fermentedfoodFermented foods are so healthy! We enclosed a recipe for coconut yogurt in a previous newsletter. But my philosophy is to get as many good bacteria into your body from as many food sources as possible. Here is an easy inexpensive way to make sauerkraut at home.

Sauerkraut has been a food staple in many cultures. We will describe a simple recipe that can be made at home for pennies in mason jars. There is almost always a jar or two of this homemade sauerkraut in my refrigerator.

Before I started making sauerkraut at home, I thought I needed to have an expensive crock to make the recipe. Don’t let that stop you. Get some mason jars, the bigger ones may make things a bit easier. Just make sure whatever you choose has a wide-mouth.

Sauerkraut is made by lacto-fermentation. On the surface of the cabbage (and other fruits and vegetables) are colonies of beneficial bacteria. Lactobacillus is one of these beneficial bacteria and is the same bacterial family found in yogurt. We want to encourage these bacteria to grow. When submerged in a salt solution, the bacteria begin to convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid. The lactic acid encourages the growth of good bacteria and inhibits the bad.

Lacto-fermentation has been used for centuries to preserve seasonal vegetables beyond their standard shelf-life. The fermentation process itself is very reliable and safe. Sauerkraut can be kept for a couple of months in the frig.

At the most basic, all you need is cabbage, salt, and some sort of container. Metal reacts with the lactic acid, so use ceramic bowls, glass and wooden spoons.

1 medium head cabbage (about 3 pounds) I also like to add beets to my batch.
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional, for flavor)


Cooking equipment

Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Mixing bowl (ceramic or glass)
2-quart wide-mouth canning jar (or two-quart mason jars), but you can use pint sized if that is what you have.
Clean stones, marbles, or other weights
Cloth for covering the jar
Rubber band or twine for securing the cloth

  1. Clean everything and rinse off all soap residue
  2. Slice up the cabbage into thin ribbons
  3. Combine the cabbage and salt in a large ceramic mixing bowl: Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first it might not seem like enough salt, but gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. I leave the bowl with a plate over it for 24 hours.
  4. Pack the cabbage into the jar: Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them into the canning jar. Every so often, tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour in any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar. Make sure the cabbage is submerged in liquid. You can dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water if you need a top-off. This is when I would add caraway seeds.
  5. Weigh the cabbage down: Once all the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, place an intact clean cabbage leaf over the top of the packed cabbage. Weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. We want to keep the cabbage submerged beneath its liquid.
  6. Cover the jar: Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents dust or insects from getting into the jar.
  7. Put the jars in a plastic tub: I usually make my sauerkraut in pint jars, and was dismayed once to go to the basement and see sauerkraut juice (red, because I put beets in) staining my floor from the exuberant fermentation.
  8. If you can remember, press the cabbage every few hours: (I usually forget to do this and it all turns out OK.) This is to keep the cabbage submerged and to encourage the lactic acid reaction.
  9. Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 14 days: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut cool and away from direct sunlight. Temperature should be about 65 degrees. Taste it after 3 days and every few days until you get your desired taste. If you like the taste, remove the cabbage leaf and marbles/stones, screw on the mason jar lid and refrigerate. While it’s fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white scum. These are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The scum can be skimmed off the top either during fermentation or before refrigerating. If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don’t eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.
  10. Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be.