How to Make and Ferment Homemade Sauerkraut (with Video)

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Making Homemade Sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.

How to make and ferment homemade sauerkraut. Making homemade sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.

One of the things that you will hear or read when you are starting to live a more healthful lifestyle, is to include probiotics in your diet.

The easiest ways to do that, is to consume fermented foods.

My favorite fermented food (besides sourdough bread) is sauerkraut. I have never met a kraut that I didn’t like.

Most people are familiar with the kind that comes in a jar or can at the grocery store, but if you have never had fresh, fermented and unadulterated sauerkraut, you have had no idea what you have been missing.

How to make and ferment homemade sauerkraut. Making homemade sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.

Store-bought sauerkraut has been processed, and those beneficial probiotics (good bacteria that your body needs for gut health) have been cooked out of it.

If your goal is the benefits…you want the real deal.

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To Make Your Own Fermented Sauerkraut you will need:

  • cabbage
  • cutting board and knife
  • non-iodized salt
  • a large bowl
  • tea towel
  • kitchen scale
  • mason jars
  • sauerkraut pounder (pickle packer)
  • fermenting lids
  • fermenting weights
  • a pan or tray
How to make and ferment homemade sauerkraut. Making homemade sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.

Choosing Your Cabbage for Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is traditionally made with green cabbage, but can be made with red cabbage as well.

Whichever cabbage you choose, you should always start with the freshest cabbage you can find.

If your cabbage is not fresh, you may not have enough liquid from the cabbage to create the brine for the sauerkraut. No water is added to this, as it all comes from the cabbage.

How to Make Fermented Sauerkraut

To begin, rinse the cabbage heads with cold water.

Red cabbage is beautiful and produces a sauerkraut with a slightly different flavor profile.

Carefully remove a few of the large, outer leaves and set them aside for now. Discard any leaves that look limp or “icky.” Only use good, healthy leaves.

Thinly slice the cabbage, placing it into a large bowl. The amount of cabbage you will need will depend upon how much sauerkraut you are making.

Use a kitchen scale to measure exactly how much cabbage you have. I measure the cabbage in grams so that I can get a very precise measurement.

shredded cabbage on a wood cutting board with knife

Take the weight of the cabbage, and calculate 2% of that weight. That is the amount of salt that you will want to use.

Measure the salt and sprinkle it into the cabbage.

shredded red cabbage with salt

Begin working the salt into the cabbage with your hands. You will firmly press and massage the salt into the shredded leaves for about 10-15 minutes or until liquid begins to release from the cabbage.

massaging salt into the cabbage in a large bowl

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set it aside for a couple of hours.

Prepare your fermenting supplies, making sure everything is clean and sterile.

Begin scooping the shredded cabbage into your mason jar, just a couple inches to begin with. I use a canning funnel to get the cabbage into the jar easily.

Use your pickle packer, press very, very firmly down on the cabbage in the jar. This will cause it to release more of the juices.

Add a little more cabbage, pack it down again. Each time putting very firm pressure down on the packer.

packing cabbage into a mason jar with a pickle packer

As you are packing in the cabbage, more and more liquid will release from the leaves. This will also remove any air pockets in the cabbage.

Continue until the jar has been filled to 2-3 inches from the top of the jar. You will need to leave plenty of space for the liquid to expand and bubble as the fermentation process takes place.

red sauerkraut in a jar with a pickle packer

Take the reserved outer leaves, and cut them into a circle the size of the jar. I just set the jar or lid on top and trace it with a knife.

Carefully slide the leaf into the jar. Use the leaf to cover the shredded cabbage. This will help keep any bits from escaping and floating up.

cut cabbage leaf for sauerkraut

Insert a fermentation weight into the jar. This will keep everything submerged while it ferments.

Close the jar with a fermenting lid and place the jar(s) in a tray or shallow pan.

The tray will catch any liquid that may escape during the fermentation period. It is very common for there to be “bubbling” or seepage out the top of the lid as it ferments.

Fermenting Your Sauerkraut

Place your jars in a cool dark place. The atmosphere where you ferment should be between 55 and 75 degrees (Fahrenheit). Generally the cooler side is better, as the fermentation will happen more slowly, and develop a richer flavor.

After a day or two, you will begin to see bubbling and movement inside the jar. That is the sign that the fermentation process has begun.

Each day inspect your sauerkraut to make sure that all of the cabbage is still submerged, and that no bits have escaped and floated up.

If you see any signs of mold, scrape it away and discard any exposed cabbage. Everything that is submerged is still good. It is also normal to see a “scum” on the surface. Only mold is what you would need to address.

How to make and ferment homemade sauerkraut. Making homemade sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.

How Long Does Sauerkraut Ferment?

The amount of time you will need to ferment your sauerkraut will depend upon the temperature in the room where it is fermenting, and the overall flavor you are going for.

How to make and ferment homemade sauerkraut. Making homemade sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.

Depending upon the flavor you want, you may ferment it for only 3 or 4 days. Or you could let it go for a couple weeks. I find that an average of 10 days works well most often.

But after 3 or 4 days, begin tasting the sauerkraut to see if it has reached your desired level of fermentation.

With well-washed hands, remove the weight, rinsing any sediment off with hot water. Carefully lift aside the whole leaves and scoop out a little bit of the sauerkraut and give it a taste. Always use a very clean, non-reactive utensils to do this.

If the sauerkraut isn’t yet there to your taste, resubmerge the leaves, replace the weight and fermenting lid and let it continue to ferment. Make sure that you got all of the bits back under the brine again.

When is my Sauerkraut Done?

When it tastes good! When the sauerkraut has the level of “sourness” that you think is just right, it is done. Again, the amount of time required will be determined by the ambient temperature in the room, and the taste of the one doing the fermenting.

Red sauerkraut in a mason jar with a fork

TIP: The larger your jar, the longer the sauerkraut will take to ferment. If you want to shorten the needed time, try using several pint jars rather than quart or half gallon jars.

When your sauerkraut is ready, remove the weights and discard the whole leaves. Close the jar(s) with a traditional airtight lid. Store it in your refrigerator and enjoy as you like.

How Long Does Homemade Sauerkraut Keep in the Refrigerator?

The answer to this question varies significantly.

Some people say it can last several weeks, others say months or even indefinitely. Odds are, you’ll eat all of it before you would ever need to find out.

Watch me Make Homemade Sauerkraut in the Video Below:

If you would like to learn more about fermenting your own foods, I highly recommend this book as a resource: Fermenting Vegetables.

How to make and ferment homemade sauerkraut. Making homemade sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.

Did You Make This Recipe? I would love for you to rate it in the recipe card, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How to Ferment Homemade Sauerkraut

Constance Smith – A Good Life Farm
Making homemade sauerkraut may seem intimidating, but you can learn how to make this pro-biotic rich food in this tutorial.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 2 hrs
Fermentation Time 10 d
Course Food Preservation & Canning, Side Dish
Cuisine German

Ingredients
  

  • green cabbage, the freshest you can find
  • non-iodized salt

Instructions
 

  • To begin, rinse the cabbage heads with cold water.
  • Carefully remove a few of the large, outer leaves and set them aside for now. Discard any leaves that look limp or “icky.” Only use good, healthy leaves.
  • Thinly slice the cabbage, placing it into a large bowl. The amount of cabbage you will need will depend upon how much sauerkraut you are making.
  • Use a kitchen scale to measure exactly how much cabbage you have. I measure the cabbage in grams so that I can get a very precise measurement.
  • Take the weight of the cabbage, and calculate 2% of that weight. That is the amount of salt that you will want to use.
  • Measure the salt and sprinkle it into the cabbage.
  • Begin working the salt into the cabbage with your hands. You will firmly press and massage the salt into the shredded leaves for about 10-15 minutes or until liquid begins to release from the cabbage.
  • Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set it aside for a couple of hours.
  • Prepare your fermenting supplies, making sure everything is clean and sterile.
  • Begin scooping the shredded cabbage into your mason jar, just a couple inches to begin with. I use a canning funnel to get the cabbage into the jar easily.
  • Use your pickle packerpress very, very firmly down on the cabbage in the jar. This will cause it to release more of the juices.
  • Add a little more cabbage, pack it down again. Each time putting very firm pressure down on the packer.
  • As you are packing in the cabbage, more and more liquid will release from the leaves. This will also remove any air pockets in the cabbage.
  • Continue until the jar has been filled to 2-3 inches from the top of the jar. You will need to leave plenty of space for the liquid to expand and bubble as the fermentation process takes place.
  • Take the reserved outer leaves, and cut them into a circle the size of the jar. I just set the jar or lid on top and trace it with a knife.
  • Carefully slide the leaf into the jar. Use the leaf to cover the shredded cabbage. This will help keep any bits from escaping and floating up.
  • Insert a fermentation weight into the jar. This will keep everything submerged while it ferments.
  • Close the jar with a fermenting lid and place the jar(s) in a tray or shallow pan.
  • The tray will catch any liquid that may escape during the fermentation period. It is very common for there to be “bubbling” or seepage out the top of the lid as it ferments.
  • Place your jars in a cool dark place. The atmosphere where you ferment should be between 55 and 75 degrees (Fahrenheit). Generally the cooler side is better, as the fermentation will happen more slowly, and develop a richer flavor.
  • After a day or two, you will begin to see bubbling and movement inside the jar. That is the sign that the fermentation process has begun.
  • Each day inspect your sauerkraut to make sure that all of the cabbage is still submerged, and that no bits have escaped and floated up.
  • If you see any signs of mold, scrape it away and discard any exposed cabbage. Everything that is submerged is still good. It is also normal to see a “scum” on the surface. Only mold is what you would need to address.
  • The amount of time you will need to ferment your sauerkraut will depend upon the temperature in the room where it is fermenting, and the overall flavor you are going for.
  • Depending upon the flavor you want, you may ferment it for only 3 or 4 days. Or you could let it go for a couple weeks. I find that an average of 10 days works well most often.
  • But after 3 or 4 days, begin tasting the sauerkraut to see if it has reached your desired level of fermentation.
  • With well-washed hands, remove the weight, rinsing any sediment off with hot water. Carefully lift aside the whole leaves and scoop out a little bit of the sauerkraut and give it a taste. Always use a very clean, non-reactive utensils to do this.
  • If the sauerkraut isn’t yet there to your taste, resubmerge the leaves, replace the weight and fermenting lid and let it continue to ferment. Make sure that you got all of the bits back under the brine again.
  • When the sauerkraut has the level of “sourness” that you think is just right, it is done. Again, the amount of time required will be determined by the ambient temperature in the room, and the taste of the one doing the fermenting.
  • When your sauerkraut is ready, remove the weights and discard the whole leaves. Close the jar(s) with a traditional airtight lid. Store it in your refrigerator and enjoy as you like.

Notes

The larger your jar, the longer the sauerkraut will take to ferment. If you want to shorten the needed time, try using several pint jars rather than quart or half gallon jars.

Nutritional information is auto-generated and the accuracy is not guaranteed.

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