Easy to Make Sauerkraut

by Kathy | Disclosure

Homemade Sauerkraut

I live in the Sausage Capital of Texas. Little Elgin, now basically a suburb of Austin with a strong rural feel, is a railroad town in a part of Texas heavy with German immigrants. With the immigrants came the sausage Elgin is famous for and of course, sauerkraut.

Now, I can safely say I’d never really had sauerkraut before I started making it myself :-). All I’d ever tasted was that canned stuff 60’s housewives used to buy for wiener roasts on hot Saturday afternoons. Always hated that stuff. So you may wonder why I ever decided to go thru the trouble to make sauerkraut the old-fashioned way after that experience. Two reasons really, I found out that making sauerkraut is easy and that it is remarkably good for you. In many places in the world sauerkraut is regarded as a miracle food. It was a very important food to the settlers here in Central Texas. At the living history museum near us I learned that one of the first things the settlers did was get the cabbage in the ground and make sauerkraut! I wondered why this was so important in our temperate climate. Now I know that sauerkraut was a culturally important food regarded as vital to good health. So it wasn’t just the love of the flavors that drove them, but concern for health.

Health Benefits

Fermented foods like sauerkraut are living foods meaning they packed with a wide range of beneficial live bacteria are absolutely necessary to the digestive process. A healthy gut is loaded with these helpful little guys, predigesting foods and manufacturing vitamins in the process. The fermentation process increases vitamins especially vitamin C and all the B vitamins, making sauerkraut an excellent source of pretty much all the water soluble vitamins.

Container Controversy

To make sauerkraut you only have to have three things: a cabbage, a crock or jar, and some salt. That’s it! So very easy! You might think there is no way to complicate this but you’d be wrong ;-). Last year a controversy broke out on the internet over exactly what kind of jar to use for ferments. At the time I hadn’t done a lot with ferments and so didn’t have much of an opinion. I did know that I’d tried open crocks and mason jars without a lot of success. I also tried the Pickl-it. I was becoming discouraged. And the controversy raged on. It seemed everyone had a strong preference. But what was working for everyone else wasn’t working for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think these methods can yield good results in the hands of an attentive soul. That just isn’t me :-). I’d forget to skim the top or refill the little reservoir in the air-lock and boom, my ferment went bad. And I got some smelly ferments, let me tell ya. I live in a climate that is very hot 5-6 months out of the year and just plain warm another 4 months. So I found it tricky to keep my ferments cool, skimmed and topped up. Just as I was becoming truly bewildered at my lack of success, Lea over at Nourishing Treasures wrote an excellent series called Sauerkraut Survivor where she tested a very wide variety of jars. She even had a good microscope with which she could view the microscopic results of her experiment. And she included the fido jar in her test. Now, I didn’t have the money to buy a lot of special equipment for this like harsch type crocks or extra Pickl-its. I already have a sizeable collection of fido jars though and had wondered how they would work as fermentation vessels. No one seemed to talk about them much, so I didn’t know. Then Lea began to write about how impressed she was with the results from the fido. Good flavor, excellent bacterial content and nearly fool-proof to use. Perfect! Since then I’ve been using Fidos exclusively. While plain jars or crocks yield great results for many, they just weren’t working for me. The Fido and Le Parfait wire bail jars were my answer to making fermenting an easy process for me. And they are what makes this sauerkraut recipe super easy to do.

If you don’t have a Fido or Le Parfait jar don’t worry … I give instructions for other jars too :-).

Cut up your cabbage ...

Cut up your cabbage …

Recipe for Sauerkraut

Recipe Type: Side Dish
Prep Time: 10 minutes – PT10M
Cook time: none – PT0M
Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients
  • Cabbage1
  • Salt1 Tbsp
  • Whey (optional)1 Tbsp
Tools
  • A good knife
  • Food Processor (optional)
  • Shred it in your food processor or slice thinly with a knife ...

    Shred it in your food processor or slice thinly with a knife …

  • Potato Masher or something to stomp the sliced cabbage with.
  • Quart Jar
  • Roasting pan or large bowl
Instructions:
  • Peel the outer leaves off your cabbage first. Then if you have a food processor slice the cabbage to fit in the feeder. If not, then slice the cabbage into thin sections.
  • Put the sliced cabbage in a roasting pan or a large bowl. Add the salt. Then stomp the cabbage till it is limp and juicy. This part takes about 5 minutes or so.
  • Put the cabbage in the jar and pack it down till it’s totally covered with cabbage juice.
  • Optional step: Add 1 Tbsp of whey to your jar. While not strictly necessary I like doing this to help ensure a high LAB (lactic acid bacteria) bacteria content.
  • Put it in a pan or bowl ...

    Put it in a pan or bowl …

  • For Fido-Le Parfait jar users: The next step I take is a little controversial, I think. Since I’m using a Fido or Le Parfait jar I don’t worry to much about the water level in my jar and I don’t use a weight. If you’d like to understand why I refer you to Nourishing Treasures excellent post on how well this worked in her experiment. If you’d prefer to be less edgy simply place a weight in your fido to ensure all the cabbage stays under the brine or be very careful to pack the cabbage down well. Leave the jar out a minimum of 7 days.
    Cabbage Ready for Jar

    Stomp until the cabbage is limp and juicy …

    Most folks recommend moving your jar to the fridge at about 3-4 weeks, but I’ve been leaving mine out about 2 months with good results. Again, with that edgy thing :-). Use your judgement and decide what you feel comfortable with.

  • For other jar types: Add a weight to your jar if you are having trouble keeping your cabbage under water. Put the lid on and leave the jar out a minimum of 7 days. The jar needs to be checked periodically for scum. Skim any you find.
    Cabbage Juice

    Make sure you have lots of cabbage juice on top.


    Most folks recommend moving your jar to the fridge at about 3-4 weeks and with anything other than Fido/Le Parfait or an airlock system jar I myself would go to the fridge in that timeframe.

Put on your counter of in a cabinet ...

Put on your counter or in a cabinet …

More info on Sauerkraut, Ferments and Jars

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Kathy lives just outside of Austin with her husband of 20 years Barry. She has two sons one in college and the other grown and married :-). While not a Grandma yet, with two grown kids she remains hopeful. Kathy wants a world where everyone has fresh wholesome food and feels that cookin' like a granny woman is the surest way to get there.


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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

CRB January 14, 2013 at 8:05 am

Could you tell me where the salt comes into play? I see it in the ingredients list, but I can’t tell where it gets incorporated…

Thanks!

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Kathy January 14, 2013 at 8:52 am

Ooops! sorry ’bout that! I usually sprinkle it around right after I put the cabbage in my roasting pan. It doesn’t matter too much when you do it as long as you get it in there :-). I’ve fixed it in the recipe too. Thanks for catching that!

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CRB January 15, 2013 at 8:04 am

Wonderful — thanks!

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Linda @ Axiom at Home January 15, 2013 at 8:23 am

Great post! I have never made sauerkraut either because I don’t like that canned stuff. Maybe I will give it a try. I need to pick up a few fido jars….

Thanks!

Linda

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Laurel January 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

Do you burp your jars at all? I recently started using the Fido jars for fermentation and I was worried about explosions. Seems like most of the gas build up is in the first week or so. I burped it at about day 3 – whew! what a sulfur smell and lots of gas! I didn’t notice it but DH said the entire blob of kraut whumped up and down in the jar when I released the pressure. Oddly there wasn’t enough juice in the jar, my kraut is usually plenty juicy, so I added some brine. Still no juice on top; it seems to have soaked it up. Oh well, I stopped worrying about it since Lea says if you use the Fido jar you don’t really need to have brine on top. It’s been nearly 2 weeks so I think I’ll taste it tonight and see what’s what. What’s really amazing is how many cabbages you can fit into a jar once it is shredded & salted, eh? I use 3 T salt to 5 lbs shredded veg.

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Kathy January 15, 2013 at 11:54 am

I haven’t burped them at all and I’m careful to make sure that I use jars with really fresh rubber seals. The Fido and Le Parfait jars are designed to release gas thru the edges of the rubber seal … haven’t had any that really seemed all that pressurized yet. I’ve heard of one case where the lid blew off when opening like sometimes happens with Grolsch bottles. I suspect the issue when this happens is older seals. I have some *really* old fido’s with rubber seals that are cracking and sticking VERY tightly to the glass. I doubt the gas would escape properly thru those. Time to order some replacement seals!

I’m not really worried about explosions … I take a few precautions just in case. Fresh soft feeling rubber seals and I open the jar well away from my body. If you’re worried it might spray the kitchen like the Grolsch bottles have been known to do, open it the first time outside.

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Laurel January 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

p.s. I’ve never used whey in my ferments since many people on Discussing NT (yahoo group) report that it causes sliminess.

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Kathy January 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

Haven’t seen any sliminess with whey in the Fidos.

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Wanda Ann @ Memories by the Mile January 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I can’t wait to try this. When I was growing up my friends dad use to make sauerkraut, he was from Germany and made his in a crock. It was my favorite thing, I’d pick it over dessert anytime.
Wanda Ann @ Memories by the Mile

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Linda G Hatton January 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm

How interesting! My dad was from Austria, so I was raised on sauerkraut .. but I never learned how to make it. Reading this makes me want some. Yum!
(TALU)

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LittleOwlCrunchyMomma January 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Yay for sauerkraut! Can’t get enough of the REAL stuff.

Thanks so much for sharing at Simple Meals Friday. Hope to see you back next week.

http://littleowlcrunchymomma.blogspot.com/2013/01/simple-meals-friday-14.html

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Gudrun B January 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm

great post!!! I used to make sauerkraut once every 10 years (when i got cabbage really cheap) and i had a nice crock! this year i discovered that my crock has a fine line on the bottom and i did not want to risk the brine to leak so i went to the jar method as well! though i have no nice fido jar :(
the second grand baby kept me busy but it is high time i check upon my ferments! i hope it turned out ! after all this neglect :)

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Kathy January 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm

You can order some Fidos on Amazon, Gudrun if you can’t find any locally. I know I’ve heard a few people complaining that they are hard to find where they live. They are easy to find here at all the fancier housewares stores.

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Gudrun B February 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm

have not invested in Fidos yet, have not had time to breathe LOL BUT i did some more fermenting…
we had a picture book perfect home birth of grand son 2 beginning of Jan. and i have been busy ever since… must not have eaten my garlic or burned that candle on both ends again but came down with some flu symptoms and was so grateful to have had my sauerkraut! since every thing else tasted like card board….. :)
i really have to write some entries on my website… with pictures of my kraut :)
keep inspiring me!!!

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Kathy February 5, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Thanks Gudrun! Your visits always make me smile :-) Looking forward to the pics!

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Ellen Christian January 21, 2013 at 11:49 am

Thank you so much! I’ve always wanted to try making my own!

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Vicky @ Mess For Less January 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Never even thought about making my own saurkraut. Bet it’s a lot healthier than the store bought stuff. Thanks for sharing!

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Gudrun B February 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm

you bet Vicky :) unless you get health food store kraut you are basically buying over salted fiber- then you cook it and some people even rinse their sauerkraut, cause it is too salty
ohh the things we have done to kill food! :)

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Gidget January 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Thank you for this post. I have been scouring the internet trying to learn to make sauerkraut. I just could not wrap my head around how to do it, without investing in a bunch of fancy jars or whatnot. Thank you for making it so simple. I think I can actually attempt it now.

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Kathy January 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I’m so glad you found it simple :-) … My goal is to make everything real food as simple and straight forward as I can.

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Gudrun B February 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm

hi!! wanted to post a little update on my sauerkraut :) :)
by the smiles you can tell i guess it turned out Grrrrreat!
the second batch i shredded really fine and dared to add different things, since i made 3 different “portions”
need to update my web site but i am thrilled with the taste of the cabbage with dill weed!!!!!

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Jan March 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I am interested in making saurkraut. What is the scum you are talking about, that is, what does it look like? Also, do you need to replace your seal with a new one every time you use your Le Parfait wire bail jars? Thanks!

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Kathy March 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm

If you use the Fido or Le Parfait jars you won’t see any scum, most likely. I don’t replace the rubber rings very often … only when they get hard. Have fun with your sauerkraut :-)

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April May 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm

I followed your instructions using a fido jar. My question is, how do I get more juice in my next batch? This batch turned out dry and I need the juice for GAPS. What do you suggest? Make a brine and pour over?

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Kathy May 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

You know the last batch I made turned out the same way. I think I didn’t stomp it as much I think. There was a lot of brine when I clamped it but it all disappeared by the time I opened the jar. You could add a brine to the jar or possibly crush the cabbage a bit more.

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BethNYC July 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Is salt necessary with regard to the health aspect and/or can a lower amount be used? I have Meniere’s Disease and limit my salt intake to 2/3 of a tsp per day to reduce my inner ear fluid issue. I love sauerkraut but it has been out of my life for over two years now. Thanks!

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KATHY July 20, 2013 at 7:25 pm

My mother and grandmother made sauerkraut every year for as long as I can remember. We use a 5 gallon stone crock. The cabbage gets shredded with my food processor slicer in just a few minutes. We have a large dish pan which we fill with the shredded cabbage. Mix in 1/4 cup table salt and toss with the shredded cabbage. Pound with a wooden stomper to release the juices. Transfer this to your crock and pound again to release more juice. Repeat this process, layering into the crock. We leave 4-6 inches head space in the crock. There should be brine covering the cabbage. We place a water tight trash bag in the top of the crock. Put water into the trash bag, which forms an air tight seal around the inside of the crock. Have at least two inches of water in the trash bag. Tie the trash bag shut to prevent the water from evaporating. Place the crock in a shallow container that will catch any fermentation that may boil over the crock. Leave at room temperature for 11 days undisturbed. Remove trash bag of water. The sauerkraut is ready to eat or can.
To can, we pack either pint or quart jars tightly with the kraut, removing any air bubbles and leaving 1″ head space. Process in water bath for 20 minutes. Your kraut will keep for several years on the shelf. Doesn’t go bad unless the seal in compromised.

I had never had “store bought” as I call it, until after I was married. Huge difference. My husbands friends and family now rage about my homemade sauerkraut. They had never tasted anything but “store bought”.

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anita July 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

i am trying this – and wondered , do i have to use “pickling” salt? i sea salt and wondered if i could use that?

many thanks~a

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Kathy July 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Hi Anita … I use sea salt myself :-)

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anita July 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

So does it need to have brine covering it or not – when in a fido type jar? mine is “soupy” but not covered …also should all the utensils and the jar be sterilized first? many thanks!

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coot olson September 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hi Kathy,
I been making sauer kraut like my mom has done all her life,(she is gone now). I use a 5 gal. crock, a plate and a flat rock to put on the plate.Just to let all know this to me is the best way to make kraut. I ‘m the only one that eats it here in this house hold, but I do give some to my neighbors and they all tell me its the best they’ve eaten since their parents passed.If it sounds like I’m a bragging , I might be, but my mom gets the credit.I’am glad to see such an intrest on making sauer kraut.I just got done making canned corn and pickled pigs feet. I hope all sauer kraut makers make great kraut.Its great stuff. COOT

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coot olson September 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Kathy , let me know of the comments, I did not scroll down to find that you ask if I want to see feed back. thanks. coot

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Javier September 11, 2013 at 4:21 am

Hi, i need help.

I cut my cabbage in small pieces, add salt and squeeze it 5 minutes or so with my clean hands.

I put the cabbage inside the fido jar and add the cabbage juice.

Now is when it gets weird. When the jar is closed and stored, EVERY single day i find leaked cabbage juice out of the fido jar. It seems like there is some huge air pressure inside the jar and that’s why the cabbage and the liquid rises to the top.

How can i prevent this?

Thank you :)

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Kathy September 11, 2013 at 5:34 am

Hi Javier … I think maybe you’re not leaving a big enough space at the top of the jar? I’ve seen this happen too and it seems like it was on the jars that were filled pretty high.

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Karen Tullius October 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I have made jar sauerkraut many times. I have 4 jars that did not seal. how can I re-process these?

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Kathy October 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Karen, I’m not sure I understand what happened … can you share some more details?

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Priscila October 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I want to try making sauerkraut, the instructions seem pretty easy. The only thing is I’m not sure what we would use for a weight.

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Kathy October 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

Hi Priscila … if you use the Fido jars you won’t need a weight …

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Sarah November 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I’ve been wanting to try this, but only have one 1/2 liter Fido jar. I plan on buying more, if my sauerkraut turns out, but was wondering in the meantime: how many jars does one cabbage (about 2 lbs) fill? Thanks!

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Kathy November 10, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I think I put up 1 cabbage in the two jars for this post, if memory serves :-). Probably be a little better if they were a little more full, but this is okay.

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Sarah November 10, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Thanks! I plan on starting some tomorrow. Can’t wait to see how it turns out :)

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Dennis June 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Ok kraut has fermented for two weeks…looks good. Have not burped my fido jar at all..yet. Two questions have come up and can’t find a good answer on any site yet…love your site. So, thought I would ask you. Should I burp the fido? Also can I open the jar eat some kraut then reseal it? My purpose is for gut health and nutrition. ??? I understand 8-10 weeks ferment for best probiotic content. Put in fridge at two months….does this sound right?

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