When my daughter was a toddler, she LOVED sauerkraut. (She still does.) She called it “sauercrap” and we laughed our heads off every time she said it.
Any sauerkraut fans out there?
Sauerkraut seems to be having a resurgence in the last few years as people are learning how beneficial sauerkraut and other fermented foods can be for your gut health.
If you’ve only tried the bottled sauerkraut from the grocery store, you really need to give the homemade version a shot.
When I was in my 20s I spent 18 months as a representative for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Austria.
(Yes, the hills are alive, my friends.)
When I returned home, I was shocked by two things — 1) Wienerschnitzel Restaurants (hot dogs are neither schnitzel, nor are they “Wiener” aka Viennese.) and 2) How gross grocery-store sauerkraut was.
I have fond memories of seeing older Austrians spreading cabbage out on their countertops. I’m not sure what method they used for making sauerkraut (and I regret finding out), but I found an easy method (that takes up much less counterspace).
It just takes a little patience, as all fermented products do!
How to Make Sauerkraut
To make 2 quarts of sauerkraut, shred 5 pounds of cabbage.
I used the shredding attachment on my food processor. If you have something similar (like the slicing/shredding attachment on a Kitchen-Aid mixer) I’d highly recommend it.
Next, you’ll need some pickling salt, which is just plain salt. (No iodine or anything added.)
It’s cheap and available at just about every grocery store.
Sprinkle it on your cabbage, give it a good mix, and go do something else for a couple of hours — like sterilizing a couple of quart-sized mason jars. I just run mine through the dishwasher.
When you get back your cabbage will have wilted slightly.
Now take out your potato masher, a meat pounder, or a large, heavy-bottomed glass and smash that cabbage to smithereens.
You really want to release as much moisture from the cabbage as you can.
See how the cabbage’s volume has reduced significantly? That’s a good thing.
You’ll want to keep smashing it until you can see liquid collecting at the bottom when you press hard with your masher.
Now, transfer the smashed cabbage (and juices!) to the quart jars. (I really love my canning funnel.)
Really smash it in. It’ll fit.
You’ll know you pounded the cabbage enough if it releases enough of its own liquid to cover the cabbage once pressed into the jars. If it’s close, just add a little salt water until the jars are full. (There are notes about this in the recipe.)
Put lids on the jars (loosely) and place them on a plate or a tray to catch any juices that will most likely escape from the jars. Not most likely. Juices will come out. I’m not sure why but it happens and it’s messy.
As you wait, yo
Now we wait.
For a couple of weeks.
As the days go by, check on it. If foam starts forming at the top, just skim it off. Bubbles will start to form inside the jar and rise to the top. And the cabbage will change from it’s pretty spring green color to a warmer, yellow-green hue.
After two weeks, start tasting it. If it tastes more salty than pickled, then it’s not ready yet. The process could take anywhere from 2-6 weeks, depending on the temperature. I had a batch finish in 2 weeks once and 5 weeks another time.
If the sauerkraut still tastes pretty salty, try rinsing a little off first, but not more than you plan on eating right then.
Sauerkraut will last in the refrigerator for several months! It was so nice to have the real stuff after ahem . . 10 years without.
And, do me a favor and grill up your favorite sausage or brat and eat it with a side of sauerkraut and some whole-grain mustard — that’s a real German/Austrian culinary experience right there.
Recipes Using Sauerkraut
I have a few recipes using sauerkraut on my site, but I plan on making more!
- 5 pounds trimmed green or red cabbage
- 3 Tablespoons pickling salt
- Core and shred the cabbage. I recommend using some kind of shredding attachment on a food processor or a stand mixer to get fine, uniform shreds. You can also use a knife if you want.
- Transfer the cabbage into an extra-large bowl and add the salt. Stir well, then let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours. It should start releasing its liquid by then.
- Pound the cabbage using a potato masher, a meat pounder, or a heavy-bottomed glass. Really bruise it to release more of its liquid. Pack the cabbage firmly into two sterilized quart-sized jars. There should be enough juice in the jars to cover the cabbage, but if there isn't enough, add a little water.
- Cover with a lid and screw band. Don't tighten them firmly, just until you feel resistance. Place the jars on a tray or a plate to catch any juices that will try (successfully) to escape. Store where the temperature remains fairly steady, between 60 and 70 degrees F.
- Check the sauerkraut after 24 hours. The cabbage should still be completely immersed in the liquid. If you need to make more brine, dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons of pickling salt in 1 quart of water. Pour enough in brine to keep the cabbage submerged.
- Check the sauerkraut every few days and skim off any foamy stuff that appears on the surface. Bubbles should begin to rise to the surface, indicating that fermentation is taking place.
- Start tasting the sauerkraut after 2 weeks. The flavor should change from salty to pickled. The fermentation can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks depending on the temperature. You may want to rinse it off before eating if it still tastes very salty (it does to me). Only rinse off what you plan on eating right then.
- Store finished sauerkraut in the fridge for several months.
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Ball Mason 32 oz Wide Mouth Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12 Jars.
KitchenAid KE008OHAQA Classic Wire Masher, One Size, Aqua
Slicer Shredder Vegetable Cutter Attachment - Electric Salad Makers fit all KitchenAid Stand Mixers - 3 Slicing Blades and Blades Cover - Silver and Black
Cuisinart FP-8GMP1 Elemental 8-Cup Food Processor, Gunmetal
Roots & Branches Home Canning Funnel, Fits Wide Mouth & Regular Mason Jars, Red