How to Make Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut makes itself -- you just mix the ingredients. It requires no coddling, doting or even precise measuring. Make classic sauerkraut with everyday supermarket-friendly white cabbage, but, for variety, any type of cabbage will do -- Napa, red and bok choy all ferment equally well. Size doesn't matter either; coarse, 1-inch pieces or thin, 1/4-inch shreds ferment in the same amount of time. You have only one loose guideline to follow to make sauerkraut in any quantity: Every 3 pounds of cabbage, or about 1 large head, requires at least 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt to start fermentation.

How to Make Sauerkraut
How to Make Sauerkraut (Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Kosher salt
  • Non-aluminum bowl
  • Vegetables to taste (optional)
  • Herbs and spices to taste (optional)
  • Crock or glass jars
  • Cheesecloth
Step 1:

Peel, core and chop the cabbage. Portion 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt for every large head, or for every 3 pounds of cabbage you chopped.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 2:

Add the cabbage to a non-aluminum bowl in layers, sprinkling a little salt on each layer.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 3:

Add other chopped vegetables, such as carrots, greens, garlic, ginger, peppers, to the cabbage to taste.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 4:

Add herbs and spices to taste. Peppercorns, parsley, dill, bay leaf, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, red pepper flakes and juniper berries are a few classic suggestions.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 5:

Mix the cabbage and pack it into a heavy crock, canning jar or sturdy food-grade plastic container. Punch the cabbage down forcefully into the container; you want to pop the cells and force out the water.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 6:

Set a weight on the cabbage that weighs a minimum of a few pounds for a large batch. A quart-sized glass jar filled with water does the job for a large batch. For smaller batches, a smaller jar filled with water works.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 7:

Cover the whole setup -- container and weight -- with a few layers of cheesecloth and tie twine around it to hold it in place; you want to keep out insects and debris while letting the cabbage breathe.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 8:

Set the cabbage aside to ferment. The ideal temperature for fermentation ranges from 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 9:

Press on the weight a few times a day to squeeze water out of the cabbage until it stays submerged. Taste the sauerkraut after 4 or 5 days of fermenting. Ferment the kraut longer for a stronger taste.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
Step 10:

Transfer the sauerkraut to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator up to 3 months.

(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)
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