Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How to make sauerkraut at home?

cabbage after one week of fermenting - crunchy yet with distinctive sauerkraut flavour already, more photos to follow soon

Homemade sauerkraut is a world apart from the stuff that comes from the shop in jars or plastic bags. The real thing that you can buy in Poland (I am sure Czech, Slovakia, Russian, Germany and more too) from a butt (barrel?) tastes so much better than the jar stuff I buy in UK. So I decided (finally!) to make my own following my Mum's and Granny's advice. My partner and I both agreed that this was one of the best ones we ever ate. Come on winter! We no longer should have an immune problems, good bye colds (hopefully!), but to be honest for me what is the best is the flavour of sauerkraut - you cannot beat it. Have you tried and liked kimchi? Then you should try sauerkraut. 

What is sauerkraut? 

Directly translated it is indeed "sour cabbage". To be more precise finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria therefore very good for your health. It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage.

Autumn cabbage is the best for making sauerkraut

Why it is good for you?

It is extremely high in vitamins C, B, and K; the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage. It is also low in calories and high in calcium and magnesium, and it is a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese.

If unpasteurized and uncooked, sauerkraut also contains live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes and is rich in enzymes. The fiber and supply of probiotics improve digestion and promote the growth of healthy bowel flora, protecting against many diseases of the digestive tract.

Sauerkraut is high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both associated with preserving ocular health.

Can you prepare sauerkraut at home? 


This is what you need:

- white cabbage, preferably during Autumn time (this is what Gran told me - earlier cabbages don't taste as good)
- good quality natural salt (with no additives such as anti-caking agents) - about 10-20 grams for every kilogram of fresh cabbage
- carrots, firm sour apples, caraway (seeds or ground) - OPTIONAL, for extra flavour 
- possibly a stoneware but glass jar will be good too for small batches (my Great grandmother use to make it in a wooden butt, but she had one and a special space for it, also a much bigger family to feed than we nowadays)
- mandoline or a food processor with shredding attachment (unless you want to cut it with a knife)


Work in fairly clean environment - you want good bacteria to do their job, so clean the worktops and the container you will be making sauerkraut in. 

First remove outer leaves from the cabbage and discard any wilted, limp outer leaves. Cut in half and in quarters then trim out the core. Some people use it, but it has to be very finely shredded - so it is up to you, you may as well leave it just to make sure it is shredded finely than the leaves.

Using a mandoline or a food processor shred the cabbage into fine ribbons. At this stage you can place them in a container that will be used for fermenting or in something else for a time being (and mixing with salt). I place it in a large clean plastic bowl.

Sprinkle the salt over the top of the shredded cabbage. If you making a lot of it (like me - 8kg of cabbage in one lot) it would be beneficial to sprinkle salt over few layers of cabbage as you shred it. 

Next begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands, wooden rolling pin or... clean feet. Yes, this is fun! :) The main purpose for this is to get some juices out of the cabbage. Gradually, the cabbage will become watery and limp. It is time to add whatever you want to add for extra flavour, or you can leave it as it is. 

shredded cabbage

For 8kg of cabbage I used 2 large carrots (peeled and grated), 3 firm sour apples and about 3 tsp of ground caraway. I placed some carrots in between layers of cabbage when I was transporting it to a stoneware container. Also I sprinkled few layers with ground caraway and just before the last layer I added apples and covered them with last layer of cabbage. 

You have to make sure all the juices go to the container. You must press the cabbage down again, quite firmly, then cover with clean cloth and place something heavy on the top to weight it down - I used plate with big jar of water. Cabbage must be weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid.  If after 24 hours in room temperature, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add just enough to submerge the cabbage.

bashing the cabbage with a rolling pin

Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 14 days. Time will depend on the quantity you are making and the temperature. At the beginning keep it at the room temperature, but then after about 1-3 days place in a cool place, preferably about 12-15 C. As it's fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight, check it daily and press it down if the cabbage appears above the liquid. After about 1-3 days (again depending on the quantity) get a wooden spoon and using it's bottom pierce the cabbage in few places to remove the natural gas that may occur during the fermentation and sometimes can make the cabbage taste a bit bitter.

Small batch of sauerkraut will ferment more quickly than larger one. Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, place cabbage in the jars, screw on the cap, and refrigerate (I keep in the cool garage during Autumn/Winter). You can also allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting for 10 days or longer. There are no hard rules for when the sauerkraut is ready— go by how it looks and tastes.

Gas, bubbles, noises are all happy signs of fermentation so do not worry. :) And please note the released juices are extremely tasty, refreshing and healthy.

Refrigerated in jars sauerkraut should keep for 2-3 months. 

chopped cabbage in stoneware dish

I hope you have enjoyed my first English post in months and I would love to hear from you if you make your own sauerkraut. 

our traditional stoneware dish we brought from Poland


  1. I admired your helpful words. Top class contribution. I really hope you’ll write more. I'll continue looking for.
    sauerkraut recipe

  2. Hi Karolina, fascinating. We eat cabbage, but usually buy it from a Lithuanian shop. I didn't know it was quite easy to make. How do you know if it has gone bad? Or this does not happen?


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