How to make your own Homemade Sauerkraut – Recipe for Beginners
In this article, we will present one of the best recipes for homemade sauerkraut and we will explain, in details, how to make it.
Only raw, naturally fermented sauerkraut without artificial preservers has all the health benefits this delicious food is famous for. The best way to ensure that you eat the right stuff is to make it yourself. Sauerkraut recipe accompanying the above video is easy to follow. The step-by-step guide guarantees you the healthiest and safest batch of the super-healthy kraut.
The only ingredients you need to make naturally fermented sauerkraut are cabbage and salt. The salt preserves the cabbage for a few days, until the probiotic cultures begin to grow. If you are a beginner, you might want to start with a smaller first batch. To make around 2lbs. of sauerkraut following this recipe you only need 1 medium to large cabbage and 1 Tbsp. of salt.
For the larger batch featured in the video, see the description below.
How to Make Sauerkraut
The instructions and the video that goes along with them explain how to make sauerkraut effortlessly. The 9 steps below will guide you through the entire process and provide enough detailed information along the way to make sure your first batch is a success.
Making sauerkraut in 9 easy steps:
- Tools and Preparation
- Shred the cabbage (uniformly thin slices)
- Add salt (1 Tbsp. of salt per 1¾ lbs. of shredded cabbage)
- Make the brine
- Pack the cabbage tightly
- Weight it down under the brine
- Seal it, store it (constant temperature 18-23ºC or 65-75ºF)
- Ferment it for 7-28 days
- Serve it, eat it, enjoy it
1. Tools and Preparation
So, are you ready to make your first homemade sauerkraut batch? First, get your basic kitchen tools and utensils ready. You will need a large bowl or a plastic container for the shredded cabbage. Choose something wide enough so that you can position and hold your cabbage slicer firmly on top, to secure smooth shredding.
You will also need a container for the fermentation process – a 1-quart (1 liter) mason jar or a wide-mouthed plastic container (like the one used in the video). The best option is to use a ceramic crock, a product specifically designed for fermenting vegetables. It would be great if you used a real cabbage stomper to pack the shredded cabbage (but it’s ok to use your hands if you don’t have one). You will need some kid of a weight to keep your batch under the brine. Crocks come with special weighing stones in the package, but you can use a smaller mason jar (like a jelly jar) filled with water if you are making your first batch in a big mason jar or a plastic container.
What about the cabbage? You want to have about 1¾ lbs. (28 ounces, 800 grams) of shredded cabbage, but you also need to place several whole leaves on top of the batch, so pick a nice 2 – 2½ lbs. cabbage. Or if you want to make a larger batch, you will need 5 lbs. of shredded cabbage and a larger container (such as the plastic one used in the video). Oh, and make sure all the jars and utensils are clean before you start.
2. Shredding the cabbage
First separate several large whole leaves – you will need them later. Just don’t use the limp/ shriveled or dirty outer leaves – discard those and separate several healthy large leaves from the next inner layers. Then, cut your cabbage into quarters. You need to cut your cabbage into uniformly thin slices. You can use a kitchen knife (if you have a lot of spare time and strong wrists). It is much easier to shred the cabbage into equally thin pieces using a cabbage shredder. Although you are safe as long as you use the shredder properly, you might want to use a protective glove on the hand you use to hold the cabbage during shredding. It will keep you finger safe, but also offer you some piece of mind.
3. Adding salt, salt to cabbage ratio
Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of mineral-rich salt on the 1¾ lbs of the shredded cabbage or If you make a larger batch 3 Tbsp. salt for 5 lbs. of shredded vegetables. This amount of salt is perfect for this amount of cabbage. You need the salt to prevent the competing microorganisms from spoiling your batch during the first few days. After that, the fermentation process begins, and your cabbage is naturally preserved and safe. You need to use just the right amount of salt. The usual rule of thumb is about 2% by weight. Too much can interfere with the fermentation process, and besides – too much salt is bad for your health. On the other hand, if you don’t add enough, your sauerkraut will not be fermented enough. The chunks will be soft and slimy, and the whole batch might go to waste.
4. Making the brine (massaging and squeezing)
Massage the cabbage with strong hands to create your brine. Salt will naturally draw the water from the cabbage. Just knead your shredded cabbage for a few minutes, and the cabbage will start releasing water. Sauerkraut brine is very healthy. If you want some extra brine to drink for the health benefits or if you feel that you don’t have enough brine to keep your batch safely submerged – you can easily add more. Just add more water and salt (1 Tbsp of salt for 2 cups of water) and there you go.
5. Packing the cabbage
Pack the cabbage into a 1-quart (a quarter of a gallon or about 1 liter or two pints) wide-mouth mason jar. Press the cabbage tightly with your fist or a large spoon so the brine rises above the top of the vegetables. Using your hands or a large spoon is ok, but for best effects and more tightly packed cabbage, we recommend you use a real stomper. Leave 1-2 inches of space between your cabbage and the top of the jar.
6. Weight it down under the brine
Place those nice, large leaves you set aside earlier on top of the packed cabbage. Then you need to put a weight on top of that to keep your batch submerged in brine. This is extremely important! Your entire batch needs to be in an anaerobe environment – which means completely under the brine. In the video, we use a small jar filled with water, but you can use something else – weights are just as good or even better – just as long as they are not made of metal.
7. How to seal and store, what about the temperature?
Lightly screw on the lid as in the video, so that the gases naturally released during the fermentation can still escape (screwing it on too tightly may cause it to burst out all at once and make a big mess). If you use a container that has to be closed tight – make sure you “burp” the batch every now and then. The optimal fermentation temperature is between 18-23ºC or 65-75ºF. Make sure to maintain this temperature until the fermentation process is complete. You want this temperature to be even, so it is best to keep it away from sources of direct sunlight or where the temperature might rise or fall significantly and spoil your ferment.
8. How long to ferment sauerkraut?
Wait for 7-28 days before transferring to the cold storage/fridge. The longer you leave your sauerkraut to ferment, the more beneficial microorganisms it will produce.
9. Serve it, eat it and enjoy it!
Congratulations, your first batch of homemade sauerkraut is now complete and ready to be served. Just make sure you don’t contaminate your batch when you decide to serve some of your delicious sauerkraut. The old saying “A hand in the pot spoils the lot” is completely true. In fact, it would be best if you used proper utensils to handle the cabbage. Use wooden tongs to move the kraut during the fermentation or grab some when you want to take it out of the jar and serve it.
The recipe featured in this guide and the video should result in delicious and crispy kraut. You can make a number of variations of sauerkraut salad, or use it to prepare a wide selection of dishes from this book of recipes. However you decide to prepare it, we are sure you are going to enjoy the great taste and the crunchy texture of this great recipe.
Sauerkraut Health Benefits
Fermented foods offer incredible health benefits because they promote gut health by increasing its number of healthy bacteria. A diet rich in these foods increases the amount of healthy, food-related organisms in your gastrointestinal tract. This not only promotes general stomach well-being and health, but it also boosts your immune system and can prevent and even help cure a number of diseases such as Heart Disease, Obesity, Colon Cancer, Breast Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes and others.
Homemade sauerkraut is one of the healthiest fermented foods. It is so loaded with healthy nutrients, it is essentially a super-food. Sauerkraut is rich in vitamins (particularly C, B, K and U), minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese and copper), dietary fiber and a whole galaxy of beneficial probiotic bacteria. You can read in detail about the health benefits of sauerkraut in our previous blog post.
Not all Sauerkraut is Created Equal
Sauerkraut is so healthy, it even has preventive effects for various types of serious diseases (gastric cancer, peptic ulcer and breast cancer to name a few), but only if it is consumed raw. The agents of fermentation in sauerkraut – lactic acid and the living probiotic microorganisms – are responsible for some of its healthy properties.
Canning, cooking and pasteurizing kill these beneficial probiotics and also lower the amount of nutrients in fermented cabbage.
Store-bought vs. Homemade Sauerkraut
Most of the commercially available sauerkraut is canned or pasteurized. These variants are not only completely depleted of living probiotic microorganisms, they also contain unnecessary ingredients (some of which can even be harmful for your health, if used excessively):
- Vinegar (the sour taste in sauerkraut comes only from the natural process of fermentation)
- Sugar (sugars in cabbage are converted into lactic acid, which gives the cabbage its characteristic sour flavor. Some manufacturers add sugar to their products to make their product less sour)
- Excessive amount of salt
- Sodium benzoate, sodium bisulfate and other preservers. Sauerkraut does not need artificial preservers. The fermentation produces plenty of lactobacillus to keep it naturally preserved for a long time.
The only way to make sure you get all the benefits from sauerkraut and none of those unnecessary ingredients: make your own homemade sauerkraut!
Different Types of Sauerkraut – Recipe Variations
Here are some quick and easy sauerkraut variations for more exotic or spicy results such as the hot Korean variant – Kimchi. Each recipe features some additional ingredients. The amounts of spices and additional ingredients we specified in the variations below are the amounts required for the 1¾ lbs. of shredded cabbage. Just add the additional ingredients to the shredded cabbage so that they ferment together into delicious new flavored sauerkraut recipe:
- SWEET GARLIC
- 2 peeled and shredded carrots
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- GINGERY CARROT
- 2 peeled and shredded carrots
- 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- DELIGHTFUL DILL
- 1 Tbsp dried dill or several fresh sprigs
- BEET STILL MY HEART
- 1 medium peeled and shredded beet
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tsp caraway seeds or
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 bunch thinly sliced green onions
- 1 peeled and shredded carrot
- ½ cup grated radish
- 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Tips and Troubleshooting
Sometimes making sauerkraut does not go exactly according to plan, and your batch might end up having some suspicious-looking parts. Don’t be discouraged – occurrence of mold, dark chunks and other unplanned things in your sauerkraut is perfectly normal and most of the time, your batch can be saved. Here is a list of the most common issues/problems:
- Dark parts on top – Oxidation can affect the fermentation process if the salt content was uneven, temperatures were too high, or the sauerkraut was stored for too long at too high a temp. Discard the darkened kraut.
- Mold on top – The fermentation temperature was too high and the kraut wasn’t well covered. Remove moldy sauerkraut immediately.
- Rot on the top – The sauerkraut wasn’t well covered during fermentation; discard the rotten portion.
- Soft texture – Too little salt was used, the salting was uneven of the fermentation temperatures were too high.
- Sliminess – The Temperature was too high during the ferment, or the salt content too low.
- White scum on top – Yeast is the culprit. The sauerkraut wasn’t covered well during the ferment. Skim the scum off daily.
If you have any comments, questions or sauerkraut recipes of your own, we would love to read them and feature them on our site. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or contact us directly via e-mail or our contact page.