How to Make Sauerkraut

Homemade pink sauerkraut with purple and green cabbages

Homemade sauerkraut is so easy to make and it is a great way to get a large amount of probiotics into your diet on a regular basis. I eat or drink fermented foods every day, and I love them! The probiotics have been really great for my digestion and my immune system. I no longer suffer with environmental allergies, and even some of my food allergies have been healed. I haven’t been sick with even a sniffle in well over 2 years either. I don’t have any concern when coworkers in the office are riddled with colds and flus. 

Pink sauerkraut in a flip top glass jar. Homemade sauerkraut is as easy as chopping and pounding some vegetables and then waiting for the lactobacilli bacteria to multiply. When you mix green and purple cabbage together, you get a beautiful magenta colored sauerkraut!

homemade sauerkraut ingredients

Start with some basic ingredients. Use 3 TB of kosher salt for each 5lb of cabbage (sorry, you will have to weight it for the best outcome!). I like to add 2 carrots and 2 cloves of garlic per head of cabbage also. Caraway seed is one of my favorite spices, so I use a lot of it – 2 TB per head of cabbage.

Start your sauerkraut by adding salt and spices.

Shred cabbage and add it to a large glass bowl. Mix in salt and any herbs that you’d like to add, like caraway seed and crushed garlic cloves. I mix in the carrots after the cabbage starts to release its juices.

Massage the salt into the cabbage until it becomes limp and starts to release its juices.

Massage the salt into the cabbage until it becomes limp and starts to release its juices.

After the cabbage starts to release its juices, pack it tightly into a glass container.

After the cabbage starts to release its juices, pack it tightly into a glass container. I layered mine because I enjoy watching the colors swirl together during the fermentation process. After it is packed into the jar, I use a plastic bag filled with salt water (in case it leaks) to weigh the cabbage down under the water level. If your cabbage hasn’t released enough water, you can add some brine on top at a ratio of 1 cup water to 1 TB salt. This makes an approximately 2% solution. It will continue to release juices at the start of the fermentation processes, so make sure there is plenty of room in the jar. I use a half gallon jar per head of cabbage. Some people use crocks or other fancy tools to make their sauerkraut. You can certainly use those (keeping oxygen away from the ferment is necessary, which is why it needs to be submerged), but I have a small kitchen without storage for a lot of those extra things. If your jar doesn’t have an airlock on it, make sure you pop the lid once or twice a week to let the excess gas out. This is the most practical method for me and I haven’t had a batch go wrong yet.

Sauerkraut fermentation under way!

This photo was taken about a week into fermentation. The cabbage is releasing its juices and the colors are muddling together. The bubbles are a sign that active fermentation is happening. You’ll know it’s done when bubbles stop forming. I push it down a couple times a week to release the gases (those are carbon dioxide bubbles – a byproduct of the fermentation process). All of the research and personal experimentation leads me to believe that a 12 week minimum fermentation time is ideal to allow for the most complete bacterial profile to develop and to reduce the histamine levels if you are sensitive to them. After this point, refrigerate it. It will continue to ferment very slowly in the fridge, but probably won’t last very long because you’ll be eating it. 🙂

Homemade pink sauerkraut with purple and green cabbages

Finished sauerkraut with a gorgeous magenta color.

Fermentation Resources and Tips:

Easy Sauerkraut Recipe
Basic instructions for making your own probiotic-rich sauerkraut at home!
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Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. Appx 5 lbs cabbage (2 average sized heads - I mix 1 green and 1 purple to make pink sauerkraut)
  2. 3 TB kosher salt (I like it for pickling and ferments)
  3. 4 TB caraway seed (Warning: I LOVE this stuff. You can use less if you don't love it as much as I do.)
  4. 4 carrots (optional)
  5. 4 cloves garlic (optional)
Instructions
  1. Wash and shred the cabbage into thin strips. You can do this with a large knife, but two much faster ways are to use the slicing blade on a food processor (my preference), or to use the straight blade on a spiral cutting tool (I have tried this method and it works pretty quickly as well).
  2. Shred carrots if you are using them.
  3. Crush the garlic if you are using it.
  4. Add 1.5 TB salt to each head of shredded cabbage (I end up using one large mixing bowl per head of cabbage).
  5. Massage the salted cabbage until it starts to soften and give up some juices. Squeeze and pound on it a bit. Some people use "vegetable stompers", but I just use my Vitamix tamper. 😉 The process might take 10-15 minutes.
  6. Mix in the caraway seed, carrots, and garlic.
  7. Pack it tightly into a large glass container (the Vitamix tamper comes in handy for this too). I use a half gallon jar per head of cabbage.
  8. If the liquid does not cover the top of the cabbage, you can make a brine with 1 cup of water and 1 tsp of water, and add a little as needed until your cabbage is completely submerged by about 1/2" water.
  9. Weight the cabbage down so that it stays under the brine. I use a large folded up cabbage leaf to keep the small strips from floating up and a plastic bag full of brine. Some people use river stones in a plastic bag, or a jar full of water that is small enough to fit inside the opening of the fermenting container.
  10. Over the first couple days, it will release more liquid, so make sure there is room for expansion in the container or that it is placed in a glass dish in case it spills over.
  11. Let it sit on the counter until bubbles stop forming in the container. Roughly 12 weeks is ideal to allow the full spectrum of available lactobacillus to develop and to reduce the histamine levels.
  12. Refrigerate it and eat a small bowl each day. 🙂
Notes
  1. It will keep in the refrigerator for months.
  2. Check out the resources in the entry before this recipe card to learn more about what can go wrong and how to troubleshoot it.
A Taste of Two Plates http://tasteoftwoplates.com/

3 thoughts on “How to Make Sauerkraut

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