was hoping for. I gave some to a friend and he said it was ok, but then he put some mustard on it and said it was delicious and he wants all I will give him. I just started a new batch today, 15 lbs of cabbage and aprox. 9 tbs. of pickling salt. It has made a good amount of brine and I have weighted it and covered it with a towel, which is the procedure I followed last time. I kept it in the crock from late Oct. to late Feb., seems like that should have been plenty of time for it to “sour up”. Any suggestions as to what I might have done wrong, or anything I can do this time around to get the tart, sour taste I want? By the way, my 3 Chihuahua’s love it, lol, they were fighting over pieces I dropped on floor while packing it into a couple of jars to give my friend. Anxiously awaiting your reply. P.S. I have recently purchased “Wild Fermentation“. Love it. I have been making my own pickles for about 45 yrs. and am quite well known around here for them.

    Sincerely,
    Karen

    • Donna says:

      Hi Karen. I don’t know what could have gone wrong, you definitely should have had nice tart sauerkraut in that time. It’s hilarious that you chihuahuas love it!!! Did you cook it at all? Can you send me the recipe in your pickle book, through the contact form on my site, and I’ll see if there’s anything that might explain your results?

      If your friend loves it with the mustard added, maybe the two of you have invented a new condiment! Yeah, isn’t Wild Fermentation the best? The amount of research and experimentation that Sandor Katz has put into that book is just amazing. It’s my favorite recipe book of all time.

  16. Karen says:

    Hi, Donna, Here is the recipe I followed for my first attempt at making saurkraut. It is from “The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes” by Leonard L Levinson. I love this book, it was my mothers and she used it for years and passed it on to me. I used 30 lbs. of shredded cabbage with 1/2 lb.of pickling salt ( about 1 cup). and a 5 gallon crock. I alternated the cabbage and salt, mixed it with my hands then tamped each layer as tightly as I could in between. I continued to tamp down the entire amount until I got fluid coming up, covered it with a heavy plate and sat a gallon jug filled with water on top as a weight, covered it with a towel and placed it in a corner in my kitchen. I checked it every few days and skimmed any scum off. As I said before, I started it in late Oct. and finally tasted it in late Feb. I started a new batch Feb 29th using the recipe in Wild Fermentation. I tasted a bit this morning and it seems to be getting tart already, YEAHHHHHHH!! Only thing I can figure is that I used too much salt the first time. Oh, by the way, my Chihuahua’s sit right at my feet everytime they seem me pull the crock out to check it now, toooo funny. I guess they are hoping for another taste, lol. Well, let me know what you think might have gone wrong with my first try. Thank you for your help. Karen

  17. Karen says:

    Oops, forgot one thing, you asked if I cooked it at all. No, I didn’t. I just put it in a couple big jars and put it in the fridge, then passed one on to my friend, he likes it with mustard. It is actually pretty good with a hotdog and mustard, gives it a little tart tast.
    Thanks, again
    Karen

  18. Ruth says:

    I mixed up my first batch yesterday. It had foamy bubbles on top of the jar when I packed in a quart and a pint. When I checked it today the pint was bubbling like it was boiling in the stove. I suppose that is a good sign that it is working. I put about a tablespoon of purified water in the jars. Will check tomorrow.

    • Donna says:

      Woohoo, that is one active batch you’ve got there Ruth! Be sure to check more frequently too catch it when the fermentation is just right for you, and it’s a good idea unless you’re using an airlock that you open the container a few times a day to let out any trapped gas. If the pressure builds up too much it can shatter the glass jar. For the bubbles, I usually use a wooden spoon to press the cabbage down and force the bubbles out. The bubbles will tend to push up the cabbage, and that can cause the brine to overflow. The other thing is that if you have too much liquid, you can remove some brine, but save it in the fridge because invariably you’ll need to add it back in later as the cabbage ferments a bit more and absorb some of the brine back in.

  19. Kira says:

    Hi Donna, I love the recipe you’ve provided here because it’s for a smaller quantity, and in a jar rather than a pot. We live in a very small apartment, so space is an issue! :) I look forward to trying this out.

    I also wanted to make a comment about probiotics being killed off during the cooking process. I read recently that foods with natural probiotics, like sauerkraut, are still really beneficial when cooked (still more beneficial than eating plain cabbage for example). I’m afraid I can’t find the article I read… But it does make sense, since many fermented foods are often cooked/heated in traditonal dishes. Just a thought :)

  20. Amy says:

    Does freezing the sauerkraut kill the beneficial probiotics?

  21. maggie says:

    i tried making saurkraut in a crock a couple of years ago. not sure what i did wrong, but..yuck! i was wondering if it was too hot ( air temp ). so i guess that’s my question: when making fermented veggies of any sort or even kombucha, should i make sure my house’s temp is cool and below what temp? thanks for all your in depth info.

    • lori says:

      What made it yuck? I am just wondering, because when you make sauerkraut, it will have mold on top. You have to skim it weekly, and make sure you have enough salt and water in it. The hotter it is the quicker it will ferment. The Bloom on top is normal, and if you skim it off, then taste the cabbage in the water you will find that the Kraut is fine. It takes a couple of weeks.

  22. Liz says:

    Oh my gosh! I am heading into my kitchen right now to start making this. I have recently fallen in love with sauerkraut and am so happy to see that it can be made this easily– and with red cabbage to boot! thanks for providing such detailed instructions :)

  23. Suzie Q says:

    Ok so, I just finished making my first batch of sour kraut. The detailed, easy to follow & freakin simple instructions convinced me to give it a try. After making it and sample tasting, I’m very anxious to eat the finished product! Yummmmy! Squeezing & massaging the salty cabbage is a great stress reliever also!

    • Donna says:

      Hi Suzie. You can either do it manually with a wooden spoon once or twice a day. You’ll want to crack the lid to let out the gas that is a part of the fermentation process so it doesn’t build up pressure and crack your container. At the same time you can press down on the cabbage to push out some of the gas which will be floating the cabbage up to the top. Or you can take a plastic ziplock bag and fill it with rocks or water to make a weight that you can put right on top of the large cabbage leaf you fold over to rest on top of the shredded/chopped cabbage. That will help, but for the first couple days when the fermentation is creating a lot of gas I would also use the wooden spoon to push the gas out and push the cabbage down under the brine, in addition to the weight.

  24. PR says:

    If i place the saurkraut in a glass jar do I need to press it down with weights to keep the cabbage under the water? If yes, how can that be accomplished?

  25. AM says:

    I started my kraut yesterday, and it has foam on top, today. What does this mean?

    • Donna says:

      Hi AM, the foam just means that the microbes are going to town and fermenting already. That’s good. But be sure you crack the lid a few times a day to release any gas created so it can’t build up and shatter your container. You’ll also have to use something like a wooden spoon to push down the cabbage because those bubbles will tend to float the veggies up to the top. Press down on the cabbage with the spoon and push some of the gas out. The fermentation process will probably slow down after a couple of days.

  26. Dawn says:

    Hello, and thank you for the instructions. My friend says we must sterilize our jar before using, but I say wash it well, that botulism cannot survive in this alkaline tate. Please tell us your thoughts on the sterilization (it costs so much in propane usage to boil enough water for sterilize the large jars!!!)

  27. Joe says:

    Great recipe! I find that the massaging can be replaced if I just leave it overnight and then a bit of massage. You’re right about the smaller pieces fermenting faster. I am trying a couple of whole heads, to use the leaves for cabbage rolls, but that can take a month or two.
    I have a question about the jars. Can they be put in the dishwasher, even with the metal clamp thingy? The rubber seal can be taken and washed separately, but I am wondering if the metal and glass combo in the dishwasher could cause a problem.

    • Donna says:

      Hi Joe,
      You can remove the metal clamp things. But they are hard to get back together again. So I suggest you make sure you have at least one intact to use as a model for when you reassemble them. I don’t think the metal and glass will cause a problem in the dishwasher. I would remove the rubber seal/gasket, just because you’ll then be able to wash underneath it. They are easy to fit back on.

  28. Joe says:

    Thanks Donna! You are right: I couldn’t get it back together until I looked at a second one.
    another question. How long can I use the liquid? Can I indefinitely remove done cabbage and put new cabbage in? Or does it wear out after a while?

  29. Anneke says:

    Hi! I made 3 jars using this method last night, it’s my first attempt and I really want it to work.
    I have a question though, with the cabbage leaf that you fold up and use to keep the other cabbage submerged, does that also need to be under the brine or is its meant to just float on the top? Will it make much of a difference if it is / isn’t under the brine?
    Thanks

    • Donna says:

      Hi Anneke. Usually the folded cabbage leaf on top has part above the brine and part below. But I have just discovered a different technique that I used when I recently made Pickled Brussel’s Sprouts and it worked really well. I folded a cabbage leaf for the top, like with sauerkraut, but then I used a little cup to act like a press or spacer between the cabbage leaf and the lid. My cup was stainless steel, I think it may be a shot glass or something. You could also use a glass shot glass or a ceramic (food grade ceramic) cup. As long as it fits inside the mouth of the jar and your sauerkraut is filling up the jar to a point where the small glass can fit but apply some pressure when the lid is screwed on.

  30. Tom Halsted says:

    Made my first batch of sauerkraut on Tuesday and evidently profoundly over-filled my 1.5 litre Fido jar. The ‘kraut expanded a LOT and if I hadn’t repeatedly released pressure I’d have had a real mess. Even with the releases, liquid escaped the clamped lid on one occasion or escaped when opening the lid on several other occasions. The video shows the jar being filled to the brim – that really, REALLY didn’t work for me. Question: is there anything wrong with filling the jar only 2/3 or 3/4 full next time I try? I feel as though I’m missing something here but am too dull-witted to figure it out. Help!

    • Donna says:

      Hi Tom. Yes that’s happened to me, the sauerkraut can expand a lot in the beginning, especially if your conditions are ideal. Be sure to press the kraut down with a wooden spoon when you open it to release the pressure. The gas bubbles that are a by-product of the fermentation process get under the cabbage pieces and float them to the top, and that presses the liquid out. You’ll create more room at the top if you press the cabbage down, you’ll see the gas bubbles being squeezed out as you do.

      There is another technique that I have just learned to help prevent that. The reason you fill the jar to the top is to keep the cabbage pressed beneath the liquid, the pressure of the lid does that. You can also leave more room at the top of the jar if you have a ‘spacer’, something like a small ceramic, glass or stainless steel bowl or cup. A shot glass would work. So you have the lid pressing down on the spacer, the bottom of the spacer presses down on the folded cabbage leaf at the top and that presses all the rest of the cabbage down and below the liquid. It’s still a good idea to check it and use a wooden spoon to press the gas bubbles out for the first few days.

  31. Eric says:

    @Dawn:
    Botulism requires anaerobic conditions to grow. Anaerobic means lack of oxygen. Since sauerkraut is made in an open air environment (whether you open your jar daily or never fully close it in the first place), botulism isn’t a concern.

    You are also correct that the pH of the solution will prevent growth (though it is actually acidity that prevents botulism, not alkalinity), but the presence of oxygen is just as important.

    For reference: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Clostridium_botulinum/index.asp
    http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09305.html

  32. Feifs says:

    Is there a difference in the amount of sugar between green and red cabbage and if so what does this say about the fermentation time and other factors?

    • Helmuts says:

      I have some red cabbage working right now, three weeks plus. In “testing” it I find it a little sweeter and crisper than the green at the same point in time. The red brine takes some getting used to but it is very tasty. Taste is also somewhat more layered.

  33. Lauren says:

    I saw another recipe that adds;
    radishes
    ginger
    onion
    shallots
    carrots
    & red onions

    but they use a crock pot… do you think i could follow the recipe with your directions (so without using a crock pot) ? Thanks!! : )

    • Donna says:

      Hi Lauren, yes I think you can do it without a crockpot, as long as they don’t use the crockpot to heat the ingredients it will be the same. To make proper sauerkraut with the good bacteria and enzymes still alive they shouldn’t be heating it. But a crockpot would be a handy container to make it in. Looking at their added ingredients, it almost looks like Kimchi, but missing the chilies. :) Let me know how it turns out.

  34. sharon says:

    Hi, I just made some sauerkraut (before I saw this post) and I couldn’t seem to figure out the math with the salt. I had one pretty large head of cabbage, but I wasn’t sure how many pounds it was. I was using the method where you layer and then add a little salt with each layer. I used a 1.5 liter jar, but with that method wound up using a little more than 2 tablespoons of salt. do you think I used too much salt? Will it not ferment if I did?

    • Donna says:

      Hi Sharon, no that doesn’t sound like too much, it sounds like about what I use. I guess there is a point at which you could add so much salt it might prevent fermentation, but the range in which it will be fine is pretty broad. The more salt you use, the slower it will be to ferment, but the less likely that it will go bad before it starts fermenting. Let us know how it turns out! :)

      • sharon says:

        thanks-but now i have a new problem/question-i checked on the sauerkraut after a few days and there were little pockets of air that formed towards the bottom of the kraut, with no liquid. i thought that the liquid had lowered all the way to bottom because i could see a clear liquid line towards the bottom and then lots of pockets without liquid from about the lower middle on up. so i opened it with the intent of adding more brine and it didn’t need any more. it started to overflow, and i pushed the kraut down so that the pockets of air would fill, but it didn’t work. i kind of freaked out that i was messing with it too much and closed it up. is that a problem that those pockets without liquid exist? they weren’t there when i packed it all in there to begin with. thanks for your help.

        • Donna says:

          Don’t worry Sharon, you’re not messing with it too much. You do need to push it down to force those air pockets. They are actually pockets of gas produced by the fermenting organisms, and you need to open the kraut jar and let that gas escape at least once a day (unless you’re using an airlock system). Use a wooden spoon, and press hard (but slowly) to get those pockets out. Sometimes it takes a while at first to get rid of all of them, and you just have to work your way around the jar. I find it easiest to start at the sides, work my way all around and then work my way in.

  35. Daniel Whetzel says:

    My kraut jars keep leaking/oozing. What should I do? This is my first try at it, getting a little discouraged!

    • Donna says:

      Daniel, don’t be discouraged, this has happened to me many times. You need to be sure to press down the kraut every day with a wooden spoon to push the air bubbles out. Otherwise they will make the kraut and brine rise up and push out of the container. Because of the gasses that are created in the first part of the fermentation it’s also necessary to open the lid to let them out at least once a day. Otherwise, you can get airlocks built into the lids which help.

      I’ve updated the article now with that information. Thanks for the great question.

  36. Jeannie says:

    I getting ready to m ake my first saurkrout! What do I do to stop the fermenting when it is the way we like it? Am I supposed to seal it in a hotwater bath? Won’t it keep “working off” if I don’t hot-seal it somehow?

    • Donna says:

      Hi Jeannie. To slow down fermentation refrigerate it. Do NOT hot seal it, you will kill all the good bacteria and or run the risk of exploding the jar. Please read the article I explain it all there.

      • Jeannie says:

        Where is the article? We have a lot of cabbage to work up. Will it actually keep if I put it on a shelf. I hate to be a pain but my husband is insisting I don’t seal them and that they will keep a year. If I close the lids tightly, won’t they explode from the ferminting?

        • Donna says:

          The article is above this comment, at the top of the page.

          • Jeannie says:

            Thank you Donna. I just read it again. I know this is a pain but I plan on doing at least 20 quarts. I don’t have refrigerator toom for all. I won’t bother you again. We just have a big family and I try to do all I can to help them with food we grow.

            • Donna says:

              That’s good that you are trying to be self-sufficient and do things like this Jeannie. Before refrigerators this is one way that people preserved their harvest to use throughout the year. If you have a cool cellar or basement you can keep it in, or some other way to keep it cool… the cooler, the slower it ferments. If you leave it out and just let it keep fermenting I’m not sure what happens. But I know people used to make this stuff before we had fridges.

  37. anita says:

    i have been using a fido jar to make mine in and we love it….i was wondering if can also use the wire clamp type of small crock that stores butter or cheese? thanks ~a

    • Donna says:

      Hi Anita, I’ve never heard of a fido jar, I’m just doing a search for them now. I use both a canning jar with an airlock and the wire clamp jars. If you’re using the wire clamp jars just remember to unclamp a couple times a day when they are actively fermenting to let the built up gas escape and push the kraut down into the jar to release gas bubbles so it won’t overflow.

  38. Donna says:

    When making sauerkraut in mason jar do they not seal? Do I have to hot water bath them later? I made some and when I went to open one to eat they were not sealed. I was looking to find out if they were OK to eat and seen your page, talking about opening them daily. How long will they keep unsealed?

    • Donna says:

      Hi Donna, no the jars don’t seal. It’s okay to sterilize the jars before putting in the sauerkraut, but if you put them in a hot water bath afterwards you are going to kill some of the good bacteria. That’s why pasteurized sauerkraut that you can buy commercially is useless, all the beneficial micro-organisms have been destroyed by the heat. I keep my jars in the fridge, with lids on but not sealed. I’m not sure how long will last, I always finish it before it goes off though.

      You only have to open the jars daily when they are out at room temperature and still fermenting. The fermentation process causes gas as a by-product and the jars can crack or overflow if you don’t release the gases and push the kraut down with a wooden spoon to release the gas trapped between the shredded cabbage.

  39. Michele says:

    I have two questions. Can you add a little water if you do not have enough brine to cover? Also, i don’t have a cabbage leaf (just had shredded cabbage). Is there anything else I can add in to weigh it down? Thanks!

  40. Kerry says:

    I have a large quantity of cabbage that I would like to turn into sauerkraut – I did this several years ago with a large crock – but no longer have one – so I am thrilled to see this recipe and look forward to trying it. My question is – how to preserve a large quantity of it over the course of a year – we always sealed our jars – but it sounds like that was the wrong thing to do – and I do not think i would have the room in my fridge to keep it all…in Montana it is pretty cold for the next several months so there may be an easy fix ….

  41. Victoria says:

    This is a wonderful recipe! I am just finishing my last large jar of it, and starting another. I used red cabbage and added somw caraway seeds. It just got better and better the longer it stood in the fridge. Thanks so much!

  42. Heather says:

    The first time I made sauerkraut was awesome. But I have failed the the last 5 batches I have tried. I tried in gallon containers, then again in quart containers, then I bought a fermenting crock, and last night dumped out four gallons of slimy smelly cabbage. I just have no idea what I am doing wrong. I have had it turn pink, brown and white, limp, slimy and funky!

    So, I will try to keep a lid on it and will check it after 4 days and hope that works. Thanks for the information.

    • Tom says:

      Not enough salt? There are some published ratios of cabbage to salt that should work well. You may need to weigh your cabbage to get the proportions right.

      Also, are you making sure that *all* the cabbage stays under the brine?

    • Donna says:

      Hey Heather something just occurred to me, are you using organic cabbage? Perhaps your ‘failures’ are because the cabbage has been sprayed with things that are killing off the good bacteria. I wonder how irradiation affects the fermentation process too.

  43. danielle says:

    Thankyou so v much for sharing such beneficial and cheap information. There is an abundance of poisonous food today , this article is a real treasure to reballance what we loose becoming addicted to the other bad foods. Your patience and precious time is really appreciated. :) :)

    • Donna says:

      Thank you Danielle! So many foods are simply poison. So many people may scoff at that and respond with something like “well I eat it and I’m still alive”, but not all poison kills quickly. It’s shocking what the FDA passes as safe for human consumption.

  44. Susan says:

    Hi. I’ve just bought an 8 to 10 litre traditional fermenting pot for sauerkraut. I’m guessing that you have to fill up the pot so that the weighting system works: so that does mean that, according to your recipe which uses 8 litres of cabbage for a 1 litre jar, I’ll have to use 64 to 80 cups of chopped cabbage in it?! Would really appreciate your advice on this.

    • Donna says:

      That’s awesome you managed to find a traditional fermenting crock Susan! I would guess you probably do have to fill it, but I’ve never used a fermenting crock. I’d have to see it in person to try to figure out if there was a way to not fill it to the top. Did it come with instructions?

      • Susan says:

        I found it on Trade Me & have yet to pick it up. After panicking a little at the idea of dealing with 64 cups of cabbage, I had a look at a blog at http://theshiksa.com/2013/06/04/how-to-ferment-cabbage-and-make-sauerkraut/ in which a very relaxed-looking couple (possibly no children?!) make sauerkraut in an 8 litre pot without ending up in an asylum at the end of the process. Their recipe calls for three cabbages, which sounds manageable. I’m hoping to pick up some tips from the seller (who has another for sale) when I pick it up. Even if the making process doesn’t require a whole village, we’re not going to have room in our fridge to store that much sauerkraut (DH already growls at my box of ghee) so I may well end up selling it again. :/

  45. jenny says:

    Hi. Ive used whey in my sauerkraut to ‘start’ it and after 4 days ferment with no lid off at all…. its come out with bits of white-ish slimey layers in places. Beautiful colour……smell not strong and only a bit iffy…… tasted ok but not tangy and salty….. is it ok to eat with small patches of this white slimey stuff. Thanks.

    • Donna says:

      Hi Jenny, I’m not really sure. When it’s fermented, generally it doesn’t taste too salty, but it is tangy. You might want to try another batch and see how it does and compare the two. Or even better, if you can find someone locally who has made sauerkraut take a look at it and tell you what they think.

  46. Corrie says:

    I’m so excited to try this! I have a big head of red cabbage just waiting…..but I have one question before I get started. I live in a very warm climate. It’s about 78-80 in my house most of the time. Do you think that will inhibit the fermentation process? Thanks!!

    • Donna says:

      I think it will accelerate the fermentation. So I’d suggest putting it in the coolest spot you can, and then just check it daily starting sooner… or possibly a couple times a day if it’s fermenting really quickly. Be sure to crack the lid a couple times a day to release the pressure that builds up when it’s really actively fermenting. Use a wooden spoon to push the cabbage down and release the gas bubbles. I’d advise putting it in a bowl or baking dish or something just in case the brine overflows when it’s forming a lot of gas bubbles. When it gets to a nice tartness that you like you can put it in the fridge and it will continue to ferment, but much more slowly. The flavors just get deeper and nicer during that time.

  47. Corrie says:

    Thank you! Glad to hear it will accelerate the process… I was worried it would mold. Really appreciate your response!

  48. Moira says:

    Just as a matter of interest, I saw in another recipe that said the cabbage should not be washed as the bacteria will helpl with the fermentation. What is your opinion?
    Thank you for your video I am inspired to make some now

    • Donna says:

      Yeah I agree Moira. Especially if it’s organically grown. If grown with pesticides, I’d only was it to try to wash off some of the poison, I wouldn’t be doing it to wash off the natural friendly bacteria.

  49. H. Feifs says:

    Just harvest a batch with kohlrabi (green) and it turned out to be excellent. Hard to parse the kohlrabi from the cabbage but the tats is not effected , seems a little sweeter.

  50. Joseph says:

    Hey, great read and video. I truly enjoyed it, and also you have a great presence/energy.
    Thanks
    Joseph

  51. Eric says:

    Hello and thanks for the recipe and tutorial. My grandfather used to make vats of sauerkraut. Always had 2 barrels going. Being Polish our family eat lots of it so 2 barrels was a minimum requirement. The sauerkraut making skipped a generation as my fatherfather never took it up. I’ve decided to start making it because my Vietnamese wife loves it but its a bit of a drive to get authentic Polish kraut that hasn’t been pasteurized. We love making a Polish dish called hunter’s stew that uses sauerkraut. This next batch of stew will be amazing now that the kraut is homemade. Thanks again.

    • Donna says:

      Thank you Eric, that’s so wonderful to hear that you are taking up the tradition again! Sauerkraut in stew sounds delicious. I love this time of year, cabbage growing weather. I just got 3 heads of cabbage yesterday with the intention of making sauerkraut from it. :)

  52. Neitz says:

    Hello!
    Thankyou for a easy detailed recipe to follow, it was my reason for choosing yours as it’s my 1st time making sauerkraut, fingers crossed!
    On my 2nd day, opened lids(2jars) to let out gases and gently push kraut down to let any air bubbles escape.
    Q: How long do you leave the lid off? Also the brine is still with very slight foamie bubbles in it around the edge of the jar but not bubbling away, am I on the right fermentation path? :) Thank you neitz

  53. Abbi says:

    Wow, this is the best recipe I’ve seen since deciding to make some. My husband is recovering from an op that went bad so lots of antibiotics and I want to dose him up with helpful probiotics.

    Two things have been holding me back: I’ve only tasted sauerkraut once – a cheap jar from the supermarket and it was utterly vile and secondly I just don’t know what to do with it once made. How do people use sauerkraut?

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