Almost everyone with German heritage remembers “Oma” shredding cabbage and stuffing it into the crock with a handful of salt to make homemade Sauerkraut. My grandmother made hers the first Sunday of even-numbered months; February, April, June, August, October, and December. I loved to help in June and August when I would spend summers with my grandparents. Though I may have loved helping when I was a pre-teen here’s the deal now that I am more mature. Grandma may have had time to keep ‘Kraut fermenting in the crock on the counter practically year-round, but not me. I prefer to make HUGE batches and then can it so that I have it on hand when I want it. I’m kind of funny because my eating habits go in waves. I may want sauerkraut every day for a month and then not want it again for another two. So, for me, being able to grab a quart out of the pantry is the absolute best solution.
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.
Sauerkraut is easy to make and literally takes two simple ingredients and one piece of equipment; Cabbage, Salt, and a Crock.
Ingredients and Equipment to Make Homemade Sauerkraut:
5 pounds of Cabbage (shredded)
1/4 Cup Sea Salt or Canning & Pickling Salt.
Peel off any wilted or damaged cabbage leaves.
Peel off another 2 or 3 leaves from the outside and place them aside to use them later as a cover.
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 small strips.
Massage cabbage for 15 minutes to bruise and begin to get the juices flowing.
Let the bruised cabbage rest for 15 minutes.
Add 1/4 Cup of salt and massage for another 10 minutes. The salt will begin pulling moisture out of the cabbage.
Let the bruised and salted cabbage rest for another 15 minutes.
If you think the cabbage has released enough moisture then move to the next step. You should massage until you have at least 1 cup of moisture and liquid.
If you think you need additional moisture then massage for another 10 minutes and rest for another 15 minutes.
Filling the Crockpot to Make Homemade Sauerkraut:
Press the cabbage and salt mixture along with the liquids into your crock. Use your hands or a sauerkraut pounder.
Tuck your reserved cabbage leaves over the cabbage.
Place your sauerkraut weights on top of the tucked cabbage leaves.
The brine should be above the cabbage.
Place the lid on the crock and set it aside for 4 to 6 weeks.
5 pounds of cabbage should fill the crock about three-fourths of the way. As the ‘Kraut ferments it will create additional moisture and juices and the crock will end up about half-full after a month.
Monitoring the Sauerkraut;
Check the sauerkraut once a week to make sure it 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.
It is optional whether you want to stir the sauerkraut or not. I generally stir the first week, but then leave it as is the remaining weeks as long as there is no mold and the ‘kraut is fully submerged.
Note: Using the cabbage leaves tucked over the top of the sauerkraut I rarely have any mold form on my ‘kraut.
Canning the 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.
If you plan on preserving it then begin by placing your jars into the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fill your water bath canner with water and place it on the stove with the heat on low to begin heating the water.
While your jars are heating in the oven place the sauerkraut in a pot on the stove and bring it to a simmer.
Once the sauerkraut has reached the simmering point remove it from the stove and begin filling your jars.
Fill the jars and place a lid and ring on fingertip tight.
Place the filled jars into the water bath canner and process them 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.
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 and how to adjust the pressure or processing time for altitude, take a look at our canning basics videos.