How to Make Sauerkraut with 7 Steps

how to make sauerkraut featured

Sauerkraut would definitely come out on top when it comes to super easy fermentation at home. It would take you very little effort.

In the following contents, I will share with you every step in detail about how to make sauerkraut, which I have used for making my own sauerkraut many times. As long as you follow them thoroughly, you will definitely get your own crunchy sauerkraut in your kitchen.

And here is an overview of the steps,

  1. Clean the Supplies
  2. Choose the Best Cabbage for Sauerkraut
  3. Chop the Cabbage
  4. Knead the Cabbage with Salt
  5. Pack the Cabbage and Salt Mixture into Jar
  6. Ferment Sauerkraut for 2 – 4 Weeks
  7. Store Sauerkraut

Now let’s dive right in the details.

What We Need to Make Sauerkraut

  • 1 medium head fresh green cabbage, 2–3 pounds (1kg)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) iodine-free salt
  • A kitchen scale
  • Large bowl
  • 1 L wide-mouth canning jar
  • 125 mL canning jar
  • Wide-mouth plastic storage cap with airlock hole
  • Airlock

7 Steps to Make Sauerkraut

Step 1. Clean the Supplies

canning jar

Because we make sauerkraut by the means of fermentation, we need to make sure all the supplies are clean and with no contamination. Especially the canning jars, because they will be in direct contact with the sauerkraut. The easiest way to do it is washing them in boiling soapy water. Then rinse them. Lasty, you can use a towel to drain the liquids and place the supplies somewhere to dry themselves.

Step 2. Choose the Best Cabbage for Sauerkraut

Cabbage, obviously, is the most important ingredient for sauerkraut. So there will be a bunch of work needing to be done on them.

First, what is the best cabbage for making sauerkraut?

In types, we can have green cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, and napa cabbage. If you are new to sauerkraut, I would highly recommend you choose the green cabbage. Green cabbage is very common and easy to get. More importantly, it is also easy to ferment. It means it is one more way to guarantee you success and better results.

If you want to try something new. Red cabbage also has its own advantages. Red cabbage, or purple cabbage which some people call it, contains more vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron compared to green cabbage. Besides, red cabbage, raw or pickled, has the highest antioxidant capacity, compared with other types of cabbage. This is because it contains much more cyanidin. However, please note that red cabbage has a strong flavor.

How about the savoy and napa cabbage? They have similar qualities in fermentation. Both of them are very quick for fermentation. They have no capability of being crunchy, but soft. So technically,they are not a very good ingredient for sauerkraut.

In looking, we want the fresh or the newly harvested cabbage. Anyway, how to select the good ones to ensure our sauerkraut has a good flavor and texture? Here are some tips you can follow,

  1. Choose the cabbage whose heads are firm and compact. You can feel its weight based on their size. If the cabbage is soft and spongy, it probably has rotten inside.
  2. You can also taste the cabbage. If its flavor is kind of sweet, it is what we want. If it is bitter, stay away from it. This is because the sugars of the sweet-tasting cabbage helps the fermentation for great flavor in the sauerkraut.
  3. The third one is by the help of the outer leaves. Make sure to choose the cabbage with bright-colored leaves, but not wilted and brown.
  4. Choose the fresh and newly-harvested cabbage. You can ask the seller if it is.

Then, please use the scale to find what is the weight of the cabbage that you choose, which will influence how much salt we are going to use in the 4th step. In this guide, the cabbage I chose is 1kg green cabbage.

Step 3. Chop the Cabbage

chop cabbage

Now you get your best cabbage for sauerkraut, and it is time to shred it.

The aim of this job is to ensure we change the cabbage into ribbon-shape slices.

You can first quarter the cabbage, and then shred each quarter. Lastly, when you reach the core as near as you can, give it up.

About the cabbage core, many people like removing it first and then chopping the cabbage. From my experience, I find it is much easier to shred the cabbage by keeping the core until the end of chopping.

Two most common tools are used to chop cabbage for sauerkraut. They are the knife and mandolin. The special designed cabbage knife is my favorite. Because it has double or triple blades which can ensure a faster speed of cabbage chopping.

If you choose a mandolin, I would definitely agree about using a guard with it. Once upon a time, I was in a rush when I was making pickles, and jammed my thumb into the blade because of using the mandolin. It was not a fun experience.

Step 4. Knead the Cabbage with Salt

After you finish the cabbage chopping, we need to transfer all of them into a bowl to mix with the salt.

In this part, the first thing that deserves our attention is how much salt we should use. It will heavily influence the flavor of the sauerkraut, and how crisp it is. Besides, salt can also help to pull out the water from cabbages and make the brine, which we will use in the 5th step. It can also protect the sauerkraut from mold.

How much salt should we use for the best sauerkraut?

Anyway, if you want to ensure the success of sauerkraut, you can decide the amount of salt by the cabbage weight. The weight of salt can be 2% of the weight of the cabbage. Here, for my 1kg cabbage, the weight of salt that I need is 20g.

Besides, you can also decide by tasting. You can first start with some little salt. Then add it little by little and taste it. If it reaches the flavor that you like, you can stop.

Second, what type of salt should we use for the best sauerkraut?

The ideal salt for fermenting sauerkraut is unrefined and full of natural vitamins and minerals. Based on these, I would always go for sea salt. But please note that sea salt can be refined and unrefined. When looking for an unrefined sea salt, please make sure its specks have the color of gray, black, pink, or red. These colors hint that the minerals have not been removed from the sea salt.

Besides, many people also choose pickling salt for a good result. Though it is refined, pickling salt has no additives and keeps the sauerkraut liquid from clouding. The clouding in itself is not harmful, but will give the sauerkraut an unappetizing appearance.

After you have your best salt, sprinkle it on top of the cabbage and mix them. Message and squeeze the cabbage with your hands until you have enough brine. This would take you 5 minutes more or less.

knead cabbage

Step 5. Pack the Cabbage and Salt Mixture into Jar

This step would be much simpler. Grab the messaged cabbage into the wide-mouth canning jar, and press them tightly. Please make sure to leave about 1-2 inches high space room for the brine. Then pour the brine left in the mixing bowl into the canning jar to cover the sauerkraut.

If you don’t have enough juice to cover the cabbage, you can make your own brine (1-1/2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water). Please note that the water should be boiled, and the brine should be cooled when you use it to cover the cabbage.

pack cabbage into canning jar

Next, get the clean 15ml small canning jar and put it into the wide-mouth canning jar. We use it as the weight to press the cabbage down. Then cover the wide-mouth canning jar with the wide-mouth plastic storage cap with an airlock hole and the airlock. The airlock will help the escaping of the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, but not let the oxygen in. It would be a great helper for the fermentation.

If it is very hard for you to get such an equipement, you can simply cover the canning jar opening with a clean, heavy bath towel. It will also help to prevent contamination from insects and molds while the cabbages are fermenting.

Step 6. Ferment Sauerkraut for 2 – 4 Weeks

Now we have just finished all the preparation work. The rest of the work would be just placing the canning jar somewhere and waiting for the cabbage fermenting for 2 – 4 weeks.

The fermenting time would heavily depend on the temperature. Ideally, you would like to ferment the sauerkraut at 70º to 75ºF (21 – 24ºC). At such temperature, sauerkraut will be fully fermented in 2 – 4 weeks. The higher the temperature, the faster the fermentation; while, the higher the temperature, the slower the fermentation. 

However, the temperatures should not be too high or too low. If it is too high, you may find mold growing on the surface of the sauerkraut, or the sauerkraut has some smell. Besides, at temperatures above 75ºF, the sauerkraut may become very soft. And at temperatures below 60ºF, the sauerkraut may not ferment.

During the first week of fermentation, we need to observe the canning jar occasionally. This is because the brine may gradually disappear and not cover the cabbage anymore. Then we need to make some brine (1-1/2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water) and add it to cover the cabbage again.

After the first 7 -10 days, you can take out some sauerkraut and taste what it is like. Then you can decide to continue with the fermentation or eat it.

Step 7. Store Sauerkraut

After the fermentation finishes, what we need to do is to keep the sauerkraut. The most common way to store sauerkraut is to move the canning jar into the fridge. We can keep it in the fridge for at least 2 months. Besides, we can also transfer sauerkraut into some small canning jars. In the smaller containers, we can store them for much longer.

How to Flavor Sauerkraut?

I know that there are some people who would like to add some flavour to the sauerkraut. So in this part, I have prepared 6 recipes to make your sauerkraut with more flavor.

1. Carrot Sauerkraut

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of shredded cabbage (1kg)
  • 3 large shredded carrots
  • 1-2 Tbsp. sea salt
  • Squeeze the cabbage, carrots, and the salt

2. Garlic Sauerkraut

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of shredded cabbage (1kg)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. sea salt
  • Mince the garlic and squeeze it with the cabbage and the salt

3. Southwest Sauerkraut

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of shredded cabbage (1kg)
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • ½-1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1-3 Tbsp. sea salt
  • Dice the green onions and cilantro, mince the garlic and jalapeno, and squeeze them all with the cabbage and the salt

4. Chlorophyll Sauerkraut

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of shredded cabbage (1kg)
  • 2 bunches fresh parsley
  • 1 large bunch of fresh collard greens
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-3 Tbsp. sea salt
  • Remove stems from collard leaves and slice into 1-inch pieces, mince parsley and garlic, add the lemon juice, and squeeze them all with the cabbage and the salt

5. Dill Sauerkraut

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of shredded cabbage (1kg)
  • 3-5 minced garlic cloves 
  • 1 Tbsp. of chopped dried dill
  • 1 sliced cucumber, sliced
  • 1-3 Tbsp. sea salt
  • Squeeze them all with the cabbage and the salt

How to Make Sauerkraut Less Acidic?

To make sure sauerkraut is less acidic when we are fermenting it, we can end the fermentation earlier, move it to the cold storage earlier, and then consume it earlier. This is because the point of fermentation is to lower the pH for flavor and preservation, and shorter fermentation means higher pH and less acidity produced.

If you find your sauerkraut is pretty acidic after the fermentation finishes, we can try cooking it. For example, when I make kraut for hot dogs, I like to add it to the fried onions to mellow the sharpness.

What to Do If Sauerkraut Went Bad?

Sauerkraut fermentation failing happens indeed, especially when it is your first time to do it. If you did something wrong, your sauerkraut would be with kahm yeast and mold growing, no bubbles, cloud brine, soft, salty, or some other more.

To make sure your sauerkraut fermenting is successful, just need to make these three things correct.

  1. Ensure enough salt for the cabbage. The principle is that the weight of the salt should be 2% of the cabbage weight.
  2. Keep the cabbage under the brine. The brine would protect the cabbage from outer space. So the cabbage can be fully fermented.
  3. Place the sauerkraut in an ideal temperature.Temperature is important for all fermentations. Inappropriate temperature would harm your sauerkraut very badly.

What to Do Next?

For now, this is pretty much all the information about how to make sauerkraut. Did I miss something? Or do you have something that you want to know about it but I did not cover? You can drop me a line in the comments and I will answer you back as soon as I can.

If you want to try some harder fermentation, maybe another recipe guide of mine, how to make kombucha, deserves your time.

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