how to make sauerkraut

Sauerkraut – how to make this popular dish in different ways

Sauerkraut is a healthy, cheap and easy-to-make fermented dish made of cabbage.Although you can buy a jar of sauerkraut in almost any supermarket, homemade sauerkraut is a cheaper and healthier option. Sauerkraut contains probiotics and enzymes which are very good for your digestive system, as well as vitamins C and D.  Even if you are not so skilled at making fermented food, or it is your first time to do it, you will be surprised when you realise how easy it is to make sauerkraut at home.

Like any other homemade food, you can make sauerkraut in different ways and flavors. If this is your first time to make sauerkraut, you can make only small batches of it and put it in a jar. If you want to make a larger quantity of sauerkraut- you can put it in a crock. You don’t need a special equipment for making fermented food- a sharp knife, a container and a cutting board.

Believe it or not, you don’t need any special skill for fermenting cabbage, because it is fermenting itself. The process of fermentation is natural and far more healthier than fermented food bought in the stores, because they put additives and other harmful ingredients that can only spoil the real benefits of sauerkraut. Don’t be scared to make sauerkraut, if you follow the instructions below, rest assured that it will be safe to eat it.

How Is Sauerkraut Fermented?

Cabbage has a bacteria called lactobacillus that is also present in yogurt and other cultured products. When you combine cabbage with salt, after some time, it relieves a very special juice called brine. Whether you leave a whole or a shredded cabbage submerged in its brine, the bacteria lactobacillus starts to turn sugars from the cabbage into lactic acid. This whole process of fermentation is natural and prevents harmful bacteria to spoil the food. This healthy juice brine keeps the cabbage fermented for months, and make it safe to it.

Tips before you start

  • The better and fresher cabbage you find, the tastier your sauerkraut will be
  • You can use any type of salt, but if you can use sea salt
  • If you make sauerkraut in large batches, you will need at least one crock
  • Keep your hands and kitchen clean all the time, especially containers you will use to store sauerkraut
  • If you already have a crock, make sure it is usable. Don’t use it if there is a white film in it, it may ruin the flavor of your cabbage
  • You can use a sharp knife and a cutting board, or a grater to shred the cabbage
  • Taste your sauerkraut and adjust the saltiness according to your preferences
  • Use a linen cloth to cover the cabbage, and the white scum foam won’t appear

How to make sauerkraut from scratch?

Jump to Recipe

The only two ingredients you need for your basic sauerkraut are cabbage and salt. Depending on the quantity of sauerkraut you want to make, you can use only one cabbage or more. The ratio cabbage/salt depends on your personal taste. For one cabbage, you need at least one or one and a half  tablespoon of salt or maximum 3 tablespoons. If you are not sure, you can start just with one tablespoon and then during fermentation you can taste the brine or the cabbage and add more salt to it.

Additional ingredients (optional):

  • Caraway seeds
  • Carrots
  • Celery

If you don’t like strong flavors you can try this basic recipe with cabbage and salt. Putting caraway seeds, carrots and celery will give a totally different flavor to your sauerkraut. If this is your first time to taste the sauerkraut, you can go with that basic option. Of course, you can choose to add only caraway seeds in your sauerkraut if you like its flavor.

If you want to make sauerkraut in an old-fashioned way, try adding carrots and celery to it. Later on, I will discover to you a secret recipe of my granny, for old-fashioned sauerkraut.

  1. Prepare a clean and bacteria-free environment.

This is a very important step, when it comes to fermenting food. Make sure that all the equipment you will use and the containers are clean. Wash the cabbage thoroughly and get rid of cabbage leaves that don’t look good.

   2.  Shred the cabbage into pieces.

  Cut cabbage in two halves. Trim out the cabbage core and cut it in wedges. Now, continue cutting the cabbage into smaller pieces or take a grater and shred it. In the end, you should have a nice pile of cabbage ribbons.

3. Mix cabbage and salt.

Put all the shredded cabbage in a bowl and squeeze it. Add the salt and again squeeze and combine it. It may seem that it is not enough salt, because it will take some time for cabbage to start relieving the juice brine. That’s why it is better to start with a smaller amount of salt and then add more if necessary.

4. Packing cabbage into a container.

Whether you use a crock or a jar, you need to push the cabbage and put something heavy on it. You can place one cabbage leaf above the shredded cabbage and then a rock. The cabbage needs to be pressed so it can produce more juice. In a few hours, the cabbage should be submerged in a juice. The first 24 hours are very important to make a good sauerkraut. Every few hours press the cabbage and close the lid. If there is not enough juice after 24 hours, pour one cup of water mixed with a teaspoon of salt.

This is a general guide on making sauerkraut but there are additional tips you need to have in mind, depending on the quantity of sauerkraut you plan to make.

If you want to make a small amount of sauerkraut, find out below all the tricks for making sauerkraut in a jar. For those who are more brave and want to make a lot of sauerkraut, check out the necessary steps for making sauerkraut in a crock.

How to make sauerkraut in a jar

sauerkraut in a jar

Use this recipe if this is

-Your first time to make sauerkraut

-You don’t need much quantity

-You want to make quick sauerkraut

Ingredients:

  • One small or medium cabbage (green)
  • 1 and a half tablespoons of sea salt
  • (Optional)- one tablespoon of caraway seeds

Depending on a jar size, you may need one or two jars. You should better use a bigger jar, so there is some space between cabbage and the lid.

The starting steps I explained above are the same for any type of container. When you finish with shredding the cabbage, squeezing it and putting a salt to it, then comes the different part.

Put cabbage in a jar and then put a smaller jar filled with stones. You need something heavy to keep the cabbage pressed all the time. While it is easy with crocks, jars can be very narrow,so the best option is to find a smaller jar, the one you use for sauces and jams. When you fill the small jar with cobbles, it will be heavy enough to keep the cabbage down.

The final step is to put a cloth on the jar and a rubber band. The first 24 hours you can keep the jar in a room where there is a normal room temperature, not too warm and not too cold. The warm temperatures make the fermentation quicker but if the room is too warm, the sauerkraut may go bad. Smaller amounts of sauerkraut ferment quicker than sauerkraut in a crock. So, you will need to keep it in a room temperature for 3 days only. After that period, you can remove the cloth and close the jar with a lid. Feel free to taste your sauerkraut and if it is not sour enough for your taste, keep it a few more days under the room temperature before you refrigerate it.

Additional tips for storing sauerkraut in a jar: if you see a white foam, it is the sign that fermentation is going on, no need to worry. You can easily remove the white foam. If you see the mold, just get rid of that part and keep the cabbage under the juice. Mold usually turns up when the cabbage is not above the juice.

How to make Sauerkraut in a crock

sauerkraut in a crock

If you have a big family or you simple like sauerkraut and want to make it in large batches, you need to have a crock. Don’t forget to clean it very well and to check if there is a white film in it. In case there is, you should better get a new crock.

  • 4 medium green cabbages
  • 4 tablespoons of sea salt

You can try with smaller quantities if this is too much for you, and make a half of these (2 cabbages and 2 tablespoons of salt). Of course, you can also add caraway seeds if you like.

Again, the starting point is the same as explained above. You need to make everything clean, to wash the cabbages and grate them or cut them. When you mix the salt and cabbage, put them in a crock and place the cabbage leaves on it. Then put a clean rock on it or if you cannot find a rock, you can put a heavy bowl. Keep pressing the cabbage every few hours the next several days. By that time, the cabbage will be submerged in its juice totally. It needs to sit like that for a whole month.

Sauerkraut in a crock can be good for eating the next six months. You can also place smaller amounts in a jar, from time to time, and keep them in a refrigerator.

There is an alternative option  for making sauerkraut without cutting the cabbage! You can put the whole cabbages instead and when the cabbage is sour enough, you can cut it in pieces to make an instant sauerkraut. This way is better if you have a lot of cabbages, it can stay longer and you can use some of the cabbage leaves to make other dishes such as sarma, stuffed cabbage rolls. A process for making whole sour cabbages is slightly different, and you can find the recipe here.

How to make sauerkraut in an old fashioned way?

Here’s how my granny used to make sauerkraut:

  • 10 kilos of cabbage
  • 400gr carrots
  • One celery
  • 200gr salt
  • Caraway seeds to taste
  • A bit of oil

If this is a too big quantity for you, you can make only a half of it or a quarter, just make sure to keep the same ratio of ingredients.

  1. Wash and cut the vegetables into small pieces. Carrots and celery can be mixed in one bowl and cabbage in other.
  2. Put one layer of cabbage in a jar and some salt. Then put a layer of carrots and celery.
  3. Sprinkle some caraway seeds on it. Repeat the process: cabbage, salt, carrots and celery, caraway seeds.
  4. When the jar is full, press the sauerkraut and cover it with cabbage leaf. Make sure there is no air left in the jar. Put a clean stone on the leaf or any other heavy object.
  5. Finally, add some oil to the jar but not more than to cover one inch of layer.

Sauerkraut in a jar

Use this recipe if this is
-Your first time to make sauerkraut
-You don’t need much quantity
-You want to make quick sauerkraut
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Resting Time1 d
Course: Appetizer, dinner, Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Balkan, German
Keyword: cabbage, sauerkraut, sauerkraut recipe
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 2kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 small or medium cabbage (green)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds (optional)

Instructions

  • Prepare a clean and bacteria-free environment. This is a very important step, when it comes to fermenting food. Make sure that all the equipment you will use and the containers are clean. Wash the cabbage thoroughly and get rid of cabbage leaves that don’t look good.
  •  Shred the cabbage into pieces.  Cut cabbage in two halves. Trim out the cabbage core and cut it in wedges. Now, continue cutting the cabbage into smaller pieces or take a grater and shred it. In the end, you should have a nice pile of cabbage ribbons.
  • Mix cabbage and salt. Put all the shredded cabbage in a bowl and squeeze it. Add the salt and again squeeze and combine it. It may seem that it is not enough salt, because it will take some time for cabbage to start relieving the juice brine. That’s why it is better to start with a smaller amount of salt and then add more if necessary. 
  • Put cabbage in a jar and then put a smaller jar filled with stones. You need something heavy to keep the cabbage pressed all the time. While it is easy with crocks, jars can be very narrow,so the best option is to find a smaller jar, the one you use for sauces and jams. When you fill the small jar with cobbles, they will be heavy enough to keep the cabbage down.
  • The final step is to put a cloth on the jar and a rubber band. The first 24 hours you can keep the jar in a room where there is a normal room temperature, not too warm and not too cold. The warm temperatures make the fermentation quicker but if the room is too warm, the sauerkraut may go bad. Smaller amounts of sauerkraut ferment quicker than sauerkraut in a crock.
  • So, you will need to keep it in a room temperature for 3 days only. After that period, you can remove the cloth and close the jar with a lid. Feel free to taste your sauerkraut and if it is not sour enough for your taste, keep it a few more days under the room temperature before you refrigerate it. 

Notes

Depending on a jar size, you may need one or two jars. You should better use a bigger jar, so there is some space between a cabbage and the lid.
If you see a white foam, it is a sign that fermentation is going on, no need to worry. You can easily remove the white foam. If you see the mold, just get rid of that part and keep the cabbage under the juice. Mold usually turns up when the cabbage is not above the juice. 

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