Sauerkraut

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.

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.

We like adding fresh fennel bulb and ginger or a tart apple, which give the finished dish some sweetness. Go ahead– play with your fermented food!

 

Slow Sauerkraut
 
Prep time
Fermentation time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Fermented vegetable
Yield: About 4 quarts
Ingredients
  • 5-6 lbs./2.5 kg red or green cabbage (about 2 medium heads)
  • 3 Tablespoons/45 mL sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon/5 mL dried caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon/3 mL dried juniper berries
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs OR 2 medium green apples
  • 2" to 3" (5 to 8cm) or (20-30g by weight) fresh ginger
Instructions
Prep & Season Veg
  1. Slice cabbage in half lengthwise, so that stem keeps each half together. Shred each half into ¼” ribbons using v-slicer, mandoline, or chef’s knife into large mixing bowl.
  2. After shredding half of the cabbage, add half of the salt (about 1.5 tablespoons). It will start to work while you are shredding the remainder. Brine will form as salt draws water from cabbage. Repeat until all cabbage has been shredded.
  3. 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.
  4. If adding apple, remove core, then slice thinly (using a chef's knife or on mandoline) and add to bowl.
  5. If adding ginger, first peel skin using a spoon, then slice/julienne (to create matchstick-sized pieces) and add to bowl.
  6. Add spices to cabbage. Mix thoroughly with tongs or clean hands, squeezing or pounding cabbage to release more water and create brine.
  7. Add mixture to glass jar(s) or ceramic crock, or about 2 quart-sized wide mouth mason or other canning jars. Make sure to get every last drop of brine that formed in bowl into the container(s).
  8. Pack down contents so that surface is even and flat.
Ferment
  1. 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.
  2. There should be enough brine to completely cover the contents when weighed down.
  3. 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. Stash it in a cool, dark place– a cellar, under the stairs, or under the sink in the kitchen.
Cleaning
  1. Check on it every few days. Mold and/or yeasts may form on the surface. THIS IS NORMAL. Remove weight and lid, and wash them with warm soapy water. Scoop out any surface mold, 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.
  2. Cabbage will start to ferment within a few days. It’s up to you how long you want to keep it fermenting. Fermentation time varies with the seasons and the climate. Four to 8 weeks in the winter and 2 to 4 weeks in warmer months are typical fermentation times.

 

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

  1. Lee North Reply

    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.

    • Austin Post authorReply

      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.

      Thank you!

    • Austin Post authorReply

      Hi Hilary,
      Nope, juniper berries are not crucial, they’re just a spice. Feel free to leave them out.

      Thanks!
      Austin

  2. Lynne Smith Reply

    Saw you in Sunset! Loved the articles. I’m going to try this. Thanks for the site – it’s awsome!

  3. Lonj Reply

    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.

  4. Alex Reply

    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?

    • Jennifer Reply

      Hey Alex!
      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.

      • Alex Reply

        Great suggestion. I guess probiotics aren’t the only communities we are creating with fermentation.

  5. don tippit Reply

    Austin
    i just made a five pound batch and it does not seem salty enough
    please advise
    thanks very much
    don

    • Austin Post authorReply

      Hi Mary,
      Yes, almost any kind of cabbage take well to the kraut method! Fresh from the garden is always the best!

      • mary Reply

        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?

  6. Austin Post authorReply

    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!

  7. mary Reply

    Well, here it is 3weeks later and I have a mess! Smelly, pink stuff, black bits among the cabbage. What went wrong?

  8. Susan Reply

    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.

    • Austin Post authorReply

      Hi Susan,
      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.

      Good luck!

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  11. Bruno Reply

    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.

    • Austin Post authorReply

      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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