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Making Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is something you either love or hate.  If you love it, you know how special it can be, especially if it is home-grown, homemade, and organic.  We have made sauerkraut for quite a few years now, and it has always been delicious.

This is a very simple recipe as long as you’re careful about three things:  cleanliness, fermentation temperature, and keeping air away during fermentation.

Our cabbage crop

Ingredients and Supplies

You need a number of cabbages.  How many depends on their size as well as how dense they are.  I’m always surprised by how many can be tamped down into our pails once they are shredded, but as a general rule of thumb, about 5 pounds of shredded cabbage makes one gallon of sauerkraut.

You also need pickling salt.  Use about 3T for 5 pounds (approximately 1 gallon) of shredded cabbage. Often, however, we have added a little more salt if we run out near the top of the pail.

Other than that, you need a container.  We use sturdy food-grade plastic pails.  If you have access to a proper sauerkraut crock, so much the better.

You also need a food processor, a heavy glass, tough plastic wrap, and freezer bags.

If you choose to can or freeze the finished kraut, you’ll also need supplies for that.

Tamping down the cabbage and salt

Making the Sauerkraut

1.  First we scrub, bleach, and rinse our food grade plastic pails.

2.  We trim our cabbages and then shred them using a food processor.  Each time we have filled up a bowl with shredded cabbage, we dump it into the pail.

3.  Then we spread the shredded cabbage evenly in the pail and sprinkle salt over it, trying to make sure the salt will last right to the top of the pail.  It’s important to use all the salt, so if we estimate wrong and run out near the top of the pail, we just add some more.  Using a heavy glass, we tamp the salt and cabbage down to get rid of air and to start the juices flowing.  When my children do it, they push on the glass, although this is not necessary.  When I do it, I just lift the glass a few inches and drop it down.  Their way produces more juices right away, but mine takes less energy and works just as well.  It is important to do this thoroughly and across the whole surface several times.

See the cabbage juice? It’s not always there right away, but it will show up eventually.

4.  Then we dump in another bowl of shredded cabbage, and on we go until the pail is full.

5.  Traditionally, you cover the sauerkraut with a plate and weigh it down with a rock to prevent air from coming in contact with the sauerkraut.  Instead, we cover it with tough plastic wrap.  To weigh the wrap down a bit, we fill freezer bags with water (we double the bags because we don’t want them to burst and ruin our hard work) and arrange several on each pail to make sure no air can creep under the plastic wrap.

6.  Then we place the pails on large trays or plates to catch the inevitable drips, and push them to the back of the counter.  We just let them sit there at room temperature (68-72F) for ten days to two weeks, but after about five days, I check the sauerkraut, skim off any that doesn’t look quite right, and put on clean plastic wrap.

7.  After about ten days, I taste the sauerkraut. Depending on the temperature and how you like your sauerkraut, you may need to wait longer than two weeks, but ours is usually ready within 14 days.  If it seems ready, I either can it, adding extra brine if necessary, or freeze it.  This was our first year freezing it. We’re trying freezing in order to preserve the good micro-organisms that cause the fermentation.  (They would be destroyed by canning.)   Of course, if you have good cold storage (38F/3C), you could just store the pail there as people used to do.

8.  If you can your sauerkraut and need extra brine, this is what has worked for us: Mix 1 ½ T pickling salt, ½ c of vinegar, and 1 quart of water, and add as needed.

Sauerkraut fermenting on our counter.

Obviously, making sauerkraut is easiest with three people:  a cabbage trimmer, a cabbage shredder, and a kraut tamper, but it’s possible with less.  If you’re doing it by yourself, be sure to make only a small amount at a time unless you are strong.

We originally developed our method from Putting Food By by Greene, Hertzberg, and Vaughan.


See also Monday Home MakerTuesday TwisterWorks for Me Wednesday, The Ultimate Recipe Swap, Thrifty ThursdaySimple Lives Thursday, Farm Girl Friday , and Frugal Friday.


  1. Lisa says:

    What a delicious way to use cabbage and be able to store it for a longer period of time.

  2. Very interesting. We just had reuban roll ups using crescent rolls using sauerkraut.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      That sounds yummy!

      Annie Kate

    2. Mmmm, I think they sound yummy, too! What a great idea!

  3. Liberty says:

    Great post! I think you don’t even have to use the vinegar. Look at wild fermentation by Sandor Katz…

    1. Annie Kate says:

      No, you only need to use vinegar if you need to top up the brine in order to can it. For the fermentation itself you use only cabbage and salt. That’s the beauty of sauerkraut.

      Annie Kate

  4. Stacy's Page says:

    Hello, I finally have a chance to stop by for a few minutes. I have figured out a shortcut to use to go from the church to the library while dd is attending her small group. I think I’m going to start using that time to do some blog-hopping.

    Tonight, I managed to update a bunch of my Tightwad Tuesday tips. I have tips ready through March. I’m going to be using a lot of old tips that were very popular tips when I posted them the first time. Perhaps I’ll draw a little more activity on my blog since I’m planning to link at WFMW and Frugal Friday.

    I hope all is well with you. I have tomorrow off from work. We are taking dd to get her pictures done at Walmart.

    I got my November schedule for work. Ihave to work 4 out of the next 5 weekends. (sigh) Since it’s pretty much a given that I will be working Christmas, I put in to be off the weekend before Christmas.

    Better sign off for now. DD’s class is just about finished.

    Enjoy the rest of your week!

  5. Got here from diana’s simple lives thursday. good post. I did this same thing over the summer — small scale though. one head of cabbage for three quart jars. I had to age my sauerkraut in the fridge for a couple months before the taste and texture seemed right to me. very exciting moment. grew up in a german household.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thanks for stopping by. Ideally, you let it ferment at room temperature, but if it works, it works. And yes, it is exciting! 🙂

      Annie Kate

  6. Hi Annie Kate! I’m late getting back online today, sorry I couldn’t come by earlier!

    I grew up in a German household, too (my mom was born and raised in Germany), so I LOVE sauerkraut! This was a neat tutorial, thank you for sharing it! Reminds me of when my mom used to have pickles happily bathing in brine inside of crocks on the countertops each summer 😀


  7. Once you’ve had homemade sauerkraut, you’ll never go back to the jarred stuff from the store. The textures are so much crisper and the flavors so much more alive! This is a great tutorial!

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