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How to Make Sauerkraut

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Sauerkraut made at home has no peer in a can at a deli counter. Follow these tips on how to make homemade sauerkraut of your own!

Tips Before You Start

  • Sauerkraut is prepared entirely in a brining crock. Don't worry about going out and buying an expensive stoneware crock—"crocks" can be any unchipped enamel pot or large glass jar. The gallon, wide-mouth jars that restaurants use to buy pickles in work beautifully. 
  • If you have an old crock you want to use, don't use it if there is a white film on the inside that disappears when wet and reappears upon drying. That crock has been used for waterglassing eggs; there is no way to remove it and it will ruin your sauerkraut. 
  • The old jingle "A hand in the pot spoils the lot" is completely true. Keep your hands, and any metal object, out of the crock. Use wooden spoons and mashers and glass or crockery for dipping and weighting. 
  • The best and freshest ingredients will yield the best sauerkraut. You can make relish with your old, tough cabbage, but use your young, fresh, tender cabbage for your sauerkraut.

Making Your Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut has many uses; from piling it on sandwiches to covering bratwurst  to even making a cake with it, you will have no trouble finding uses for your homemade sauerkraut.

  • For a 1-gallon container, core and shred 5 pounds of cabbage. Measure out 3 tablespoons of pickling (or kosher or dairy) salt.
  • Alternate layers of cabbage with a sprinkling of salt, tapping each layer with a wooden spoon or potato masher. The top layer should be salt. This will not seem like it's enough salt, but it will give you a 2 1/2 percent solution, the perfect strength for fermentation. 
  • Boil an old dish towel or piece of sheeting for 5 minutes and cover the crock with it. Weight this down with a flat plate the size of the inside of the crock and weight it down with a canning jar full of water. If you're using a glass jar, you won't need to weight it down. Let it sit for a day. 
  • If you used fresh and tender cabbage, by the next day you should have enough brine to cover the cabbage. If you don't, make more brine by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons to a cup of water and add enough to cover.
  • In 2 or 3 days, white scum will form on the top. Skim this off, replace the cloth with a newly boiled one, wash the plate, and replace it all. Repeat this skimming (a 5-minute job) each day until the bubbles stop rising, or for about 2 weeks. Then your sauerkraut is done!
  • At this point, simply keep the cabbage below the brine with the plate, cover the crock tightly, and store at 40°F to 50°F. If your cellar isn't that cool, heat the sauerkraut just to simmering, pack in canning jars, seal, and process in a water bath 20 minutes for quarts, 15 minutes for pints.

Try your freshly made sauerkraut in these recipes!

When to make sauerkraut? Some folks swear that the best days are by the Moon's sign. See our Best Days timetable.

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Comments

I live at 6,700 ft. Altitude

By Jan Bowcut on October 19

I live at 6,700 ft. Altitude and wanted my cabbages to get as big as possible so I just picked them a month ago. I used my food sealing bags to store them, but the bags have inflated and the heads smell like the beginning of sauerkraut . Is there a way I can slice them with a plastic knife and begin the brining process now? I hate to throw them out after all the babying I did this summer, but don't want to poison the family either.

It's recommended to store a

By Almanac Staff on October 20

It's recommended to store a whole head of cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. The older it gets, the stronger the flavor and odor will be. Remove the cabbage from the bag, cut off any parts that are soft or discolored. Only use fresh crisp parts of the cabbage for sauerkraut.

Thank you for all your

By Tom Willis on October 1

Thank you for all your comments. I'm new at making Sauerkraut and looking forward to trying the recipe listed on The Old Farmer's Almanac.

I made sauerkraut this year.

By Donna Buchanan on September 30

I made sauerkraut this year. I used 6 5 gallon plastic bucket, food grade and weighted the kraut with a glass plate and lidded canning jars filled with water. Three buckets turned out pretty and light cloudy water....However 3 have white kraut, but the water on top is more of a dark tan... Is it still good to eat or not...?? Smells wonderful, pretty and white, but the liquid gives me pause.....

You have us stumped, Donna.

By Almanac Staff on October 2

You have us stumped, Donna. We have not heard of this problem before, nor were we able to find you a succinct answer. We suggest contacting your local cooperative extension service and asking if they have a canning/pickling expert on staff. Use this link to find your state's office:
http://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services

I have scraped off the moldy

By Linda Strub

I have scraped off the moldy substance, but I am afraid of the liquid that is left. The kraut smells o.k., but the cloudy liquid scares me.
Is this alright to eat?

Cloudy brine is normal. If

By Almanac Staff

Cloudy brine is normal. If you let the liquid sit for awhile, eventually it will settle to the bottom making your brine clear.

I have 17 large heads of

By Al Lewis

I have 17 large heads of cabbage & just bought a 15 gallon crock. Is it ok to make my sauerkraut in that large of a quantity by just adding more & more layers of the cabbage & salt until the cabbage is all in or the crock is full?

Hi Al, Yes you can use the 15

By Almanac Staff

Hi Al,

Yes you can use the 15 gallon crock to make sauerkraut. The crock can hold about 75 lbs. of prepared cabbage. Before you start filling the crock put it in the spot where you are going to keep it as it will be heavy to move later. Just make sure to leave at least 4 to 5 inches of space between the cabbage and the top of the crock.

A 5-gallon container will hold about 25 pounds of prepare

Great post. I have

By Philip Baron

Great post. I have experimented with using mason jars but find using a fido-style jar along with fermentation weights such as Pickle Pebbles (available at masontops.com and ebay and amazon) take the guesswork out of making sauerkraut at home. Since I made the change I have never had a batch go bad on me.

I always make my sour kraut

By Kathryn Casto

I always make my sour kraut by the signs,Can you tell me when will it be the best time to make it in July

Yes! See our Best Days

By Almanac Staff

Yes! See our Best Days timetable which always shows the current next month and includes making kraut: www.almanac.com/bestdays/timetable

Is it alright to use a

By Dennis D

Is it alright to use a plastic 5 gallon container such as those sold at Home Depot if one cannot find a crock or some large pottery or ceramic vessel.???

You can use a plastic

By Almanac Staff

You can use a plastic container, but be sure it is food-grade plastic and has not previously held non-food substances.
Also keep in mind that a plastic container can leach chemicals and is more prone to scratches that can harbor harmful bacteria.
If you have a slow cooker, you can use the stoneware insert.

O.K. so the curtido that my

By sherriemiranda

O.K. so the curtido that my ex-mother-in-law makes has nothing to do with sauerkraut as it is fresh cabbage with vinegar and herbs and spices. It is delicious, especially on pupusas.
My question: Does it still have probiotics or not?

If you use organic apple

By Anne Bass on October 4

If you use organic apple cider vinegar, it has plenty of probiotics that would be added to your salad. Braggs is our favorite brand!

We made saurkraut and the top

By Laura Dyck

We made saurkraut and the top formed with a green mold. We took the top off and underneath it smelled fine.
Is this safe to eat?

Mold takes advantage of any

By Almanac Staff

Mold takes advantage of any air-contact space on the top of the brine. Scrape it off. The sauerkraut is still edible.

Thanks for that advice. I

By Laura Dyck

Thanks for that advice. I was thinking it might be alright, but if no one else has had this problem it might be better to start over.

I have made delicious kraut

By Tess Plunkett on October 14

I have made delicious kraut for 2 years, and this time I have a green mold on top. I have wiped it once, and it is back again. It doesn't really touch the kraut, but I think I am going to remove the kraut, clean the crock and proceed with fermentation.

Boy, I really don't know, I

By Ronald Baird

Boy, I really don't know, I have never had green or any other mold on my kraut, I would be really afraid to eat it, the only thing I ever have on my kraut is a light gray scum that skims right off about every other day, for safety sake I would start over, really clean out the container you used and try again.

good recipe for

By Peter Harris

good recipe for Sauerkraut.

Regarding creamy slaw i use this one , which always comes out nice.

-In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the salt.
-Let stand until cabbage begins to soften, about 15 minutes.
-Add the sour cream, lemon juice and pickled jalapeno and toss well.
-Add the scallions and cilantro and toss again.
-Season with salt.
-Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

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I want to make cream slaw but

By Teresa sanders

I want to make cream slaw but I don't have a recipe. Do you have one?

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