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!

After seeing how simple and delicious homemade sauerkraut is, you’ll never buy supermarket kraut again!


Slow Sauerkraut
Author: 
Recipe type: Fermented vegetable
Prep time: 
Fermentation time: 
Yield: About 4 quarts
 
Ingredients
  • 5-6 lbs. red or green cabbage (2 medium to large heads)
  • 3 Tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • ½ teaspoon juniper berries
  • (Optional) 1 medium fennel bulb or 1 medium tart apple (like Granny Smith)
  • (Optional) 4-inch piece of 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.
  2. As you shred, add to a large mixing bowl, and add ¼ of the salt (about 2 teaspoons). Let sit while shredding the next half. 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. Discard or compost the 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.
  7. Add veg to a gallon-sized or larger glass jar or ceramic crock (food-grade plastic containers are also acceptable.) Make sure to get every last drop of brine that has formed in bowl!
  8. Pack down contents so that surface is even and flat.
Ferment
  1. Place a plastic lid (or ceramic plate) that fits inside container. Add a weight such as a glass bottle filled with water.
  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 may form on the surface. 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.
  3. Will last in refrigerator several months.

Sauerkraut, like all fermented vegetables, should be enjoyed like a condiment. Eat a little before each meal, and eat it often!

21 thoughts on “Sauerkraut

  1. Lee North

    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 author

      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 author

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

      Thanks!
      Austin

  2. Lonj

    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.

  3. Alex

    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

      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.

    • Austin Post author

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

      • mary

        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?

  4. Austin Post author

    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!

  5. mary

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

  6. Susan

    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 author

      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!