How to Make Sauerkraut

Introduction: How to Make Sauerkraut

Kraut, Sauerkraut (cabbage) or other veggies, preserved and enhanced the natural way.

It's the traditional way to have vitamin C in abundance during the cold months in climatic zones like central Europe and large parts of the U.S or in Canada.
Sauerkraut was also used to prevent scurvy, because of it's keeping quality at sea and it's high vitamin C content.
In short, it's a fermentation of sugars contained in vegetables by a lactobazillus strain. The lactobazillus ferments the sugars into lactic acid. The acidity keeps unwanted bacteria and molds from taking over.
And as a "green" treat, you don't need external energy like in a freezer. Normal cellar temperatures are ok.
And of course the taste of a selfmade kraut beats every industrially fast produced product. It has even found it's way into the "haute cuisine". Have you ever tried a Champagnekraut with a nice fish? You will certainly be delighted.

Step 1: Ingredients

The main ingredient is of course the cabbage / kraut. This may seem easy, but there are many variants of this vegetable or salad around.
If you can't find exactly the same sort that we use, never mind and be creative. Try different sorts in small quantities to find out, which one you like the most.
What we use is a certain type of cabbage, typically grown on the "Fildern", which is southeast of Stuttgart.
It's called "Spitzkohl" or "Spitzkabis" pointed cabbage. They look like the Coneheads in the movie.
We were lucky to find them at a local organic farm.

For the most basic way to make Kraut, you only need two ingredients:
Cabbage and salt.

But traditionally, caraway seeds and juniper berries are added in addition.

We started with a more sophisticated recipe and enhanced it over the years.
for 80kg / 176 lb of cabbage we used
2400g / 5.3 lb onions
1200g / 2.6 lb horse radish
2.1 liters / 76 fl oz of white wine (we took 3 bottles of Riesling)

1500g / 53 oz   of salt (1.5-2% of the cabbage weight) if possible, use kosher or non iodized salt
120g / 4.25 oz  dried juniper berries
100g / 3.5 oz    dried caraway seeds
80g   / 2.8 oz    dried yellow mustard seeds
30g   / 1 oz        dried garden dill / aneto

In addition, you can add freeze-dried lactic acid bacteria, to ensure a strong fermentation. We never did this and everything went well with the naturally present bacteria on the cabbage.

Step 2: Preparation

First we mix the salt and all the dried herbs and spices in a bowl.

Then we finely chop the onions and the horse radish into a clean bucket.

Step 3: Tools and Procedures

You can make very small quantities and put them into glass jars or small food grade plastic buckets. Especially if you want to try different recipes.

You should work as clean as possible, to eliminate the chance of unwanted bacteria growth.
Of course, your raw material (cabbage) should be free of mold or other unhealthy spots. Remove the outer leaves, just in case. Cut out any unhealthy spots after you removed the outer leaves.

To finely shred the cabbage, you can use a chefs knive, but it's much easier and faster to use a dedicated shredder like on the picture. Maybe you already have something similar in your kitchen.

Since we make a larger batch and have access to a electric shredder, we use it of course.
We shred a layer of cabbage, then we add some salt / spice mixture and some of. onion / horse radish. After a couple of layers, we add some wine and stamp it to extract the juice and further mix it.

Step 4: Filling Up the Container

After your container is full and stamped, the Kraut should be below the liquid level, when pressed down. This is important to insure a anaerobic fermentation. (absence of oxygen)

With commercially available fermentation pots, there are stones included to do this.
With our barrel, we use the wooden cover, then we put 2 heavy stones on top. We sanitize the cover, stones and a kitchen towel in boiling water, as you can see on the picture.

Step 5: Fermenting

After the containers are filled, they should be covered, but not closed. During fermentation, carbon dioxide is generated, besides lactic acid. But nothing should get in.(insects, dust...)
You should put the fermenting kraut into a draft free place at around 10-15 degrees Celsius / 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. It shouldn't be above 20 Celsius / 65 Fahrenheit.
It will take between 4 and 6 weeks to ferment. After 4 weeks, we try it every week.
As soon as it's to our liking, we portion it and put it into our walk in cooler at 3 Celsius / 37 Fahrenheit to stop or at least slow down further souring.

Step 6: Final Thoughts and Links

As said in the beginning, you can also sour turnip, radish, pumpkins and many more.
We will try a small amount of turnips, this or next week.

If there are any questions, just ask them.

Here some links:

this site is in german, but the video is in english

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    8 years ago

    nice mention of cone heads movie. I watched that movie first time since I was a girl a few months ago. totally missed the monster death by golf ball ending.


    11 years ago on Step 4

    We all shed hair continuously. With these steps of cleanliness as instructed by you I KNOW there is a hair or more falling off your head into the barrel.

    I'm loving this tutorial and will make a smaller batch but just that picture of you working over that barrel with your hair flopping all over the place. Boiling the rock is great and all the other stuff. I know...we live in an inescapable germed up world anyway.

    Recipe sounds outstanding. Can't wait to taste it.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    You are definitely right.

    It's also not a cleanroom with overpressure inside ;-)
    I have worked in technical cleanrooms class 1000(thin film deposition) and also in a much cleaner class 10 medicinal clean room (vial filling).

    With overemphasizing its need, the chance for failure gets smaller...better save than sorry.

    I think the occasional hair isn't the culprit here, it's the cabbage. Although we remove the outer leaves, there are still yeasts, lactic and acetic bacteria on it.
    Of course we need this cocktail of critters, but i guess, there are also a couple unwanted ones like mold and so on.

    Although this fermentation is quite complex, it has worked for thousands of years.(with the "hygiene", associated with these times...)

    When fermentation begins, yeast uses up the free oxygen. Then it competes with lactic bacteria for the sugar, producing alcohol, lactic acid and carbon dioxide. The alcohol is in turn attacked by acetic bacteria on the surface.(it needs oxygen, and that's now only availabe at the surface, that's the slimy "acid mother" you see on the surface.)
    This acidic, oxygen-free and in the beginning slightly alcoholic juice, seems to keep unwanted organisms from thiriving.

    By the way, when we brew beer, we work some notches cleaner. (We try not to breath in the direction of open fermenters.)
    In over 15 years of brewing more or less biweekly, we never had a infection.
    Our unfiltered unpasterized beers keep for years.

    Selfmade kraut is really worth the effort, believe me.
    Let me know, how it tastes.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    well … I may not agree : a good roasted coquette's (without an "r") breast or thigh with sauekraut is a thing to be remember in a life time of any cannibal's feast !… 
    take my word for it ! ……

    otherwise, your instructables on bread, sauerkraut, and pizza oven are things to be remembered as well and be shared with many friends : in fact I would say they are friend gatherers !… Even better : friend makers !…

    I truly congratulate you.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Oh yeah, coquette sounds to me like a little Coque, after all. My french is getting a little rusty... So it has to be a smallish cock, from the sound of the word, or a part of it. In the end, i just love it. I just had a Szegediner Gulasch, that's a Hungarian way of using soured kraut, named after the town of Szeged... Yummy


    12 years ago on Step 6

    I love sauerkraut with bratwurst it is the best. Have you ever tried zuurkool ? My Oma makes it all the time with Coquettes.


    Reply 12 years ago on Step 6

    I think zoorkool is just the dutch word for sauerkraut. Your Oma makes croquettes, i believe. (Coquettes are flirtish young girls... not bad either, but with sauerkraut??)
    We will make our batch of sauerkraut this or next week...