Sauerkraut Recipe: It Can’t Get Any Easier for the Perfect ‘kraut! (2024)

A fermented sauerkraut recipe with directions for optional home canning. This sauerkraut recipe involves several separate steps so you might think it will be hard, complicated messy!

Totally wrong impression.

It is actually pretty easy. Just take one step at a time.

Sauerkraut Recipe: It Can’t Get Any Easier for the Perfect ‘kraut! (1)

It is a lengthy process, it won’t be over in a day. Most of it is just waiting for the fermentation to happen.

But when you are done….. oh my! The best sauerkraut you can imagine. Doesn’t even compare to the stuff in the cans from the store

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. It is the only way it has been tested as safe for storage in jars on a shelf. Remember this is not plain cabbage, don’t skip the fermenting part.

I’ll divide this page into a couple of parts, first a fermented sauerkraut recipe and how to ferment. And then how to store it… which means in the fridge or canning for storage on the shelf.

Canning is totally optional. Heat processing does reduce the health benefits you’ll get from the fermentation process. The probiotics that are produced while fermenting are so very good for you.

But home-canned sauerkraut is still much better than commercially processed. I can’t even eat the store variety anymore. blech.

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Preparing your cabbage

Find some nice fresh healthy green cabbage. Remove any outer leaves that are damaged or are wilted. Core the cabbage. The easiest way to do this is to:

  • Use a sharp knife and cut the cabbage in half just to one side of the stem.
  • Then cut the piece with the stem in half again just to one side of the stem.
  • One more cut down the side of the stem should take the core right out.

Next, you will need to slice the cabbage into sliver-thin shreds. I use a mandolin slicer, you can also just use a knife, a food processor, or whatever tools you have.

If you use a knife be sure and get your slices very very thin. You can chop it too if you’d like. Personally, I like more of a shredded texture.

Sauerkraut Recipe: It Can’t Get Any Easier for the Perfect ‘kraut! (2)

Weigh this cabbage. If you have more than 5 pounds, separate out 5 pounds and place them in a large bowl. Mix in 3 T pickling salt. Mix well, tossing and getting the salt spread out as evenly as possible.

Do this again with your next 5 pounds of cabbage.

You want to mix in 3 Tablespoons of salt for every 5 pounds of cabbage.

Cover cabbage with a cloth and allow it to rest for a few minutes. This will cause it to wilt and soften. It also makes it easier to pack into your jars for fermenting.

Packing your jars or fermenting container

Sauerkraut Recipe: It Can’t Get Any Easier for the Perfect ‘kraut! (3)

Raw pack your shredded cabbage tightly into jars. I had 3 heads of green cabbage and ended up with 2 half-gallon jars and a one-gallon size jar. Pack it tightly with a wooden spoon or a kraut pounder.

I recently got a kraut pounder. The brand I use calls there’s a Pickle Packer. It is so much easier! I’ve used a spoon in the past. It does work. But the flat end of the pounder pushes the kraut down much better.

It is called a pounder… but if you let the cabbage wilt before you try to pack the jars, you really don’t have to pound. Just a solid pressure down packs it nicely.

As you press the cabbage down juice should be rising to cover it. Stop packing when you are 4 inches or so below the top of your jar. Right around the shoulder of the jar.

If you don’t have enough cabbage juice to fully cover, add some brine to the jars so the cabbage is completely covered with a couple of inches of liquid. Be generous.

Extra Brine Recipe – 1.5 Tablespoons salt to 1 quart water. Just bring this to a boil and let it cool.

Weigh your cabbage down with something to keep it below the brine level.

  • Cheesecloth works but not nearly as well as other fermenting lids. I’ve also used a saved leaf from the cabbage itself.
  • Pickle Pebbles are another product that I have that work pretty slick.
  • If you are using a crock, try using a plate that will just fit inside the crock close to the edges. Place something on top to keep it down. A small jar filled with brine works. The goal is to keep the shredded cabbage submerged.
  • The simplest method if you don’t have handy weights, is to place a small brine-filled storage baggie inside the fermenting jar on top. Fill this with a brine mixture, not plain water. If the bag breaks you don’t want to lower the salt content of the brine in the ferment.

Cover your jars. This time around I tested out 3 methods,

  • new fermenting lid,
  • my airlock (which I’ve used before)
  • and simply covered in cheesecloth.

I’ve got a review of the 3 fermenting lid methods and my favorite here.

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The wait for fermentation.

Now for the fun part. The wait. Store jars in a cool place for 3 to 6 weeks. I label mine with the start date, and an estimated end date so I know when to check it.

As it sits and ferments bubbles will form, that is normal. You may need to press down on the cabbage again to keep it from floating and peeking out above the brine. Keep it covered. This prevents oxygen from getting in.

I like to keep mine in a bowl or pan. Occasionally if you get your container too full, they will bubble over and overflow. Not a big deal but clean-up is easier if you’ve prepared before.

If you have covered your jar with cheesecloth or a cloth, scum may form on top. That is also normal (though icky). This scum should be skimmed off daily. It should not smell ‘bad’. It will smell ferment-y-ish, and well…. like sauerkraut.

This is why I would recommend you consider using one of the choices of fermentation lids that are available. When I use these, I don’t get any scum. To me that makes them worth the purchase. See the link to my review of a couple of different kinds above.

Choose How to Store Sauerkraut

Once your sauerkraut recipe is done you have two choices.

  1. Move your ferments to a refrigerator and store there. It will last a very long time. Remember this is a fermented product which has all kinds of great health benefits. Probiotics which are great for the gut.
  2. Process your sauerkraut in a waterbath canner so you can store it on a shelf. (directions below)

I do both. I have jars in my storage and I have a gallon of kraut in the fridge. (well last I checked it was down to the halfway mark.)

It is a simple matter to can it in a boiling water canner so you can store it on the shelf. You can also just place the jars in the fridge.

Sauerkraut Recipe

Prepare cabbage: Remove outer leaves, core cabbage, and slice in half. Slice cabbage into very thin slices.

Weight out 5 pounds and mix in 3 Tablespoons salt. Mix well.

Allow cabbage to rest for about an hour. Until wilted and slightly juicy.

Pack tightly into containers. Add one layer, press down tightly. Add another layer, press down tightly. Continue until all cabbage is used.

Add Brine if needed. Cabbage must be fully covered. To make brine; bring one-quart water and 1.5 Tablespoons salt to a boil. Let cool.

Weigh down cabbage so all cabbage remains under the brine. Some choices of things to use are:

  • Pickle Pebbles (love my pickle pebbles!)
  • Cabbage Leaf
  • Container size plate with jar on top
  • Baggie filled with brine.

Cover your container with a cloth, or fermenting lid. Pickle Pipe is my recommendation.

Store your jars for fermenting in a cool dark place. The best temperature is 70-75 degrees. About 3- 4 weeks. This may vary according to your actual temperature. Cooler temperatures may require more time, warmer temperatures may require a shorter time.

Remove scum if you need to. Having a fermenting lid will likely make this unnecessary.

When fermented to your taste, move your ferment to the refrigerator or process it for storage on the shelf.

Canning Sauerkraut

Step one – You will need to heat your sauerkraut before filling your jars for processing. This is a hot pack method. Pour your sauerkraut into a large pot and bring to a low boil.

Step two- Fill jars. Either pint or quart size jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Make sure brine covers solid ingredients.

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Step 3 – Wipe your rims clean and place your lids on the jars with the screw bands.

Step 4 – Process in a water bath canner according to the process times listed below. Be sure and adjust for both your altitude and jar size.

If you need more on how to use a water bath canner check this page.

Pints are proceesed for:

  • 0-1000 ft / 10 minutes
  • 1001-3000 ft / 15 minutes
  • 3001-6000 ft / 15 minutes
  • 6001 ft- and higher / 20 minutes

Quarts are processed for:

  • 0-1000 ft / 15 minutes
  • 1001-3000 / 20 minutes
  • 3001-6000 / 20 minutes
  • 6001 ft and higher / 25 minutes

Remember: This cabbage product is safe for the water bath only because of the fermenting you have done. Please don’t adapt this recipe to unfermented cabbage!

source: NCFHFP

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you pressure can or water bath sauerkraut?

A water bath is sufficient for sauerkraut. The fermentation process makes this acidified food. So the pressure is not needed

Do you have to heat sauerkraut before canning?

Yes, the canning process was tested with a hot pack. Some people don’t like to heat their sauerkraut but if you want to can it you’ll need to.

Does canning stop fermentation?

Yes, the canning process does stop fermentation. More importantly, canning does stop the benefits of the probiotics in your fermented sauerkraut.
This is why I like to store some of my sauerkraut without processing and some with. I’ve then got the probiotic benefits of what is in my fridge but my fridge is only so big. The jars on the shelf are great for later convenience.

Sauerkraut Recipe: It Can’t Get Any Easier for the Perfect ‘kraut! (2024)
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