Making Sauerkraut from scratch

I have begun making a 2010 batch of sauerkraut!  Full disclosure: my garden grew pitiful cabbage this year. The two larger ones shown below are (gasp) from the grocery store. I wasn’t able to find any cabbage at the farmer’s markets either, and Farmer L. didn’t have any. :sigh: All of the smallish looking cabbages in the second picture down came from my garden.

The hardest part of making sauerkraut from scratch is obtaining a large crock to put the food in to ferment. Have you priced what new ones sell for? The easiest part is the fermentation.

The most time-consuming part of the project is cutting up lots of cabbage into tiny shreds. The reward is a wonderful product that is ALIVE and good for you! Eating homemade sauerkraut (that has not been canned) aids in digestion by benefit of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacilli plantarum. Read more.

I did most of my slicing with this mandolin slicer, which saved me a lot of time, but there were still lots of end pieces that had to be cut by hand. I started with 12 1/2 pounds of cabbage and even with a helper the slicing took over an hour. Shred into 1/16th inch pieces.

This is the second year that I have used this awesome 4 gallon crock to make sauerkraut. My parents had this crock around when I was a kid, just sitting in the garage literally gathering dust for 30 years. I’m happy to put it to good use now. It ends up about 60% full with a 12 pound batch, which leaves enough head space for the weight and bubbling to safely happen without spilling anything.

I mixed 12 1/2 pounds of cabbage with a half cup of salt. Last year the salt was enough to draw out the water from the cabbage, but this year I had to add brine. I guess it depends on the variety of cabbage and how much rain the plants received.

At any rate, mix the shredded cabbage with the salt at a rate of 1 cup of salt per 25 pounds of cabbage, working in small batches so that all the cabbage gets an even amount of salt. Then pack it down tightly into the crock. Make sure that all the cabbage is covered with liquid. If your batch needs to have brine added, your recipe book will give you a recipe for the salt/water ratio.

The important thing is that the cabbage stay submerged in an anaerobic environment devoid of oxygen. I put a dinner plate and 3 filled quart jars on top to help hold it down. I actually filled the quart jars with salty water so that if they leak the sauerkraut will still be good!

Keep the kraut submerged, and cover the crock to keep dust and cats and such out of it. Every day, lift the towel and skim off any surface mold that has formed. You will know the veggies are fermenting because there will be bubbles coming up. The product will be finished fermenting when the bubbling quits. If it is rather cold in your house, the fermentation process could take 6 weeks, maybe even more. In my house it only took 2-3 weeks last year.

Fermented sauerkraut may be safely kept, unprocessed and alive, in the refrigerator or a very cold room for several months. This is a tangy taste treat that many of us have never experienced, and is much healthier than most store-bought kraut. People used to just move the crock to the root cellar and leave it there, scooping out a few servings when needed.

If you don’t have room for something like that, you can make the sauerkraut shelf-stable by canning it. It still tastes great, and you still know what went into your food. Follow the canning guidelines in your recipe book.

Shown above are 6 jars canned in 2009. This was delicious in our calzones. My mouth is watering and if you knew my history with sauerkraut you would be laughing at me right now. I used to refuse to be in the same room where someone was cooking or eating sauerkraut. Homemade is just so much better than canned product!

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24 responses to this post.

  1. It isn’t a far stretch to add some red pepper and fish oil to make awesome kimchi. Your sauerkraut looks delicious!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Roseanne on September 22, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    So now you not only eat sauerkraut, you actually make it, too? Way to go, son-in-law :)

    Reply

  3. Great post, thank you! I recently acquired some excellent old crocks at an auction and have been wanting to learn the whole sauerkraut process. Now to just go pick the cabbage!

    Reply

  4. Thanks – I’m trying out sauerkraut making right now for the first time… I’m reassured by your clear explanation and success in making kraut. No bubbles yet, but no mold either.

    Reply

    • Awesome! I’m glad to hear that you are definitely trying it. Mine took probably 2 days before the bubbles were obvious, and now on day 6 or 7 there still hasn’t been any mold yet. Let me know how it progresses.

      Reply

  5. [...] life happens. Tagged: crock, ferment, fermentation, kraut, premature, sauerkraut. Leave a Comment My crock of sauerkraut stopped bubbling over this past weekend. I dug into it to see if it was done. I picked up a pinch [...]

    Reply

  6. [...] Making Sauerkraut from scratch « Jimmy Cracked Corn [...]

    Reply

  7. [...] Shred the cabbages and pack them into a crock with a bit of salt.  Wait a few weeks… [...]

    Reply

  8. Posted by Connie on February 16, 2012 at 6:25 am

    have some beautiful cabbages in my garden this year and am going to try my hand at making kraut, however in reading the instructions I’m a little worried about the temperature since I live in florida and our daytime temps this time of year are in the upper 70’s to 80 , any suggestions other than turning on the air conditioning.

    Reply

    • Hi Connie!

      The cabbage will ferment into kraut in those temperatures, but the length of time needed for the fermentation to happen will decrease geometrically with increased ambient temperatures. In my limited experiences, it should still work fine, but you’ll have to be extra diligent in checking for mold growth on the surface of the liquid…at least once a day.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  9. Posted by Connie on February 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    thank you, love your site, so informative

    Reply

  10. [...] you’ve been paying any attention at all to my blog, you should remember what this bushel of cabbage means.  Stay tuned later today for more details…. Rate this:Share [...]

    Reply

  11. Posted by Camielle on September 2, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    My mother’s recipe said to pack the ball jars with the fresh cabbage and salt and screw the lids on tight and leave them set for 4 to 60 weeks. My question is, do they need to be hot water bathed or are they safe as is????

    Reply

  12. Posted by Dawn on October 6, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I ventured to make my first batch if kraut this year and I fear that my crock has a crack. I added more brine. But is seems to have a slow leak. Can my kraut be saved or should I just stick it out and keep adding brine? I am going to bring the mess in the house so it will be warmer and Hopfully speed up today. Any thought? Thanks!

    Reply

  13. Posted by Camielle on October 8, 2012 at 7:36 am

    If kraut is not hot water bathed . . . is there any danger of food poisoning? I just put my cabbage in quart jars, filled them with boiling brine and put the lids on and tightened them. Then to set for 6 weeks in the dark without peeking. No hot water bathing . . . is there any danger of getting food poisoning from eating it just made this way?

    Reply

  14. Posted by Olivia on December 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I made sauerkraut 6 weeks ago. It smells like sauerkraut, the cabbage looks fine, and the brine looks like yellow pee, but I have not seen any mold or bubbling going on at all. I made my kraut in a big glass crock-sized jar and I’ve kept a kinda loose fitting glass lid on the jar all this time. The kraut has stayed two inches below the surface of the brine at all times. There is condensation under the lid and around the top of the jar. I have kept the jar in my kitchen where the temperature is around 70 during the day and 65 at night.

    My Ball canning book said that the presence of bubbles means the kraut is fermenting. Question: If no bubbles ever appear, does that mean the kraut has not fermented?

    Have I done anything wrong or should I just continue letting it ferment in the hope bubbles will eventually form?

    I have a family member with digestive troubles who needs the probiotic benefit of sauerkraut. Thanks for your help!

    Reply

  15. Posted by glenn smith on May 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I have recently (last three months) made two batches of ‘kraut in one gallon ziplock freezer bags. My salt ratio is one teaspoon per pound of cabbage and/or one teaspoon per cup of water if more brine is needed. In addition, 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seed and another half of carraway seed was added. When made, I open the bag a little and compress it until all the air is vented; as fermentation progresses, I squeeze out the gasses daily and reseal.

    First batch was great! The one going now is bubbling much faster because I started with some of the extra brine from the last.

    Reply

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