Sauerkraut Basics from a Total Newbie

Learn the basics of fermenting sauerkraut to begin your homesteading journey. I promise it’s not that scary.

Finished sauerkraut product fermented
The finished product is rather green, but will lighten into a beige color as it ferments.

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How do you make sauerkraut?

  1. Gather a head of cabbage, 1.5 tbsp salt, a mason jar, and a fermenting weight.
  2. Add salt to the cabbage little by little, massaging gently.
  3. Once cabbage is limp, let sit for 45 minutes.
  4. Massage again and press into your mason jar.
  5. Make sure the brine is above the cabbage and top with weight.
  6. Let ferment for at least 3 days and enjoy.

Let’s Get Started.

And so it begins. This is my first blog post and my first week experimenting making things I have never made before. In case you want to learn more about me before joining me in this journey, click here. So why make sauerkraut? That is a super weird thing to start out making, isn’t it? Not exactly. I have been learning a lot about ferments lately and how they are so good for gut health and the immune system (more on that later). But fermenting really scared me. In order to start very small and learn the basics, sauerkraut is an important step (even if you don’t really like it). I’ll be honest, I did not used to like sauerkraut and now we have it almost every week on brats. I have learned so much through reading from this book, Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockney.

Basic sauerkraut fermenting ingredients gut health

The ingredients are seriously that simple. Cabbage, salt, and a few things you may already have around the house. You really can’t screw it up! My favorite jars to use are the 32oz mason jars, but it honestly does not matter. If you want to save money, you can use any jar you have on hand and make a DIY fermenting weight (a bag full of water, for example). I decided to get a tiny bit fancier because I plan to ferment things on a weekly basis from here on out, so I purchased a weight set from Amazon.

Basic sauerkraut fermenting recipe

Step by Step Instructions for Sauerkraut

1. Wash the cabbage. This was even a new step for me. I have never handled cabbage, and I don’t like lettuce. Isn’t this for rabbits? I pulled off the outer layer (save to use later) and gave the thing a little rinsey-roo (this is what I call how I wash my veggies, as I buy organic so I usually don’t spend much time washing. If you don’t, I suppose you should spend more time to get off the pesticides). Then shred. You can thinly slice with a knife, but I have had best results with a super thin slice using a mandoline (I learned how from this guy).

cutting cabbage to make sauerkraut
Me cutting cabbage before I learned that a mandoline is way easier.

2. Add the salt little by little, massaging into the cabbage.

3. Most recipes say you won’t even need all the salt as the brine will start to release, but we are pretty salty in this household, so I use the whole amount. Taste is as you go and if it tastes good now, it will taste better later. If if tastes bad now, it will taste worse later.

4. Cover it with a towel or beeswax wrap (please don’t use plastic wrap. This should be pretty obvious by now) and let stand for about 45 minutes. The beauty of this is that nothing is exact, so get back to it when you can.

5. Massage it again and start pressing it into your jar of choice. I usually use two of the 24oz wide mouth Ball jars, but I can’t stress enough that it does not matter what kind of jars you have (especially since the prices for Ball jars are currently overinflated due to Covid-19 at home canning pursuits). You can press it down with a wood spoon or your hands, but I got fancy and used a wood stick thing made for this.

pressing sauerkraut into mason jar
Pushing the cabbage down into the jar so the brine releases.

6. Top it off with one of those cabbage leaves you set aside cut to fit the jar you have. This will help keep the cabbage shreds under the brine so they don’t go bad.

We like to leave ours for at least 10 days for the cabbage to soften and the flavor to develop. Taste it and once it is to your liking, use it up and store in the fridge for up to six months.

Tips for Making Sauerkraut for Beginners

Tips for fermenting, making sauerkraut

Let me know how your sauerkraut turns out! Once you have mastered the basics, try something a little more complicated.

finished sauerkraut product

Basic Sauerkraut

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Simple Sauerkraut with two ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1.5 TBSP salt
  • Large jar or two 32oz mason jars
  • Fabric or silicone fermenting lid for jar topper
  • Fermenting weight or baggie filled with water

Instructions

  1. 1. Wash and thinly shred cabbage and put in large bowl. Save a piece of the outer layer.
  2. 2. Add a little bit of salt and knead into cabbage.
  3. 3. Taste as you go, adding more salt. Cabbage should get watery and limp.
  4. 4. Let stand in bowl for 45 minutes.
  5. 5. again and press into jar with 2-3 inches of space at the top.
  6. 6. Top with intact piece of cabbage (from outer layer), covering the kraut. Weigh down with weight to keep the kraut under the brine (watery stuff).
  7. 7. Leave it for at least 3 days to ferment and enjoy!

Notes

I prefer to let mine ferment for at least 10 days.

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sauerkraut for beginners

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