Nancy's Health Talk Blog

How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It really took me a while to try making my own sauerkraut, thinking it was simply too difficult.
But that’s not the case! It is so easy You don't need to worry about needing a special crock or making so much that you'll be eating it for months. I’ll show you how to make a small batch of sauerkraut in a Mason jar.

Making sauerkraut is one of my favorite things to do this time of year. Not only do I enjoy the taste of it, I love the health benefits:

  • - Preserves nutrients (cabbage can be stored much longer as sauerkraut)
  • - Makes foods more easily digested by breaking down complex proteins or components like lactose, which can be difficult to digest
  • - Creates new nutrients, especially B vitamins
  • - Some fermented foods function as antioxidants
  • - Some toxins are removed from foods through the fermentation process
  • - Sauerkraut also has strong detoxifying properties. Containing plentiful amounts of probiotic bacteria, which create lactic acid, sauerkraut aids digestion by restoring a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria throughout the intestinal tract.

Yes, eating fermented food is a good tonic for the digestive system.

How to make Sauerkraut

For this recipe you’ll need a starter culture, such as Caldwell’s Cultured Vegetable Starter or Body Ecology Starter Culture, which are available online or at your local health food store.

Use one pouch (2g) of culture for 4.4 lbs. (2kg) of shredded cabbage.

2 large heads of red or white cabbage
1 pouch of Caldwell’s starter (2g) or Body Ecology Starter Culture
3 tablespoons of non-iodized fine sea salt
3 cups of un-chlorinated water (at room temperature)

Optional: About 1 teaspoon of caraway, juniper seed, clove, or any other flavor you like. My favorites are juniper seed and caraway.

Cutting board
Food processor (optional)
Chef's knife
Mixing bowl
2-quart wide-mouth canning jar (or two quart Mason jars)
Canning funnel (optional)
Smaller jelly jar that fits inside the larger Mason jar
Clean stones, marbles, or other weights for weighing the jelly jar
Cloth for covering the jar
Rubber band or twine for securing the cloth

Discard the outer leaves of the cabbages and remove the cores.

Shred into thin slices about the thickness of a dime and, if necessary, divide into equal-size batches that will fit into your large bowl.


Dissolve 3 tablespoon of sea salt in 2 cups of room temperature water and stir well.

Dissolve the contents of the pouch of culture in a cup of room temperature water, and let the solution sit for no more then 10 minutes. This will activate the starter.

Add the proportionate amounts of starter and salt solutions to each batch of shredded cabbage, and mix well for 10 minutes using your (clean) hands or a spoon.
Pack the cabbage into the jar: Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack it into the canning jar. If you have a canning funnel, this will make the job easier.

Every so often, tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were compressing it into the jar.


Optional: Place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.


Weigh the cabbage down: Once all the cabbage is packed into the Mason jar, slip the smaller jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down and, eventually, submerged beneath its liquid. Allow the juice to cover the cabbage, leaving a space of some 2 inches above the mixture.


Cover the jar: Cover the mouth of the Mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents dust or insects from getting into the jar.

Press the cabbage every few hours: Over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often with the jelly jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact, and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
Add extra liquid, if needed: If after 24 hours the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.

Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it's fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F.

Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid. This time is required for bacteria from the starter to grow, transform sugars from the cabbage into organic acids, and produce healthy components.
When the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, screw on the cap, and refrigerate it for the curing period. You can also allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting at room temperature for 10 days, or even longer.

There's no hard and fast rule for when the sauerkraut is "done," so go by how it tastes. Once refrigerated, let the sauerkraut sit for 6 to 8 weeks. The longer you keep the sauerkraut refrigerated, the tastier it will be.

This is due to the mellowing effect of the curing period. After opening, you can repack the sauerkraut in smaller containers or in vacuum packs. You can also freeze it for long-term storage.

While it's fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white scum. These are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The scum can be skimmed off the top either during fermentation or before refrigerating.

If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don't eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.

Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product, so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be. If you like, you can transfer the sauerkraut to a smaller container for longer storage.

Fermenting other vegetables: You can use other vegetables, such as carrots, beets, turnips, black or daikon radish. Make sure you wash these well, remove both ends and any major blemishes. For better results, you can replace 20% of the vegetable with cabbage.


Resources for Making Sauerkraut:
Caldwell Biofermentation:
The Art of Fermentation - A cookbook by Sandor Katz, this is a great all-around resource on fermentation in general, fermentation problem-solving, and fermentation health benefits.
Cultures for Health - This is an online resource for fermentation cultures and equipment, but I also turn to them for a lot of information on fermenting.

If you have questions or comments, please share them below!

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