How to Make Sauerkraut

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe & Tips

June 26, 2019
how-to-make-sauerkraut

Learn how to make a delicicous bowl of sauerkraut from fresh cabbage.

Crestock

Store-bought sauerkraut can’t compete with the homemade stuff. Follow our sauerkraut recipe to learn how to make 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 (preserving) 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.

How to Make 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 ½ 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 ½ teaspoons salt 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.

Sauerkraut Recipes

Try your freshly made sauerkraut in these recipes!

More Pickling Projects

Interested in pickling or fermenting other garden vegetables? Here are some tips on how to make kimchi, another fermented dish made with cabbage—and good for digestion, too! Also learn how to make dill pickles, an old-fashioned classic.

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

How did your sauerkraut come out?

Source: 

The Forgotten Arts, Book Five, 1982

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

My husband taught me the old

My husband taught me the old way of making kraut, by using a crock, the first thing you do is take an apple and cut it in half ( I take the seeds out) and place it on the bottom of the crock. It has been many years since I have make homemade sauerkraut but (his mother also used this recipe for many many years) Awesome tasting, after it is fermented you discard the apple.

Apple in saukraut

Do you put the apple in the crock before you put the cabbage in it? Do you peel the apple? Which way do you place the apple Would use this method with a glass jar? Sorry for so many questions.

Hey, guys! You've got a few

Hey, guys! You've got a few new posts here over the last couple of months, one of them in May from me, and we're all eager for responses. Any takers?

No bubbling means you packed

The Editors's picture

No bubbling means you packed your cabbage as dense as possible, which is not a problem. If you followed the recipe, didn't use too little or too much salt, didn't use tap water, and you are keeping temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees, everything should be fine. You can also taste the kraut to see if it is fermenting. Make sure you are keeping it covered and keeping the cover weighted down.

Thanks for the response! In

Thanks for the response! In the time between my May post and my first June post, my sauerkraut brine began to turn brown. Still no bubbling. All the cabbage has been nicely submerged and there is no mold anywhere. The works smells vaguely like sauerkraut, but the cabbage is crunchy and tastes like salt. This batch has been on the go for ten weeks and the darkening brine is bothering me greatly. Any insight?

My Krauth has been fermenting

My Krauth has been fermenting for four weeks , so we checked it today and it is kind of dry and brownish color on top. Is this a normal thing or a problem? This is my first batch. So any advice is welcomed.

Hi Donna, If the sauerkraut

The Editors's picture

Hi Donna,
If the sauerkraut is dry on the top it has not been submerged in the brine. Remove the dry brown layer and make sure there is no mold or bad smell in the jar.

Hi there from Vietnam, where

Hi there from Vietnam, where the temperature is around 30°C/86°F day and night…

I know you said: less then 70°F/22°C

But with my kind of temperature, do I have any chance of making any sauerkraut?

Would my last possibility be the refrigerator? (I cannot adjust it, and it is just above freezing point)

Or put it in my bedroom with air conditioning on (and sleep with the smell) for one month ($50 extra electricity)?

I also thought covering my jar with a heavy wet beach towel, and put a fan on it… That could be a bit cool.

Well, maybe in the "winter months" the temperature will drop enough, let's say, around 25-28° C/77-80°F

Waiting for a suggestion before going to the market…

Thanks!

bury it in the ground where

bury it in the ground where the temp is much cooler,the locals and Koreans use this method for Kimchi as well.
Hope this helps.

I mix 1 cup of white

I mix 1 cup of white vinegar,3/4 cup of pickling salt in a gallon jug. I put my cut up cabbage in either quart or 1/2 gallon jars,not packing it too hard,and pour the mixture in the jars over the cabbage.Put lids on and set in dark cool place.Be ready to eat in 4 to 6 wks.You do not have to seal the lids. (Sorry i forgot to say,fill your gal.of salt and vinegar with distilled water.Make sure it is mixed good).

Parris do I need to boil the

Parris do I need to boil the mixture before pouring it over the cabbage?

I have kraut that was started

I have kraut that was started 8 days ago & for the first 4 days was working & skimming every day. Cabbage is below liquid but not bubbling any more. The crock was really packed tight to start, can it be packed too tight???

Hi Jimmy, Taste the kraut. It

The Editors's picture

Hi Jimmy,
Taste the kraut. It may be done fermenting. If you like the taste put the crock in a cool place or in a refrigerator.

Similar problem here, except

Similar problem here, except that the batch I started eight days ago doesn't seem to be doing much at all. The green of the cabbage is facing and there's plenty of brine, but I only occasionally see any trace of separation and there's no bubbling at all. No scum, no haze... just fading. It's sitting stable on the kitchen counter, no drafts, away from direct light, at temps 67-70 degrees F. Is anything happening?

Is there a book that have

Is there a book that have more than 1 way to make sauerkraut? apple, garlic, any other.

Hi Gary, You can experiment

The Editors's picture

Hi Gary,
You can experiment by adding garlic or bite-size veggies to the crock or jar.
Cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, chillies, celery, cucumbers, baby eggplants, bell peppers, and green tomatoes are all good additions. Add spice like fennel or cumin seeds, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, or sage.

What do you think about using

What do you think about using celery juice in place of some of the brine? I tried it and my kraut tastes good but it's a light brown color. I wonder if the celery juice affected the color?

Is it normal for salt

Is it normal for salt crystals to form on the outside of the crock when making home made sauerkraut

It sounds like you may have

The Editors's picture

It sounds like you may have dripped some brine on your container. This shouldn't pose a problem.

I have a batch of sauerkraut

I have a batch of sauerkraut on the go right now. Made it a week ago and for the first few days the brine kept overflowing because I filled the cabbage almost to the top of the crock. I wasn't concerned because the cabbage was below the level of the brine. But now the brine level has gone down enough that some of the cabbage is exposed. Should I add more brine at this stage? It was happily bubbling and smelling wonderful but now the activity seems to have slowed down. Most advice I have read says it won't be done for 3 or 4 weeks but if there doesn't seem to be much going on should I still leave it for another 2 or 3 weeks? It looks great and I have been resisting the urge to eat it all week long!

Add enough boiled and cooled

The Editors's picture

Add enough boiled and cooled brine made from 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water to cover.

This is the first time I've

This is the first time I've made sauerkraut. I have never tasted it before so I don't know what it's meant to smell like Taste like or look like lol help please

It tastes like cabbage with a

It tastes like cabbage with a sour or pickled taste and good kraut should be crunchy not limp.

This is our first time making

This is our first time making sauerkraut. It has never really bubbled at all. It's in a glass jar. It looks like sauerkraut. Never really formed any scum on top. One time the towel covering it got some mold growing on top. I did have to top up with extra brine at the beginning. Will it be okay? Also, the jar has a lid. Can I use that instead of the towel and plate?

Have you tasted the

The Editors's picture

Have you tasted the sauerkraut? Is the brine clear or cloudy? Did you use pickling or kosher salt? While fermanting you need to use a plate or similar to puch the cabbage down into the brine. When done you can use the lid but you may need to process the jar in a water bath before storing it.
 

My family always made kraut

My family always made kraut every year close to x mas, I havent had fresh for about 15 yrs now so I just whipped up a batch 80lbs of cabbage, my father always ued a hard cabbage from new york state we cored and took off heavy splines and cut it with a cabbage cutter with steel blades which were always thoroly cleaned , we also put in salt with each layer and fresh horseradish too to keep it crisp, we used a wooden masher made from a 8 inch cut of log probably oak idk on a broom handle, we covered the top with some old oak boards very clean, sat a big rock on top and covered with a clean sheet, we always had water before we got to the top that was the victory! As kids we all took our turn tamping. Kraut was always good! Yes was also cleaned of scum foam as it fermented

I set a crock of kraut about

I set a crock of kraut about two weeks ago according to your directions. Opened it up tonight and it no longer is covered w brine however it tastes alright. I took some out to cook and when I dug into the middle thie brine seemed cloudy and a bit thick. Enough that it's a little stringy when lifted. Is it ok?
I covered and reset it. No mold no scum.

Remove any cabbage that looks

The Editors's picture

Remove any cabbage that looks suspicious, then add enough boiled and cooled brine made from 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water to cover.

My last batch of cabbage

My last batch of cabbage didn't really form any scum to speak of ... Even after 6 weeks. The cabbage tasted too 'fresh' nor like sauerkraut. The cabbage came from my garden... Too young? Bought a head fr farmers market & same issue 1-1/2 weeks later. I have followed the recipe precisely.

Did you use the right kind of

The Editors's picture

Did you use the right kind of salt? Also, when fermenting the cabbage, it must be kept cooler than 70 degrees F.

Pages