Did you know that sauerkraut is good for you? Thanks to natural fermentation, sauerkraut can help to boost the body’s immune system, balance healthy gastrointestinal bacteria, and inhibit cancer growth. Plus, it is low in calories and rich in Vitamin C. Even better yet, it tastes great!
Serve it with pork chops or roasted pork and mashed potatoes. Simmer it in a slow cooker with kielbasa or bratwurst. Garnish hotdogs with it. Serve it with noodles. Add it to soup or even bake with it. Sauerkraut is a natural complement to so many great dishes!
With only two ingredients, making sauerkraut is easy. Simply shred the cabbage; toss it thoroughly with salt; pack it into a crock; and allow it to ferment.
Before you start, there are a few things to consider. You will need a crock or a food-safe bucket for fermenting the cabbage. Please see our reference chart below to determine which size is best for you (based on volume and cabbage weight).
1-gallon: holds about 5 pounds of shredded cabbage
3-gallon: holds about 15 pounds of shredded cabbage
5-gallon: holds about 25 pounds of shredded cabbage
10-gallon: holds about 50 pounds of shredded cabbage
You can shred the cabbage manually with a sharp knife and cutting board or more quickly with a food slicer. If you are filling a five or 10-gallon crock, we recommend using a food slicer.
Air temperature determines the fermentation period for sauerkraut. Please see our temperature chart below for expected fermentation time. For best results, we recommend avoiding temperatures above 75° and below 60°. Fermentation causes a slight aroma, so take this into consideration when selecting a place to store your crock during fermentation.
Temperature vs. Fermentation Period:
68 – 75°: three to four weeks
60 – 67°: six to eight weeks
above 80°: sauerkraut may spoil or become too soft
below 60°: sauerkraut may not ferment
Be sure to use non-iodized salt for this recipe, otherwise, your cabbage will not ferment.
Basic Sauerkraut Recipe
- 5 lbs fresh cabbage, shredded
- 3 TBS non-iodized salt (pickling, canning, or sea salt)
Note: The recipe instructions below apply to any quantity of cabbage. Be sure to weigh your cabbage and then apply the above salt-to-cabbage ratio to the batch you are preparing.
Discard the outer leaves from the cabbage and remove the hard center core. Wash the cabbage under cold running water. Shred the cabbage into thin pieces.
If you are using a 10-gallon crock like the one pictured here, please keep in mind that the crock is very heavy (about 38 pounds) — without anything in it. Before continuing with the recipe, consider moving your preparation to the room where you will be storing the sauerkraut while it ferments. This way, you will avoid having to carry a heavy crock filled with 50 pounds of cabbage!
Place the first five pounds of shredded cabbage in the crock. Sprinkle three tablespoons of salt over the cabbage and then mix it thoroughly with your hands to ensure that the salt is distributed well. Continue layering your cabbage and mixing it with salt until all of the cabbage is in the crock and mixed with salt.
Using your hands, firmly pack the cabbage and then place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the cabbage.
Cover the plastic wrap with ceramic crock stones, a fitted wood disk, a ceramic or glass plate, or a saltwater-filled turkey basting bag. It is important to keep the cabbage firmly packed in the crock. Within a few hours, the cabbage will release a large amount of water. Since the cabbage will rise in the water, you should use something with decent weight to it. We placed a heavy river stone in a freezer bag and used it to weigh down a large glass platter in our 10-gallon crock. Ceramic stones work well, since they are heavy. Wood disks work with a weight placed on them. Another way to do it is to add a few inches of saltwater to a turkey basting bag. Knot it securely and then cover the cabbage with the bag. Whichever method you choose, just be sure to cover the entire cabbage surface.
Cover the crock with a clean towel. After a few hours, check the cabbage to ensure that it has started sweating its water. If several hours pass and there is no sign of water, then you can either add a little more salt or add a little water. The cabbage should be covered with an inch or two of water.
Check on your cabbage once a week. If a layer of scum develops, simply remove the cover and skim off the scum. Cover it up again and allow it to continue fermenting.
During fermentation, small bubbles will appear on top of the cabbage. When the fermentation process is finished, there will be no more bubbling. After your sauerkraut ferments for the number of weeks recommended in the temperature chart above, it is ready to enjoy.
Carefully skim off any scum or discolored cabbage pieces that appear on top of the sauerkraut. At this point, you can use the sauerkraut in your favorite recipes.
Sauerkraut can be stored tightly sealed in the crock at a very cool temperature. Alternatively, you can can it or freeze it.
For the freezer method, simply package it in plastic freezer bags with some of its brine and freeze.
By the way, if you are looking for ideas for your freshly made sauerkraut, our German pork and sauerkraut recipe is delicious!