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How to Make Sauerkraut

I call this version Sandor's Pink Lady Sauerkraut

This recipe is a blend of one from the amazing Sandor Katz book Wild Fermentation (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003) and Lucy Norris' Pickled (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2003).  Both individuals are experts on fermenting foods.  A livelier gut makes for a healthier immune system.  Read Sandor's story.  And it's crazy how easy it is to make your own crock of kraut.

Special equipment:
 Large ceramic crock
(food grade plastic bucket or non-reactive bowl)
Plate that fits inside crock, bucket or bowl
I gallon jar filled with water or a clean brick
Cloth cover (clean dishtowel or pillowcase)

Ingredients for 1 quart of sauerkraut
2 pounds
cabbage ( large red and large green)
2 pink lady (or other variety) apples
5 teaspoons
kosher salt


1. Any type of cabbage will do.  A mix of green and red cabbage will give you fun pink sauerkraut.  Cut cabbage in half north to south.  Cut in half again.  Remove core from each of the four pieces.  Chop or grate the cabbage very finely.

2. Grate apples.

3. As you chop add place the cabbage in a large bowl, adding some of the grated apple.  Sprinkle salt on each layer until the cabbage looks sparkly.  Use more salt in the summer, less in winter.  You can use seas salt to gain more mineral value but the finished jar will appear cloudy.  For a clearer looking product, use kosher salt.

4. Put salted cabbage into
crock a little at a time.  Pack each layer down with your fist or other kitchen tool (I like using a meat pounder).  The tamping helps force the water out of the cabbage.

5. Cover kraut with a clean plate.  Place the jar of water or other weight on the plate.  The weight helps pull water out of the cabbage and submerge it under the brine.  Cover the whole thing with a clean cloth or pillowcase to keep dust out.  It is best if the cabbage is submerged. 

6. Press on the weight every few hours until the brine rises above the cabbage.  This can take up to 24 hours.   If you don't get enough brine after the first 24 hours of occasionally pressing you can add a solution 1 tablespoon of salt dissolved in 1 cup of water.

7. Put crock in a cool place and allow to ferment.  The longer it ferments the tangier it gets.  Just make sure the kraut is submerged.  Don't worry about mold that forms around the plate.  Just skim it off.  Sauerkraut typically takes 1-2 weeks to develop. 

8. Taste the cabbage after a few days or a week.  When it tastes right to you remove it, place in sterilized jars with a sealed lid and store in the refrigerator.  Sandor likes to remove some at the start and leave the rest to ferment more so that the taste keeps changing with each batch he pulls out. 

9. The sauerkraut will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 months in a sealed jar.  Be sure to tamp the kraut down so it remains submerged in the jar.


30 Comments:

Gina
Awesome. So long does a jar of the kraut last in fridge?
February 17, 2010, 11:29 am

Danielle McClellan
This looks wonderful. When you put the sauerkraut into smaller jars, do you process them or just refrigerate them?
February 17, 2010, 11:45 am

wes king
Does it work with Chinese cabbage?
February 17, 2010, 3:37 pm

Cynthia Lair
Love the sauerkraut enthusiasm! It will keep 2-3 months jarred and in the refrigerator. Processing them would kill the friendly bacteria - not recommended. Any cabbage works well. I use nappa and add grated carrot, ginger, garlic and red Thai chili and make kim chee.
February 17, 2010, 4:03 pm

Tomena
Fun! I've never had sauerkraut before I think I'm going to try it.
February 17, 2010, 9:02 pm

Poppy
Hi there, just wanted to say my baby and I have been under house arrest due to New England winter for past few months. We both loved watching the cookus rumpus house make saurekraut while the kid nursed. I am so ready for Spring and saurkraut. Hurrah we love you! Hey, if you are reading this and have not ordered Cynthia's book do it now-a great resource for tired cooks.
February 18, 2010, 8:40 am

kyndale pease
I'm seeing a lot of people doing fermented things lately. What's the story?
February 18, 2010, 8:05 pm

Cynthia Lair
Hi Kyndale, Because we lead such clean lives (living indoors, daily showers, not much interaction with nature, chlorinated water, antibiotics)we have less capacity to develop the bacteria that creates healthy gut flora. Our gut houses up to 3.5 pounds of bacteria; this is the gateway to our immune system. If the gut is not populated with friendly bacteria, our immune system is taxed and dis-ease may occur. So many people are discovering fermented foods as a means to regain a healthier gut and hence a stronger immune system. Read more from the links to Sandor Katz's work in the recipe.
February 18, 2010, 9:27 pm

Tina Rieman
Talking about fermentation, does anyone out there know where I could find a Kombucha mushroom to start making Kombucha tea again?
February 19, 2010, 10:23 am

Cynthia Lair
Tina, Try gemcultures.com.
February 19, 2010, 12:02 pm

Stephen Starling
Thanks for this! It sounds like a fun, nutritional, and frugal recipe project! :)
February 19, 2010, 3:01 pm

adrienne
I'm looking forward to making this recipe. I watch your show not only because I learn about great new recipes, but because it often brings a smile to my face. I do wish, however, that your family was less annoyed with each other. I know you guys are actually a cast with scripts, but you are rather believable. I wish, for example, that Cynthia's character really liked and respected her husband vs just putting up with him; he seems like a nice guy who is trying to meet her more than half-way. And I hope the writers allow Jane to grow up while still letting her keep her caustic wit and sense of humor. Not sure what if I'd change the Grandpa Ward role as that living situation might be tough to handle at times. Thanks Cynthia for a great website.
February 22, 2010, 2:01 pm

Sue
Does anyone know where I can purchase a ceramic crock?
February 23, 2010, 3:26 pm

Cynthia Lair
We have the crock in our store. http://astore.amazon.com/cookusinterr-20/detail/B002P4PS3S
February 23, 2010, 4:17 pm

Elizabeth Burner
I pack mine down the same way my grandma did, with a baseball bat.
March 4, 2010, 8:18 am

Kelly Mueller
I was lucky enough to inherit my great grandmother's crock, the cabbage shredder my great grandpa made and the pounder made by my grandpa. Much more fun and useful than the family jewels!
March 4, 2010, 5:06 pm

Dan Harrity
Wonderful recipe! You should follow this up with a video showing how to make fermented cabbage leaves, sometimes referred to as whole-leaf saurkraut. They cost an arm and a leg in the specialty section of the grocery store and are just as cheap to produce as saurkraut. Great work here.
March 21, 2010, 1:53 am

Cheryl C.
Thanks for the timely recipe. I love sauerkraut but am nervous about mold and any dangerous bacteria that might lurk during the process. Can you provide any reassurance here? Thanks!
April 6, 2010, 4:13 pm

Cynthia Lair
Cheryl, what's really scary is food the DOESN'T spoil. Any mold that forms during fermentation is obvious and can be removed. The friendly bacteria predominate. Have no fear!
April 6, 2010, 7:56 pm

Sarah Kingston
I just made my first batch of sauerkraut (after having watched the video a couple times, gotten excited, thought, prepared, gotten some local cabbage and apples, etc.), and I was unsure of how long to smash it. I just smashed and smashed. Pretty relaxing. I was a little worried about putting it into a plastic bucket (I have a bunch of old jelly buckets from a donut shop), since I'm an alarmist about plastics. I thought about using glass, but didn't know if there was some reason you didn't mention it above. I went to the linked site, and in his instructions, he mentions that you could use the insert to a crock-pot, which I think is brilliant. So just in case anyone asks about an alternative to plastic or one of those expensive crocks, there you go! I can't wait for my sauerkraut to be ripe! Thanks for making it so accessible.
August 13, 2010, 10:28 am

Natasha Berta
I just ate my first ever homemade sauerkraut yesterday. It was so yummy and I felt so happy just thinking about how happy my tummy would be! I asked my friend to taste it because she has been eating sauerkraut a lot longer than me( I just tried some canned kraut a few weeks ago) and she said it should be softer. I wondered if it was simply softer after the heating involved in the canning process. What do you think? Personally, I like the firm texture. Maybe next time I should try to slice it even thinner. Also, I noticed in your comments about storing it in the fridge you mentioned keeping it submerged. I drained the liquid off mine because it was all milky and mouldy. Should I have poured this over it? It was so easy! I loved making it and eating it. I can't wait to do it again. Thank you. I love this site.
September 5, 2010, 4:40 pm

Cynthia Lair
Hi Natasha, Congrats on your first sauerkraut! Using heat and canning not only makes it softer, it destroys the beneficial bacteria. Don't drain off any liquid. Press the fermented cabbage into the jar and cover with any remaining liquid. It needs to stay submerged. My sauerkraut and kim chee has a little crunch to it which I love. Keep having fun and enjoy your happy belly.
September 5, 2010, 6:59 pm

Patty Tompkins
MY BAD! I've been waiting 2 weeks to try my sauerkraut -- but I just discovered that instead of using 5 teaspoons of salt like the recipe calls for, I had used 5 TABLESPOONS! Boy, that'll teach me to read recipes more carefully! It's delicious but way too salty! Well, it's off to the farmer's market again to buy a new head of cabbage. I'll get it right this time! ;-)
September 23, 2010, 1:15 pm

Judy Coloma
My grandmother back in Pennsylvania made saurkraut in early autumn then put it up in jars. I hear that the crocks she used still smell faintly of cabbage. Pennsylvania Dutch pork and saurkraut was our New Year supper after we took the Christmas decorations down.
January 20, 2011, 9:34 am

Beverly Roberts
I just made my first batch of sauerkraut. I followed a different recipe, (www.thefamilyhomestead.com/homemadekraut.html)as I had not found your site. I used what I thought was a large head of cabbage (of course I didn't weigh it. Before I mashed the shredded cabbage, the volume of the unmashed cabbage was about 11 cups. The batch was ready in 3 days since I used whey from some plain Stoneyfield yogurt. I use a half cup of whey and 2T of Celtic Sea Salt. My sauerkraut is crisp and tangy, if a little bit salty. The finished batch has a volume of 2 quarts. But the total liquid is about 1 cup. Should I add filtered water to cover the sauerkraut when I put it in the refrigerator? Thanks for your help!
March 4, 2011, 6:54 pm

Cynthia Lair
HI Beverly, Congrats on your first sauerkraut!Using the whey is great. Try weighing down the sauerkraut in the jar you plan to store it in (or smushing it down with your fist) to see if you can extrude enough liquid to cover the fermented cabbage. If that doesn't work add some lightly salted water to cover.
March 4, 2011, 7:52 pm

Betsy Betsy
Wow! That's a really neat asnewr!
May 4, 2011, 6:28 pm

Sarah J
I must share a SUPER TASTY way to eat kraut- on top of avocado on top of sourdough toast! My favorite lunch every day of the week! Cynthia, why are some store-bought jars of kraut refrigerated and some aren't? Also,in regards to making my own.. will I see mold every time? If not, or if so, why?? Am I to assume that all the store bought kind had mold on it originally that was taken off?
December 5, 2011, 11:12 pm

Cynthia Lair
Sarah, Refrigerated sauerkraut means it is still lively - growing friendly bacteria. Sauerkraut on the shelf means it's been pasteurized - both good and bad bacteria dead. The mold happens naturally. Scrape it off. But be sure your vegetables are submerged beneath the brine - shove them down - this will keep mold from growing.
December 6, 2011, 10:30 am

Cabbage Head
I've kept homemade live sauerkraut in a gallon jar in the fridge for up to a year, and we ate out of it all that time, till it was gone.
August 18, 2013, 4:57 am

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