Basic Fermentation: Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is really easy to make and very healthy for your gut. Darcy over at Stumbling Homestead blog posted this article, “Easy Sauerkraut, last year and I planted cabbage this year especially to try it. I setup my first batch last night and it came together really fast. I’ll be excited to see the results.

  • First I sterilized some quart mason jars
  • Next I shredded some cabbage with a mandolin slicer and the dicing insert. A plain old knife would work fine too, just take a bit longer
  • Stuff the cabbage into the jars and pack it down hard. Fill it up to just below the threads
  • Add a tablespoon to 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Make sure to use pickling salt or natural, unmodified, sea salt. In short, you do not want iodized salt.
  • Heat up some water to not quite boiling (Darcy suggests using filtered water, however I decided to use heated water as a friend suggested to me)
  • Ladle the water until it covers the cabbage
  • Put the lid on VERY loose so that air can vent
  • Now is where it gets interesting… my friend claims 6 weeks of fermentation for good Sauerkraut, however Darcy claims it is ready within a few weeks. The bottom line is you should go down and sample some from time to time and get a feel for what you think will taste best.
  • Ok, so it is the way you like it… great! At this point you can tighten the lids down and now you can choose one of two options to preserver it and stop the fermentation:
    1. Process the jars in a hot water bath (boiling water) for 30 minutes. It should keep for 9 months or more.
    2. Place in refridgerator and consume it as with any other pershiable.

Personally I will be canning some and eating some. It would be interesting to learn if the canning process negativately impacts the beneficial bacteria within the Sauerkraut.

Also Darcy points out in his article that he didn’t even like Kraut and is now addicted, so even if you don’t like store bought you might just want to give this cheap and easy method a try.

A mandolin makes quick work of cabbage
Make sure to use salt with no iodine
Ready for fermentation

Author: Nick-LaDieu

Webmaster of Budding skill enthusiast and modern survivalist. When nick isn't plotting his next project he is probably running with his dogs, riding his mountain bike, or fiddling with his home theater.

  • Jorja

    I even like store-bought kraut so I’m thinking this will be a bunch tastier, not to mention way healthier. Going to try some, thanks Nick!

  • Joseph Miller

    A few things to cover here that differ from your post:

    Work in large batches for a more consistant flavor and texture. Mason jars work, but you will find the results to be a lot more variable. It’s fermentation like any other fermentation. You Make beer, mead and wine by the gallons (or 10’s of gallons, hundreds of gallons or tens of thousands of gallons optimally). You wouldn’t want to brew it right in the bottle. Same here. I recommend a 5 gallon batch in a food grade bucket. It’s the right balance between quality assurance and how much you’ll realistically use in a season.

    The time it takes varies depending on the type of cabbage, amount of salt (I prefer more), the temperature, etc. If done correctly 3-6 weeks is common, but it should still be crisp in a year or more.

    Try adding apples, parsnips, rutabaga, caraway seed etc. Apple Kraut is superior for pork recipes, caraway for beef recipes, etc.

    There’s a lesson in this for those looking to be self reliant in feeding themselves. Fermentation is your friend. Cabbage has essentially no nutritional value, but sauerkraut is packed with nutrition, gained by the fermentation process. Some of that value is added by bacteria in the food, and the rest is already in the cabbage, but undigestable by humans until microbes come in and process it for us.

    You might also try Kimchi. The process is very similar to Sauerkraut.

  • Anonymous

    Joseph, thank you for your insights. I thought about making it in a 1 gallon bucket… but since I only grew 3 heads of cabbage it wasn’t a big production.

    I think next year I will plant more and hopefully can make a larger batch


  • We made a giant batch and are on our 6th week. The cabbage has little consistency throughout the jar, (the bottom looks like sauerkraut, but the top looks like cabbage. We also had an issue with water evaporating, even with the lids. It may be because were at 6000 ft but we added more water in week 4. Thinking of leaving it set for a couple more weeks. Any help would be appriciated.

  • Anonymous

    Bill, i’m having a similar issue. I checked on mine and it looks like they need more water


  • Kevingoats

    Nick, how did the sauerkraut turn out? Everyone talks about it like it is easier then falling off a bike, but I have only been able to make SOUR kraut. Stinks to high heaven and taste horrible. any ideas?

  • Robb

    So… how’d it go?

  • Saragossaseas

    An old trick I learned from my grandmother — when making pickles or sauerkraut, add a crust of yeast bread (rye, sourdough) to the top of the jar. It expedites fermentation.

  • Thank you for sharing with us this aid, very useful. But, I post mainly for the video is excellent. What is the source of this wonder.

  • Kathleen Williams

    I make 150 lbs of sauerkraut every other year for my family (and extended family and friends). I have never tried the purple cabbage, but it looks interesting. I purchase winter (or late) cabbage from a local farmer. It is really important that it is late cabbage since the very first time I tried it, I used early cabbage and had 50 lbs of rotten cabbage in a hurry.

    I have a kraut cutter and invite a few people over to help out. I cut about 10 lbs and them mix in some canning salt, squeezing the cabbage to start the juices flowing as I am mixing the salt. Then I put the mixture into a large plastic garbage can (purchased specifically for this purpose and sanitized with bleach water). Cut up 2 or 3 cloves of garlic over this layer and sprinkle a Tbsp or so of caraway seeds. Continue to cut and layer the remaining cabbage.

    Once all the cabbage is layered, there should be plenty of juice to cover it. I use a round piece of plexiglass, cut to fit the container, and weigh it down with a milk carton filled with water to keep the cabbage under the juice. I purchase a new pair of white, queen-sized pantyhose and tie the legs together and trim off the extra. Then I stretch the pantyhose over the top of the can to keep out the bugs and anything else that might fall into my kraut.

    I let it ferment in my kitchen for about 4 weeks, skimming off any foam that forms on the top and wiping down the edges. Every once in a while, I will pull the plexiglass “plate” and milk carton weight out and clean them off in the sink before replacing them. It is important to touch the sauerkraut occasionally to ensure that it does not start to feel slimy, indicating that it is rotting and not fermenting. If it becomes slimy feeling, simply mix up some brine (salt water) using canning salt and add to your bucket.

    After 4 weeks, you can taste it to see if it is done. Also, the cabbage should look translucent when it is ready. Fill your canning jars and water bath to seal or place in freezer bags and pop into the freezer. If you like your sauerkraut a little more sweet, consider cutting up some apples into the cabbage.

  • saveourskills

    Thanks for sharing! The purple stuff tastes the same, just a different color

  • Roger Birkhead

    Processing in a water bath will kill of the beneficial bacteria so it is best to eat the kraut “fresh”. We add sliced apples, sliced carrots, collards, Swiss chard and other veggies. It adds color, different textures, and most importantly more nutrients!