Sauerkraut Step by Step

Do you ever buy a head of cabbage to make a specific dish and end up using less than half of the head? Instead of throwing out the remainder of the cabbage, you can easily make sauerkraut! All you need is cabbage, salt, and a jar with a lid.

My interest in fermented cabbage started through the dishes of my grandma’s Slovakian and Germanic-rooted cooking. During my recent conversation with her, she reminded me of the stuffed cabbage filled with meat, and covered in a tomato sauerkraut sauce that I devoured as a child. Bratwurst and pierogies with sauerkraut were dishes that are anchored in childhood. As my grandmother explained to me how her grandmother also made sauerkraut for her when she was growing up, I recalled how regularly I had eaten this tangy, crunchy ferment. It was the cheapest, most logical option for their family. I am excited to bring back happy memories through fermenting my own sauerkraut like my grandma used to do for me. 

Recently, fermentation has grown in popularity due to the health benefits it provides. Making your own fermented products means you can have a constant supply to fulfill all your sour needs. Fermented products provide great health benefits such as prebiotics and bioactive compounds due to the activity of enzymes and microorganisms. But that isn’t the only reason to ferment food. Highly perishable foods, such as fruit and vegetables can utilize fermentation as a technique to extend shelf-life. Because of the salty environment that sauerkraut is in, it can last about 4-6 months in a fridge. Let’s get started on making our own!

Grab the biggest bowl you own and get ready. 

Flip your cabbage over and cut out the core. Take off a few of the outer leaves. Save the core and the outer leaves- they will be important later. 

Cut the cabbage in half.

Chop the cabbage as thin as possible. The sharper your knife, the easier it will be to do this. 

Once all the cabbage is chopped, add it all to a bowl and sprinkle the salt on top. For every pound of cabbage, you should use 1.5-2 teaspoons of salt.  Make sure the salt you are using is not iodized. Iodized salt can inhibit yeasts and bacteria in fermentation. Sea salt is my favorite to use for all fermentation and pickling projects. 

Start massaging the cabbage! You are trying to break down the cell walls of the cabbage. Once you can squeeze water out of the cabbage similar to the picture shown above, your cabbage is ready for canning. Note that the cabbage will reduce to about β…“ of the volume you start with from massaging. 

Press the cabbage into a clean glass jar with a sealable lid. Allow liquid to cover the cabbage. Take one of the outer leaves you saved and fold it to fit in the jar (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Press the cabbage leaf down so the salty liquid covers everything. Seal the jar with the lid and allow the sauerkraut to ferment for about 1-2 weeks. 

My jar-method sauerkraut, ready to ferment! Unscrew the lid of the sauerkraut daily to release any pressure build up from the gas produced during fermentation. After a week, taste the sauerkraut, and keep fermenting until you have reached your desired taste. 

Sauerkraut

  • Servings: 2-3 quart jars
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2-1 head of cabbage
  • sea salt
  • *for every pound of cabbage, use 1.5-2 teaspoons of salt*

Directions

  1. Cut core out of the cabbage and strip the outer leaves off of the cabbage. Save both for later.
  2. Cut all the remaining cabbage as thin as possible and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add the salt to the cabbage and massage the cabbage for 10-15 minutes until you are able to squeeze water easily from the cabbage, and liquid has pooled at the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Pack the cabbage in clean jars as tight has possible, leaving 2 inches of space between the cabbage and the top of the jar.
  5. Add any extra liquid to the jar.
  6. Take the extra outer leaves of the cabbage or core and use as a weight to hold the sauerkraut down, so it doesn’t float in the jar. If using the leaves, fold them into a square about the size of the opening of the jar and press down as tightly as possible, liquid will cover it.

Here are two of the finished sauerkraut flavors I made. On the left is a beet, ginger, apple, red, and green cabbage sauerkraut mixture. On the right is a simple green cabbage sauerkraut.

Things you can do with sauerkraut include: eating it as a side with a meal, pairing it with eggs, adding it to soup, blending it into a salad dressing, and adding to sandwiches, burgers, or wraps. There are many more possibilities than this, so explore what your kraut can do!

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