A fermented sauerkraut recipe with directions for optional home canning.
With Sharon Peterson
This sauerkraut recipe involves several separate steps so you might think it will be hard, complicated messy!
Totally wrong impression.
It is actually pretty easy. Just take one step at a time.
It is a lengthy process, it won’t be over in a day. But when you are done….. oh my! The best sauerkraut you can imagine. Doesn’t even compare to the stuff in the cans from the store.
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage. It is the only way it has been tested as safe for storage in jars on a shelf. Remember this is not plain cabbage, don’t skip the fermenting part.
I’ll divide this page into a couple parts, first a fermented sauerkraut recipe and how to ferment. And then how to store it… which means in the fridge or canning.
Canning is totally optional. Heat processing does reduce the health benefits you’ll get from the fermenting process. The probiotics that are produced while fermenting are so very good for you. But home canned sauerkraut is still much better than commercially processed. I can’t even eat the store variety any more.
Table of Contents
Preparing your cabbage
Packing your fermenting containers
The wait for fermentation.
How to Store Sauerkraut
Full Sauerkraut Recipe with Canning Instructions
Some notes before you get started.
Preparing your cabbage
Find some nice fresh healthy green cabbage. Remove any outer leaves that are damaged or are wilty. Core the cabbage. The easiest way to do this is to first cut the cabbage in half just to one side of the stem. Then cut the piece with the stem in half again just to one side of the stem. One more cut down the side of the stem should take the core right out.
Next you will need to slice the cabbage into sliver thin shreds. I use a mandolin slicer, you can just use a knife, a food processor or what ever tools you have. If you use a knife be sure and get your slices very very thin.
Weigh this cabbage. If you have more than 5 pounds, separate out 5 pounds and place in a large bowl. Mix in 3 T salt. Mix well, tossing and getting the salt spread out as evenly as possible. Do this again with your next 5 pounds of cabbage.
You want to mix in 3 T salt for every 5 pounds of cabbage.
Let this salted cabbage sit for a few minutes. This will cause it to wilt and soften. It also makes it easier to pack into your jars for fermenting.
Packing your jars or fermenting container
Pack tightly into jars. I had 3 heads of green cabbage and ended up with 2 half gallon jars and one gallon size jar. Pack it tightly with a wooden spoon or a kraut pounder.
I recently got a kraut pounder. It is so much easier! I’ve used a spoon in the past. It does work. But the flat end of the pounder pushes the kraut down much better. It is called a pounder… but if you let the cabbage wilt before you try to pack the jars, you really don’t have to pound. Just a solid pressure down packs it nicely.
As you press the cabbage down juice should be rising to cover it. Stop packing when you are 4 inches or so below the top of your jar. Right around the shoulder of the jar.
If you don’t have enough cabbage juice to fully cover, add some brine to the jars so the cabbage is completely covered with a couple inches of liquid. Be generous.
Brine Recipe – 1.5 Tablespoons salt to 1 quart water. Just bring this to a boil and let cool.
Weight your cabbage down with something to keep it below the brine level.
- Cheesecloth works but not nearly as well as other fermenting lids. I’ve also used a saved leaf from the cabbage itself.
- Pickle Pebbles are another product that I have that work pretty slick.
- If you are using a crock, try using a plate that will just fit inside the crock close to the edges. Place something on top to keep it down. A small jar filled with brine works. The goal is to keep the shredded cabbage submerged.
- The simplest method if you don’t have handy weights, is to place a small brine filled storage baggie inside the fermenting jar on top. Fill this with a brine mixture not plain water. If the bag breaks you don’t want to lower the salt content of the brine in the ferment.
Cover your jars. This time around I tested out a new fermenting lid, my airlock (which I’ve used before) and simply covering in cheesecloth. I’ve got a review of the 3 fermenting lid methods and my favorite here.
The wait for fermentation.
Now for the fun part. The wait.
This needs to be stored in a cool place for 3 to 6 weeks. As it sits and ferments bubbles will form, that is normal. You may need to press down on the cabbage again to keep it from floating and peeking out above the brine. Keep it covered. This prevents oxygen from getting in.
If you have covered your jar with cheesecloth or a cloth, scum may form on top. That is also normal (though icky). This scum should be skimmed off daily. It should not smell ‘bad’. It will smell ferment-y-ish, and well…. like sauerkraut.
This is why I would recommend you consider using one of the choices of fermentation lids that are available. When I use these, I don’t get any scum. To me that makes them worth the purchase. See the link to my review of a couple different kinds above.
How to Store Sauerkraut
Once your sauerkraut recipe is done you have two choices.
- Move your ferments to a refrigerator. Remember this is a fermented product which has all kinds of great health benefits. Probiotics which are great for the gut.
- Process your sauerkraut in a waterbath canner so you can store it on a shelf.
I do both. I have jars in my storage and I have a gallon of kraut in the fridge. (well last I checked it was down to the halfway mark.)
It is a simple matter to can it so you can store it on the shelf. You can also just place the jars in the fridge.
Prepare cabbage: Remove outer leaves, core cabbage and slice in half. Slice cabbage into very thin slices.
Weight out 5 pounds and mix in 3T salt. Mix well.
Allow cabbage to rest 1 hour. Until wilted and slightly juicy.
Pack tightly into containers. Add one layer, press down tightly. Add another layer, press down tightly. Continue until all cabbage is used.
Add Brine if needed. Cabbage must be fully covered. To make brine; bring one quart water and 1.5 Tablespoons salt to a boil. Let cool.
Weigh down cabbage so all cabbage remains under the brine. Some choices are:
- Pickle Pebbles
- Cabbage Leaf
- Container size plate with jar on top
- Baggie filled with brine.
Cover your container with a cloth, or fermenting lid. Pickle Pipe is my recommendation.
Store your jars for fermenting. Best temperature is 70-75 degrees. About 3- 4 weeks. This may vary according to your actual temperature. Cooler temperatures may require more time, warmer temperatures may require shorter time.
Remove scum if you need to. Having a fermenting lid will likely make this unnecessary.
When fermented to your taste, move your ferment to the refrigerator or process it for storage on the shelf.
Canning Sauerkraut Recipe
Pour your kraut into a large pot and bring to a boil.
Pack the kraut into pint or quart size jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
Wipe your rims clean and place your lids on the jars with the screw bands.
Process in a waterbath canner according to the times listed below. Be sure and adjust for both your altitude and jar size.
If you need more on how to use a waterbath canner check this page.
0-1000 ft / 10 minutes
1001-3000 ft / 15 minutes
3001-6000 ft / 15 minutes
6001 ft- and higher / 20 minutes
0-1000 ft / 15 minutes
1001-3000 / 20 minutes
3001-6000 / 20 minutes
6001 ft and higher / 25 minutes
Remember: This cabbage product is safe for the waterbath only because of the fermenting you have done. Please don’t adapt this to unfermented cabbage!
This is a sauerkraut recipe not canned cabbage.
processing time source: NCFHFP
Fermenting without canning.
If you are interested in fermenting your food for health reasons and don’t want to process your food in jars for shelf storage, you must check out Traditional Cooking School. Here is a cheat sheet download she created to help you with a variety of fermeting projects.