In this post you’ll learn:
- How to make sauerkraut with no special equipment and only two ingredients
- The health benefits of sauerkraut
- The best equipment to get if you want to make larger quantities.
Printable recipe at the bottom of the post.
I love sauerkraut. It is one of my favorite things in the world and the better the sauerkraut, the more I love it. I’ll eat canned kraut from a store (Aldi brand is the absolute best as far as canned goes) but the cold bagged kind in the deli (such as Boar’s Head brand) is much better than canned. Better still is homemade. Homemade absolutely wins out over any and all sauerkraut that you could ever find on a grocery store shelf. Truly. It is night and day in terms of quality and flavor. So if you love sauerkraut like I do, today I am going to show you one of the most simplified ways of making it, with some tips and tricks at the end in case you want to go pro.
But first, why should I eat sauerkraut?
There are a LOT of health benefits to eating sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables. Specifically, sauerkraut is high in fiber, vitamins C, A, K, and B. It’s also a good source of iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, and manganese.
Sauerkraut also contains a lot of great living and highly concentrated probiotics which serve countless purposes in your digestive system.
Now the way I usually make this is to buy a head or two of cabbage, get some good salt (I prefer kosher or sea salt), and prepare it all in what I call my “Kimchi pot”, which is actually just a big fermenting pot. But this makes a lot of sauerkraut and that pot ain’t cheap, so today I’m going to show you how to start out using equipment you probably have and just a small amount of cabbage. Only I’m going to go one step easier to take away any excuses you may have keeping you from trying this and we are even gonna use pre shredded cabbage.
Once you try it and the fermenting bug hits, you can check out my tips and tricks at the bottom of the post for making larger quantities, or just keep using this method, which is perfectly fine.
Sauerkraut is an ancient food and therefore is simple to make. All you really need today is cabbage, salt, your hands, and a jar to put it in. I like to use kosher or sea salt but you can also use Himalayan salt, just don’t use iodized salt because the iodine has been known to inhibit fermenting. If you want to get fancy, you can add in a fermentation or pickling crock and a set of weights. I’ll show you the one I have at the end of this post.
Dump your cabbage and salt into a bowl. How much salt? Well that varies depending on how much cabbage you have. Generally, you want a heaping tablespoon of salt per 2 pounds of cabbage. Note: If you avoid sodium for whatever reason, sauerkraut isn’t for you, plain and simple. However, if you are thinking it will taste salty, it really doesn’t. It will the first few days but it isn’t sauerkraut yet at that point. The more it ages the less salty it becomes and a whole other flavor of wonderful develops in it’s place.
Now you want to take your hands and squeeze and mix all of this together, bruising the cabbage as much as you can to help draw out the juices.
The salt will help a lot with this as well. I am using gloves on my hands but you don’t have to, just make sure your hands are really clean. Make a note of how much cabbage is in this bowl because it is about to decrease drastically in volume, which I always find interesting.
And this is how I can finally get photos like this. I finally took the time to figure out how to hook my big fancy schmancy camera up to my phone so I can sit it on a tripod and operate it from the phone screen. 🙂
This is what it looks like after I’ve squeezed and mixed it up a few minutes with my hands.
Now cover that and let it sit for about ten minutes. During that time the salt will draw a lot more liquid out of the cabbage. This is creating our brine in which the cabbage is going to ferment.
After ten minutes you can see that it has lost even more volume. It is always amazing how you can start with what you think is a large quantity of cabbage and be doing good to end up with a mason jar of sauerkraut.
Using a jar funnel, pack the cabbage down into a mason jar. I am using a large mouth quart jar. Pack it as tight as you can, trying to get the cabbage submerged in the liquid it has weeped.
Let that sit for the rest of the day.
You should end up with enough liquid to cover your cabbage, as you can see in this photo. If, by the next day, you still don’t have enough, you can add a little bit of water to make up the difference.
Try to keep your cabbage pushed down beneath the water level. They even sell weights on Amazon for this (click here to see them) but I have never used them. You can also use a regular mouth 4 ounce jelly jar to help weight the cabbage down or even a zipper seal bag sealed shut with water inside, but again, I’ve never had a need myself. I just push it down once a day, with a clean spoon, while it is fermenting. I’m perhaps overly cautious not to touch it with my bare hands as I don’t want to disturb all of the happy bacteria that are being born.
Leave this sitting out on your countertop (or in a cool place, in between 65-72 degrees is best if possible, for one to three weeks.
**Important note about venting: Now you need to know that a LOT of gas is going to build up in this. During the first week I open the lid each morning and each evening and then put it back on to allow the gas to escape. After that week I do it about once a day.
If you forget to vent for a day or two: the best thing to do is place your jar in a plastic grocery bag, close the bag up around it a bit, then open the lid. There will likely be some spewing as the gases escape but the bag will catch it all. Once the jar is open, close it again and rinse it off. No big. I should let you know that they sell these little airlock things which fit on mason jars to help vent the gases but I’ve never had the need because I only do small batches in mason jars and it is no trouble to vent the jar once or twice a day. I’d rather you save your money and invest in a fermenting pot because if you are going to do this often, you’ll love it (see bottom of post).
Over time your sauerkraut will begin to develop it’s taste, which only gets better the more time goes on. I generally put mine in the fridge and start eating it after two weeks but you can leave it out another week if you like or put it in the fridge in as little as 3-4 days if you want a very mild taste – which is absolutely not my preference. I like a deeper, richer, more fermented kraut that tends to show up around the two week mark.
Too salty? Not enough salt? Just make sure you use a heaping tablespoon of salt per 2 lbs of veggies and you’ll be fine. If you end up with it too salty for your taste once it is done, the preferable method of dealing with that is to add a little additional water to the brine rather than pouring the brine out because so much goodness is in that. I have found, through food blogging, that some people will always say a dish is too salty either because they are very sensitive to salt or just don’t care for it. Me? I’m happy. Give me a salty dish and I’ll just drink more water with it.
- Approximately 1.5 - 2 pounds of shredded cabbage
- 1 tablespoon kosher sea, or himalayan salt (NOT iodized salt)
- Wide mouth quart jar with lid
- Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt over. With very clean hands (or using gloves) squeeze and mix cabbage and salt for several minutes, until it is decreased in volume and starts producing juices.
- Cover and let sit ten minutes.
- Pack cabbage into mason jar, pressing down as much as possible. Cover and let sit for a day.
- Check to see if there is enough liquid to cover cabbage. If so, open lid and press down until cabbage is submerged. If not, add a little more water so that there is enough to cover. Press cabbage down to submerge. Cover with lid once more.
- For the next week, open the lid in the morning and evening to release pressure and then immediately close again. After the first week once per day should be enough.
- You can begin testing flavor of sauerkraut after one week. Once it reaches desired depth of flavor it is ready to place in the refrigerator and start eating. Store in the refrigerator to store for several months. I prefer to leave mine out for two weeks before refrigerating.
If you want to get into fermenting larger quantities of sauerkraut and other veggies (I’ll show you how to make Kimchi soon), you might want to invest in a fermenting pot.
I have one like the Humble House Sauercrock below. There are also some other examples of fermenting pots that can be purchased on Amazon, although I fear the Polish pottery one is too small for my needs. I do suggest getting a set of weights, which may be purchased separately in case your fermenting pot doesn’t come with them. My fermenting pot has a special well around the top that you can pour water in to seal the pot, but still allow gases to escape as they are formed so there is no need to vent the pot each day as we do with mason jars. This helps protect against spoilage as well and allows you to leave your fermenting alone for the most part until it is ready, as long as you check the water level on your seal from time to time.Yum