Marie’s garden is truly a masterpiece and every year she has an abundance of Cabbage. Well, what do you do when your garden gives you too much cabbage? You make SAUERKRAUT! And, you do it the easy way, in bulk, using one of our favorite things, Mason Jars. Marie’s family has a heritage that makes this Sauerkraut-making process especially special. You see, her grandparents owned a German delicatessen in New York City. What better recipe than the one used at an authentic German deli served to people who were likely pickier about their ‘Kraut than our families?
Sauerkraut is often one of the first fermentation projects new fermenters try. It’s easy to guess why. Sauerkraut is super easy to make, it requires very little equipment, and the results are decidedly yummy.
I mean, how much simpler can it get than to combine shredded cabbage with salt and pound it into a receptacle? Sure, you could use a crock if you have one (Emmaline loves hers), but Marie’s grandma made it even more simple. She used plain ole’ reliable Mason Jars. Mason jars are uniquely useful in this process because you can make a HUGE batch of sauerkraut all at once. Take this example for instance. You pull 25 heads of cabbage out of the garden and you need to store it. Sure, you can turn 5 of them into one of the ingredients into your own variation of Canned Gardenia, but then you still have 20 remaining.
What are you going to do with all that cabbage so it doesn’t go bad?
That’s right, we’re making sauerkraut in bulk.
It is good to know that our experience shows that about 5 pounds of cabbage (2 heads in our case) created 2 1/2 quarts of sauerkraut. So … for the sake of a little math let’s flesh that out to see how many quarts 20 heads of cabbage could make. We will assume the cabbage heads are roughly the same size.
2 Heads = 2 1/2 Quarts
20 Heads = 50 Quarts
THAT’S A LOT OF SAUERKRAUT
The chemistry behind making sauerkraut is that the salt begins to break down the cabbage so it releases liquid, creating its own brining solution. Submerged in this liquid for a period of several weeks, the cabbage slowly ferments into the crunchy, sour condiment we know and love as sauerkraut.
Ingredients and Equipment to Make Homemade Sauerkraut in Mason Jars:
5 pounds of Cabbage (shredded)
3 Tablespoons Sea Salt or Canning & Pickling Salt.
Peel off any wilted or damaged cabbage leaves.
Cut out the cabbage core and any bad spots of the cabbage.
Shred the cabbage with a mandolin slicer or cutting it with a sharp knife into thin strips.
The first step to making homemade sauerkraut in a mason jar is slicing your cabbage. We are using a mandolin.
Place all of the shredded cabbage into a large bowl.
Add 3 Tablespoons of salt
Add salt to the cabbage and begin massaging.
Massage cabbage for 15 minutes to bruise and begin to get the juices flowing.
Massage Cabbage during the process of making Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar.
Let the bruised cabbage rest for 20 minutes.
Filling Your Mason Jars:
Press the cabbage and salt mixture along with the liquids into your Mason Jars. Use a tamper or a sauerkraut pounder to pack it in as tight as possible.
Make sure there is liquid brine above the cabbage.
Put massaged and salted cabbage into the mason jars and tamp it in firmly.
Loosly place on lids and rings and set the jars on a baking sheet or in a small washtub so when the juices expand and overflow they will ba caught on the tray.
5 pounds of cabbage should fill about 2 1/2 quart mason jars.
Place lids and rings on your jars and put the jars on a cookie sheet or other receptacle to catch leakage.
Monitoring the Homemade Sauerkraut in Mason Jars;
Check the sauerkraut once a week to burb the jars by opening the rings and lids to release a little air. At this time you should also make sure the cabbage is fully submerged in the brine.
Also, check for mold which looks like white fuzzy particles floating on the surface. If you see any skim it off and dispose of it.
Canning the Homemade Sauerkraut:
Once your sauerkraut has completed its fermentation process you can either place it in the fridge for immediate consumption or you can preserve it by canning it. Because we made the sauerkraut in the Mason Jars in the first place this couldn’t be simpler.
The Sauerkraut should have a 1/2 inch headspace when canning. If your liquid is lower than this level then just add a little water to “top it off”.
Top off the jars with water and replace the lids and rings.
Fill your water bath canner with tepid water.
Place your jars into the tepid water. Remember, our jars and contents are room temperature at this point so we cannot place them into a hot water bath without the risk of breaking our jars.
Place the jars into the water bath canner while the water is still cool.
Process the sauerkraut for 20 minutes if at sea level. (Remember to adjust your processing time if higher than 1000 feet elevation.
Once your sauerkraut has completed its processing time in the boiling water bath canner take the jars out and set them on the counter, spacing them about an inch apart, for 24 hours to cool and completely seal.
Remove the canned homemade sauerkraut in mason jars from the boiling water bath canner and space them one inch apart to cool.
If your jar of sauerkraut did not seal then place it in the fridge and use it immediately. Store the sealed jars in your lovely pantry to enjoy for the next 1-3 years. After three years the nutritional value of canned food diminishes.
If you have any questions about canning with the boiling water canner or how to adjust the pressure or processing time for altitude, take a look at our canning basics videos.