How To Make Sauerkraut

Real sauerkraut is raw, preserved in brine (salt water) over a long period of time. It is not cooked or pressure canned. It is full of the living microbes our digestive systems need to get the full benefit out of all the food we eat.

Get large glass jars, as large as you can get or can handle. Fill with shredded raw cabbage, chopped onions, sliced carrots and chopped apples. You can also add chopped garlic, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seed, mustard seed, pineapple, quince, pears, daikon radish, bok choi, squash or any other fresh herb or vegetable that you have.

(To make kimchi, use Chinese cabbage (bok choi), carrots, onions, garlic, red peppers, ginger, daikon (mouli) radish, chopped shrimp and anchovies.)

You may freeze and thaw the raw vegetables for your kraut to make them easier to work with and ferment faster, if you like.

Add salt water brine to the jar to cover the vegetables. Brine should be in a ratio of 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 pint of water.

You can also add  some whey from kefir or yogurt, to make it ferment quicker, or leftover sauerkraut juice from a previous batch. Some people say this protects against a batch going bad, others say that salt-only tastes better. I used added whey when I first started making sauerkraut, but now use leftover sauerkraut juice from a previous batch and salt only brine. I agree that the whey does give it an off-taste. Your choice.

In summer or very hot weather, you may wish to not use an innoculant (whey or sauerkraut juice) at all and just add brine (salt water) at a ratio of 1 teaspoon of salt per 1 pint of water, to slow down the rate of fermentation in the heat. Some experienced sauerkraut makers prefer using only brine all the time because they feel it gives it a better flavor.
Add salt-water/brine to cover.

Push the chopped vegetables down into the jar with a wooden stick or rolling pin.

Add more cabbage and other vegetables. How much depending on what ratio of vegetable to liquid you want.

Gather a large handful of leaves such as oak, maple, or leaves from food plants. Wash the leaves and push them into jar.

The purpose of the leaves is to keep the kraut under the water level, which prevents it from forming mold.  I use leaves, but other methods are: using a plastic bag filled with water, using a ceramic plate with a weight on top, use a glass jar that fits snugly into the mouth of the kraut jar and fill it with water and putting a large cabbage leaf on top and covering it with marbles or smooth, round stones.

jar of sauerkraut

Cover with plastic and secure with sturdy rubber band (i.e., an airlock). Do not use biodegradable plastic. Leave in a place that is room to warm room temperature. The top of the refrigerator is often a good spot, but put it on a saucer of some kind to catch any overflows.


As fermentation begins, some of the water may foam out. After it has stopped bubbling up, replace any brine that was lost and then re-secure the top.

Leave the jar at room temperature for about 4 weeks. (In moderate temperatures I wrap the jars in plastic and leave outside so as not to attract flies into the house.)


After 4 weeks, when you open the jar, the leaves at the top may be covered in a harmless white mold called "kahm". You can throw the leaves away or wash and re-use them, as you prefer, if they haven't become too soggy.


Re-pack the kraut or kimchi into smaller glass jars, if desired. sauerkraut repacked in small jar

There is no need to wash the empty jar if you are going to re-use it to make another batch of sauerkraut. The liquid and any vegetables remaining in the jar will help start the next batch.

. Things you can do with leftover sauerkraut liquid: 

Use it to make sourdough bread, beet kvass or another batch of sauerkraut
Add to salad dressing with a little olive oil to extend the salad dressing.
Use it as a marinade to tenderize meat. Add salt, spices or garlic to taste.
Put chopped vegetables in it, leave in fridge. Eat as snacks or add to
crudité platter.
Put sliced onions in it and use wherever you would use a raw onion slice.
Drink it plain or with lemon and salt after meals as a digestive aid.
Use it to make gazpacho (cold soup).
Mix it with tomato juice and drink.

 Things you can do with leftover sauerkraut 

Sauerkraut is best eaten raw, but if you should want to do something else with it:
Fry pork chops or sausages in frying pan in bacon grease or lard. Add some sliced apples to the pan and continue to cook. When meat is cooked and ready to serve, add sauerkraut to pan and cook just long enough to heat it up.

  Pickled green tomatoes 

Green tomatoes make excellent pickles. Slice green tomatoes and put them in a glass jar with some peeled garlic cloves, thinly sliced onion and de-seeded red peppers, either sweet or hot depending on your preference, or red pepper flakes. Add some spices like mustard seed, coriander or fennel seed if desired. Fill the jar with a spoonful of culture starter* and salt brine and pack with leaves. Cover with an airlock as above for sauerkraut. Let it sit for 5-6 days for crunchy pickles or 4-5 weeks for soft.

*Culture starter is raw sauerkraut juice, kvass, whey or kombucha. Salt brine is salt water in a ratio of 1 teaspoon of full-array salt to 1 pint of water.

(Green tomatoes can also be ripened by wrapping them in newspaper and leaveing in a cool, dark place undisturbed for a few months.)

 Whey versus Vinegar Pickling 

What is the difference between pickling with lacto-fermenting or brine as opposed to pickling with vinegar?

A:  The process of vinegar pickling involves boiling the vinegar first to kill the bacteria in it to avoid getting the mother forming in the pickles, and then you usually have to boil or pressure cook the vegetables, too, to prevent an off fermentation. Boiling vinegar kills all the bacteria in it. Vinegar pickling that also involves boiling the vegetables to be pickled will render the food preserved but dead. Pickling with whey or brine preserves and creates live beneficial bacteria, also known as "probiotics".

 How Long Will Sauerkraut Keep Without Refrigeration? 

I use an airlock (see above) and lacto-ferment my sauerkraut for a month or more. When done this way, it forms a vacuum seal by itself some time during the process. This appears to retard the mold because I have opened jars where the water has evaporated below the vegetable line without the kraut getting moldy. In fact, I think even the mold/kahm at the top of the jar (I use tree leaves to hold down the kraut) that forms at the beginning of the ferment is reduced. However, once I open the jar the same kraut will rapidly become moldy unless refrigerated. The longest I have kept a jar unopened is 7 weeks. So, in my experience, jarred sauerkraut may be stored unopened as long as it is sealed airtight.

This jar of sauerkraut has been fermenting for 2 months at temperatures ranging between 50 - 80 degrees (F). The plastic cover on the top has been pulled into the jar by vacuum pressure, creating an airtight seal. There is no mold or spoilage anywhere in the jar, even though the water level is below the top of the layer of vegetables. ------->

 Increasing nutrient value of pasteurized sauerkraut 

To "re-raw" cooked sauerkraut, transfer the kraut to a glass jar, add some whey or pickle brine and mix in some sliced onions and/or garlic. Cover and let it set for a few days on the counter at room temperature to re-start the fermentation process.

Truly Cultured Rejuvenating Taste, Health and Community With Naturally Fermented Foods by Nancy Bentley
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
Food Enzymes for Health & Longevity by Dr.Edward Howell
Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home

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