Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish. In its simplest form, it is just cabbage and salt. But you can add other vegetables (or fruits) as well as your own seasonings. A traditional German preparation uses caraway seeds and juniper berries as spices.
The dish is traditionally prepared in the autumn and then fermented at “earth temperature” (55°F/13°C) all winter long! If you make enough, you can draw from the mother batch while the rest ferments. If you don’t have a root cellar, or you just don’t want to wait that long, it will ferment in as little as 1 week.
I like adding fresh ginger root, and either fennel bulb or a tart apple, which give the finished dish some sweetness. Go ahead– play with your fermented food!
- 2.25 kg (5 to 6 lbs.) red or green cabbage about 2 medium-sized heads
- 200 g (½ lb.) tart apple OR fennel bulbs about 2-3 apples
- 30 g (1 oz. or 3 inches) fresh ginger root
- 45 ml (3 Tbsp.) fine sea salt
- 5 ml (1 tsp.) dried caraway seeds
- 5 ml (1 tsp.) dried juniper berries
- Clean vegetables to wash dirt off. Remove any dark green tough outer leaves from cabbage and compost or use for another purpose.
- Slice a cabbage head in half lengthwise, so that the core keeps each half together. Shred each half into ¼” ribbons using v-slicer, mandoline, or chef’s knife.
- If adding fennel bulb, slice the lower (white) part thinly (using a chef's knife or on mandoline) and add to bowl. Pluck the fronds and add them, too. Discard the fibrous green stems and tough root (below the bulb).
- Slice apples thinly (⅛" thick) using a chef's knife or mandoline and add to bowl.
- Mince ginger root. Peeling ginger is optional (when using organic ginger, we like to leave it on, as it adds good bacteria).
- Sprinkle salt evenly over and throughout bowl.
- Add spices to bowl. Mix thoroughly with tongs or clean hands.
- Squeeze the mixture with clean hands or a kraut pounder to break cell walls and encourage water to come out of vegetables.
- Add mixture to glass jar(s) or other fermentation vessel(s). Make sure to add every last drop of brine that formed in bowl into the container(s).
- Pack down contents so that the top surface is even and flat.
- Place a lid or plate that fits into the container on top of the surface. Add a weight like a sterilized rock, a jar or glass bottle filled with water. OR, if using a small batch fermentation kit, add the weight(s) to the jar.
- There should be enough brine to just cover the contents when weighed down. It is normal for more brine to form in the first day or so after putting up.
- Cover container with a dish towel or tea towel to keep out flies and dust. Secure with a rubber band, twist ties or elastic strap. Or if using an airlock lid, add it to the top of the container.
- Label your container with the contents and date started. (I use blue painter’s tape and a permanent marker, and I always stick the label on the side of the container, rather than the lid. (Those lids have a notorious habit of switching jars when you’re not looking, usually in the middle of the night.)
- Stash it in a cool place, out of direct sunlight.
- Sauerkraut can ferment in as little as 5 days. Typically, I ferment sauerkraut two weeks in warm weather, or four weeks in cooler weather. Fermentation speed varies with the seasons and the climate.
- Yeast and/or mold may form on the surface during fermentation. This is normal, especially when the top surface is exposed to air. Remove any weight and lids. and rinse them with water. Wipe, scrape, or scoop off surface yeasts or mold from the top and sides of the jar with a spoon, or clean paper towel, getting as much as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t get it all. Then stir the contents and re-pack the surface. Any residual mold will quickly be killed in the acidic environment of the brine. The contents are safe under the brine. If you want to ferment longer, replace the weight and lid, and check again in a few days.
- When taste and texture are to your liking, transfer to jars (cleaning surface again if necessary), secure jars with the standard lids (not the airlock lids if you used them), and move to the refrigerator. Sauerkraut will last in the refrigerator for several months.
Sauerkraut, like all fermented vegetables, should be enjoyed like a condiment. Eat a little before each meal, and eat it often!
24 thoughts on “Sauerkraut”
I am a new member to the fermentation Club and I would like to know when to use the pump I received in my kit.
If you’re talking about the Nourished Essentials fermentation kit, we don’t actually sell those. But I have used them before, and according to the instructions, it’s best to wait a few days before using the pump. When I have used it, I didn’t ever use the pump, and my ferment still turned out great.
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I just got a crock and not real sure how to start making kraut in it. .Its about 18 to 24 inches tall. Any special things I need and How do i gauge how much cabbage to put in it . Then can I Canned then for the shelf?. Thanks for any help you can give me . Maybe I can add my picture of the process to your site for others to use. Well thanks again.
That sounds like it may be at least 3 gallon sized crock. You can fit quite a lot of cabbage in it (at least 12-15 lbs.) Note that as you make it it will wilt and sink down, so even if the fresh cabbage fills to the top, it will sink down.
I would recommend the largest plate that fits inside the crock, a weight to add on top of the plate(like a glass bottle filled with water), and a cloth to cover the contents after you have added them.
Sure, send some pics along (or post in the forums) and I’ll take a look.
Well, here it is 3weeks later and I have a mess! Smelly, pink stuff, black bits among the cabbage. What went wrong?
I would be cautious with alliums (onions, garlic, leeks) because they can become slimy, and they because they pack a punch! Try using less than you think you would need.
I’ve had great luck using celery and fennel bulbs on separate batches. Yes, the ratio is the same when using any watery vegetable.
Let us know how it turns out!
Does Napa cabbage work as well? I have a ton from my garden.
Yes, almost any kind of cabbage take well to the kraut method! Fresh from the garden is always the best!
Good, because, I already put up a batch, Ca othr veggies be added like green onions or garlic, or maybe carrots? Would keep the same ratio of 5pounds to 3 tablespoons of salt?
i just made a five pound batch and it does not seem salty enough
thanks very much
How long has it been going?
Is there a way to preserve the finished sauerkraut without putting it in the fridge? Obviously canning it would kill the beneficial organisms, but after making a bunch the fridge gets pretty full. Thoughts?
This may sound like a silly suggestion, but it has worked well in my life. Ferments are like pennies, if you give them away – you end up having more! I try to share a bit of each batch with someone who I know will appreciate it. It often leads to them trying out their very own first batch of something, and sharing it with me.
On occasions, I separate my kraut into 2-3 pint jars instead of a larger vessel. This way, I am only opening one at a time and the other two stay fresh for longer. My kraut will sit in the fridge happily for a month after it has been fermented.
Great suggestion. I guess probiotics aren’t the only communities we are creating with fermentation.
I saw the article in Sunset and I’m ready to make kraut. We did make some about 3 years ago but we processed it and it is good. However, all the live stuff is dead so I will do it differently this time.
Thanks for the article and the inspiration.
You’re welcome Lonj! Happy fermenting!
Saw you in Sunset! Loved the articles. I’m going to try this. Thanks for the site – it’s awsome!
Thanks Lynne! Welcome to the wide world of fermenting!
I am not a fan of juniper berries. Is is vital to the recipe or for flavor? Can I leave them out? Thanks!
Nope, juniper berries are not crucial, they’re just a spice. Feel free to leave them out.
I read with interest Austin Durant’s method for sauerkraut which I am starting after Christmas. Being that we love sauerkraut we would love to share a multi generational German recipe for sauerkraut soup that has been passed down from my wife’s family in S.D. A fax # would be good.
Ooh! We’d love an old recipe! I’ll get back to you with a fax #, or if you can scan and email it, even better! austin [at] fermentersclub dot com.