Homemade Sauerkraut

All you need is a head of cabbage and a teaspoon or two of salt. I wanted a bigger batch this time, so I tripled it.

The recipe:

Here’s the direct link to recipe and instructions I followed: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-in-a-mason-jar-193124 I chose this one because it is simple and geared to a small-scale batch.

The advice from this wonderful blog was also a big help. https://zerowastechef.com/2014/03/29/sauerkraut/

  • The basic steps:
  • Step 1: Rinse the cabbage head and remove the outer leaves. (Don’t discard the outer leaves. They will be used in the jar.)
  • Step 2: Quarter the cabbage head, remove the dense middle, and slice the quarters into thin shreds, 1/8 to 1/4 ” wide.
  • Step 3: Sprinkle the salt on the sliced cabbage and knead or scrunch it until the cabbage feels a bit wet and wilted.
  • Step 4: Stuff the cabbage into a jar, and compact it. Those big outer cabbage leaves you set aside can be used now, to cover the cabbage. Then put a small jar or weight on top of the leaves, and then loosely put a lid or fabric cover over the jar. Don’t seal the jar shut, because pressure will build up.
  • Then wait, one to four weeks, depending on how strong of a sauerkraut taste you want.


Slicing the cabbage:

This can be done with a big knife or a mandolin slicer. I used a mandolin slicer, which had the cabbage in shreds in no time. My mandolin slicer is the low-end in price and features, but has served me well for over 10 years. Pictures below. Here’s a link to one on Amazon that looks very similar. https://amzn.to/3htT9OA

The slicer comes with a safety warning from me. I have twice tried to cut off the end of my finger while slicing cabbage. I should have been wearing my cut-resistant safety glove.

Post slicing band-aid
The safety glove to put on before the finger cut, not after.

The slicer comes with a pusher to keep hands away from the blade, but it doesn’t work well with cabbage. Some mandolin slicers actually come with a glove. Here’s an example on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3olbqPu

Image from Amazon
Image from Amazon

The scrunching/kneading process:

Once you have your pile of sliced cabbage, sprinkle the salt over it, and knead or scrunch it until the cabbage feels somewhat wet, heavy and wilted. I sliced and kneaded one head of cabbage at a time, because that is the limit of my space and equipment. Here’s a before and after picture of the cabbage. I used a paella pan for the scrunch/knead process, which works great because it’s big and wide, with sides to keep the cabbage from falling on the counter or floor.

Before the scrunch/kneading

Use a big-enough jar for fermenting:

You need some extra room at the top for the liquid to expand during the fermenting stage. For three heads of cabbage, a wide-mouth gallon jar worked well. For one head of cabbage, I used a quart-size mason jar. The one time I filled a jar to the top with cabbage, the liquid expanded during fermenting, and oozed out the top. I lost valuable liquid needed for the sauerkraut.

This picture below shows the packed shredded cabbage, covered with a layer of the outer leaves, and a small empty jar on top, that is being pressed down by the gallon jar lid. The lid on the gallon jar is not tightened. It is kept loose enough for air to escape.

What to watch for during fermenting:

In a day or two, you’ll see the liquid becoming more prominent, and then some bubbles will appear around the top. It’s working. You can periodically open the jar to push the cabbage further down, stir it, rearrange the cover leaves and weight on top. I haven’t done much in the way of stirring, but did push the cabbage down to keep it submerged in the liquid.

The green color will gradually turn to pale yellow. You’ll notice it by the end of the first week:

Day 1 color
Day 7 color

The sauerkraut taste will become stronger with each week the cabbage ferments. There will be a slight sauerkraut taste after week 1, and by week 4 it is really tasting like sauerkraut.

  • The salt measurement is approximate.
    • The amount of salt called for can vary quite a bit in recipes. I added more salt in one batch, and it did change the taste, but didn’t ruin it for me. The amount of salt and taste will be a subjective thing for you.
  • Storage and shelf life.
    • What is the shelf life of homemade sauerkraut, and how is it best stored? I don’t know yet, because I keep eating it all! The taste is quite nice.
Kielbasa & Sauerkraut, mmmm.

UPDATE 5-24-2021 — Another helpful site! After initially publishing this post, I discovered this site that is also full of great tips and answers to questions. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

Nutritional information (for a head of cabbage and tsp of salt):

For one head of green cabbage
For one teaspoon of table salt

Is there something familiar about this face and voice? It’s actress Elizaeth McGovern (Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey), and her band.

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