How to Make Sauerkraut

Primary Image

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

Photo Credit

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe & Tips

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

Store-bought sauerkraut can’t compete with the homemade stuff. Follow our sauerkraut recipe to learn how to make sauerkraut of your own from fresh cabbage!

Before You Begin…

Before jumping into the sauerkrauting process, here are a few things to know about this specialty:

  • 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. Those wide-mouth gallon jars work beautifully. 
  • If you have an old crock you want to use, do not use it if there is a white film on the inside that disappears when wet and reappears upon drying. That crock has likely 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. Make relish with your old, tough cabbage, but use your young, fresh, tender cabbage for 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.

  1. For a 1-gallon container, core and shred 5 pounds of cabbage.
  2. Measure out 3 tablespoons of pickling (or kosher or dairy) salt.
  3. Alternate layers of cabbage with a sprinkling of salt, tapping each layer with a clean 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 2.5% solution, the perfect strength for fermentation. 
  4. In a saucepan, boil an old dish towel or piece of sheeting for 5 minutes and cover the crock with it. Weigh this down with a flat plate that fits inside of the crock and weigh it down with a canning jar full of water. (If you’re using a glass jar instead of a crock, you might not need to weigh it down.) Let it sit like this for a day. 
  5. The salt will pull water out of the cabbage, so 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 the cabbage.
  6. In 2 to 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!
  7. 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 quart jars; 15 minutes for pints).

Try your freshly made sauerkraut in this recipe for Marian Cousins’ Sauerkraut Cake (see, we weren’t lying!).

More Pickling Projects

Are you 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 turn out?

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

No content available.