Sauerkraut is a delicious winter staple that can accompany almost every meal. We’re not talking about the sauerkraut you can buy from the grocery store, we’re talking about the pungent, savory, and delicious sauerkraut you can make at home. It’s sour and crunchy, perfect for a sandwich, as a side or as a topping, and it’s so super easy to make.
Whether you made pickled veggies before or not, we’re sure our tips for how to make sauerkraut will help you out and turn you into an expert in no time. Out of all the pickles, sauerkraut is actually the easiest to make. The fermentation process is simple and it doesn’t even require a brine. In fact, all you need is two ingredients and a mason jar.
Sauerkraut is perfect for kids too because you don’t have to use spices or vinegar or anything that a child is not allowed to eat or not too fond of, however, it’s still delicious. Moreover, sauerkraut is one of the healthiest fermented foods; it contains almost as many probiotics as yogurt does.
But, since it’s vegan, everyone can have it, including people who are lactose-intolerant or vegans.
If you’re still not convinced, let us say that making sauerkraut at home can help you save money. In grocery stores, a jar of sauerkraut can cost you up to $7 but if you make it at home, you’ll cut the cost and save some money. And you’ll make it organic and healthy.
Sure, you have to wait a little bit to get your sauerkraut because fermentation takes some time but we have to say homemade sauerkraut is always the best kind so, in our book, it’s always worth the wait.
Let’s not waste any more time and begin our sauerkraut conversation. In the following paragraphs, we’ve got tips, tricks, and everything you need to know about how to make sauerkraut.
How Is Sauerkraut Made?
To make sauerkraut, the cabbage goes through a process called lacto-fermentation. This process is oftentimes used to make pickled cucumbers and kimchi as well and, despite sounding, complicated it’s actually a very easy process. There is no heat-treatment involved and no vinegar, just some cabbage and salt.
Lacto-fermentation is a natural preservation method that has been used for hundreds of years. It does not only allow to preserve veggies and fruits beyond their regular shelf-life but it also makes for a delicious side.
This fermentation process is safe and natural so you don’t have to worry about harmful bacteria.
With lacto-fermentation, natural bacteria convert the sugar in the vegetables in lactic acid, giving veggies the pungent-sour taste pickles are known for; that delicious taste makes for a healthy and incredible side.
Since no water is necessary for cabbage fermentation, sauerkraut contains a higher amount of probiotics than many other pickled veggies.
How To Make Homemade Sauerkraut
If you made any type of pickles in the past, you know fermentation projects are actually very easy. In fact, sauerkraut is probably the easiest of them all. There’s no need for special equipment and complicated steps. And the results are almost always delicious.
To make sauerkraut, you need shredded cabbage, salt, and a container of your choice. If you want to make a small batch, a mason jar will do just fine. Since the cabbage releases liquid, you don’t even need water to make a brine.
All you have to do is place the shredded cabbage mixed with salt in a mason jar, cover the jar, and allow the cabbage to ferment slowly until it becomes the sauerkraut we all love so much.
What Do You Need to Make Sauerkraut?
For basic sauerkraut, all you need is cabbage and salt, as we previously mentioned. You’ll also need a container or a jar for the fermentation process and storage.
You can use a cloth to keep the jar covered but we highly recommend using our Easy Fermenter Lids because they make things easier than they already are.
While it’s not mandatory, some people love to add spices and herbs to their sauerkraut. So if you’re looking for extra flavor, you can add finely chopped dill, ginger or caraway seeds during the fermentation process.
Furthermore, you can add chopped veggies too. You can choose between garlic and carrots or experiment with other veggies.
What Kind Of Cabbage Is Best For Sauerkraut?
You can make sauerkraut with pretty much any type of cabbage but you should probably stay away from varieties that are more prone to develop cabbage yellow disease (fusarium yellows).
Red cabbage, Danish Ballhead cabbage, Napa cabbage, Premium Late Dutch cabbage, and Late Flat Head cabbage are very good options for sauerkraut. You can use one type only or mix two or more types to make colorful sauerkraut.
How Much Salt Do You Need To Make Sauerkraut?
While this is one of the most asked questions when it comes to sauerkraut, it’s hard to answer with precision because it depends on how salty you want your sauerkraut to be.
As a general rule, you should use one tablespoon of salt for 800 grams (1¾ pound) of cabbage. That’s 1 tablespoon of salt for a one-liter (1-quart) jar. If you prefer less salty sauerkraut, add only ¾ tablespoon of salt per 800 g of cabbage. And if you like it salty, add a tablespoon and a half.
We think it’s best to start with a tablespoon and add more salt when serving if it’s the sauerkraut is not salty enough for your taste.
How Long Does It Take To Make Sauerkraut?
Some say you have to let the sauerkraut ferment for at least 20 days, others say 2 weeks is more than enough. Just like with salt, it really depends on your taste.
For a small jar, 7 days can be enough but you can definitely let the sauerkraut ferment for many days after that. The bacteria that enable the fermentation do most of the work in the first 7 days so after that the flavor just gets stronger.
The best way to determine the perfect fermentation time for you is to taste the sauerkraut after 7 days. When it reaches your desired taste and texture, you can refrigerate it.
Make sure that, while it’s fermenting, you keep the sauerkraut container or jar in a dark place, away from direct sunlight, at room temperature (65 degrees F - 75 degrees F).
What Do You Eat With Sauerkraut?
Whatever you like, really! But if you want some ideas, we think sauerkraut tastes incredibly well with potato salad. It’s also excellent in egg salad or to add some crunch to a salmon bagel. It works with avocado toast too. And you can always add it to a burrito, use it in a dip or as a salad dressing.
Do You Have To Rinse Sauerkraut?
There’s absolutely no need to rinse sauerkraut before serving. However, you can definitely do it if the flavor is too pungent for your liking. To do so, transfer the sauerkraut in a colander and rinse it under cold water.
How To Store Sauerkraut
Since sauerkraut is a fermented product, you can store it for a long period of time. The average time is two months but oftentimes it keeps longer if refrigerated.
If you prefer, you can try canning sauerkraut to keep for longer outside of the fridge. However, it is likely that the canning process will kill some of the good bacteria that were produced during the fermentation process, altering the taste.
As a rule of thumb, as long as the sauerkraut tastes good and smells good, it is good to eat.
Tips For Making The Best Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar
Not much can go wrong when you make sauerkraut, however, if you are a sauerkraut newbie, it is natural to have some concerns. That’s why we decided to give you some extra tips that will ensure your sauerkraut-making process will be successful from the first try.
You want to keep harmful bacteria away to allow the good bacteria to do its job so make sure you start with a clean jar.
Prep The Ingredients
Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage then cut it in quarters. Remove the core and then slice the quarters in half. Slice the eight wedges crosswise into thin ribbons. You can do this with a knife or with a food processor. Weigh the cabbage and calculate how much salt you need.
Add salt over the cabbage and toss. Let the cabbage sit for 15 minutes and then massage it thoroughly for at least 5 minutes. This will help the cabbage to release the liquid needed for the brine. When you’re done, you should see some liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
Now it’s time to add other spices, herbs, and veggies if you want.
Prep The Jar
Once you’re done with prepping the cabbage, transfer it to the jar or container of your choice. Press the cabbage down with a spatula or your fist. Pour the liquid you obtained from massaging the cabbage in the jar.
You can use a cabbage leaf to cover the surface of the shredded cabbage. In this way, you’re sure the cabbage will remain submerged in the brine.
Cover the jar with a cloth or our Easy Fermenter Lids. Our lids are special because they keep mold and unwanted bacteria away from your sauerkraut, allowing for a simple and smooth fermentation process.
You don’t want to use a classic lid because you have to allow airflow in and out of the jar but you want to protect the sauerkraut from insects and mold.
During the first 24 hours, you have to check on your sauerkraut from time to time. Make sure you press the cabbage down every few hours. The cabbage will release a lot of liquid during this time and you want to make sure the cabbage is always submerged in the liquid instead of sitting on top of it.
After 24 hours, if the cabbage did not release enough liquid to be fully submerged, you have to make a brine and add it in the jar to submerge the cabbage.
Remember, do this only if there’s not enough liquid in the jar already. To make the brine, mix one cup of water with a teaspoon of salt and pour it in the jar until it covers the cabbage.
Allow the sauerkraut to ferment for as long as needed, checking on it from time to time. You have to remember that smaller batches ferment faster than larger batches so keep that in mind for taste tests.
If you see bubbles or foam forming at the top of the jar during the fermentation process, don’t worry. This is normal and it means the fermentation process is going perfectly.
You can skim the scum that forms during the process but you can also do this at the end of the fermentation process, before you transfer the sauerkraut to the fridge.
If you don’t use Easy Fermenter Lids, you might see mold growing on the surface of the brine during the fermentation process. You can remove the mold and continue the process. You don’t have to panic.
The mold forms when the cabbage is not fully submerged in the brine or when the temperature is too high. If it’s due to unsubmerged cabbage, all you have to do is make sure the cabbage is always submerged by checking the jar more often or using a cabbage leaf to keep the cabbage down. If the temperature is too high, move the container in a darker and cooler place in your house.
However, while usually a little bit of mold is not a reason to panic, it’s best to check the sauerkraut to be sure it’s still good. If the smell doesn’t seem right to you, don’t continue the process and toss the batch!
If you want to avoid these problems altogether, use our special lids because they will definitely keep the mold away.
Lastly, you have to remember that cold temperatures are very important for sauerkraut. It’s not ok to refrigerate the sauerkraut during the fermentation process because that temperature is too low and it will take longer for the cabbage to finish fermenting. Cool room temperature is the best for sauerkraut. If it’s too hot, the sauerkraut can go become mushy, go bad or simply be unappetizing.