Sauerkraut is probably the most well-known lacto-fermented vegetable. Like any traditionally homemade food, sauerkraut is made in a variety of ways, and each method can be quite different. However, there are a few basics to remember:
Tips for Making Good Sauerkraut:
- Use fresh cabbage. The better your ingredients, the better the finished product will be.
- Use at least some salt. Salt is a traditional ingredient in sauerkraut because it increases shelf life, texture, and flavor. The amount of salt used can vary according to personal taste preference.
- Create an anaerobic environment, an absolute essential in the sauerkraut-making process. The cabbage must be completely submerged underneath a brine in order for the lactic acid bacteria to proliferate.
- Give it time. You can ferment sauerkraut for only a few days before moving to cold storage, but giving sauerkraut a lower temperature and longer fermentation time can develop the flavor and texture a little better.
Methods for Making Sauerkraut:
1. Pounding and Kneading
Thinly slice cabbage, salt it, then pound it with a tool such as the Cabbage Crusher for about 10 minutes, or until enough juice is released to form a brine and completely cover the cabbage. Move the cabbage and juice to fermentation containers, weight the cabbage down to keep it below the brine. Cover with tight-fitting lids, airlock lids, or a tight-weave cloth, secured with a rubber band.
2. Weighting and Pressing
Place shredded cabbage and salt in a large fermentation crock or bowl. Instead of pounding, weigh the cabbage down with heavy bowls or stones. Press on the weights regularly to draw the natural juices out of the cabbage and submerge the cabbage slowly in the brine. After a couple of days, with continued pressing, the cabbage will have accumulated a fair amount of liquid at the top, enough to cover the cabbage completely.
3. Whole Cabbage Heads with Brine
A brine is generally used for whole cabbage, as whole cabbage heads cannot form their own brine fast enough to protect them from mold and unwanted yeasts. While this method is the least labor-intensive, it takes the longest. Four weeks or more are necessary before moving to cold storage because of the size of the cabbage heads.
With each method, there are many variations on the basic recipe, adding other vegetables, herbs, and spices. Try our homemade sauerkraut recipe below or one of our many sauerkraut recipes.
Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe
- 1 medium head of cabbage
- 1-3 tablespoons sea salt
- Chop or shred cabbage. Sprinkle with salt.
- Knead the cabbage with clean hands, or pound with a potato masher or Cabbage Crusher about 10 minutes, until there is enough liquid to cover.
- Stuff the cabbage into a quart jar, pressing the cabbage underneath the liquid. If necessary, add a bit of water to completely cover cabbage.
- Cover the jar with a tight lid, airlock lid, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
- Culture at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) for at least 2 weeks and until desired flavor and texture are achieved. If using a tight lid, burp daily to release excess pressure.
- Once the sauerkraut is finished, put a tight lid on the jar and move to cold storage. The sauerkraut's flavor will continue to develop as it ages.
Makes approximately 1 quart.
Prior to culturing, mix 1 part shredded carrots, apple, or other vegetable to 5 parts cabbage, for a more complex flavor. Add caraway seeds, if desired. Or try one of these saurkraut recipes:
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Why I Love This Recipe
This is my best go-to recipe for making sauerkraut, as nothing could be simpler! Of the choices listed for culturing the cabbage, I always choose sea salt. I usually use the maximum amount of sea salt, getting fantastic results with 7 days of fermenting in my Fermented Vegetable Master or using the Perfect Pickler on top of a mason jar. I store the finished sauerkraut in the fridge, letting it continue to age for 6 months or more. It’s fabulous on top of hot brats or warmed up liverwurst…the perfect meat and veggie combination!
Jerri, Customer Support Representative