Klassic Kraut

Klassic Kraut

This is a tutorial for making basic sauerkraut. I’ve fielded a lot of questions from novice fermenters about how to make sauerkraut, so I hope this detailed photo tutorial will give others the confidence to try fermenting at home. This is intentionally a rather long post, as I’ve tried to be as thorough as I can. You may click on any of the photos to view them in a larger size.

First let’s discuss some of the basics of sauerkraut fermentation, so it doesn’t seem like so much of a mystery. Hundreds of years ago, people discovered that when they packed cabbages in a clay pot with salt, fermentation occurred, creating a tasty, tangy food that was well-preserved in an acidic brine. This new food was immediately recognized as being not only delicious and healthful, but a good way to preserve the harvest from season to season. The practice spread, until virtually all people who had access to salt used it to preserve vegetables in a similar manner. The simplicity of this preservation method coupled with its unique health benefits made it a popular food worldwide. Until the introduction of modern canning this was one of the chief methods people used to preserve their harvests. Recipes, traditions, and techniques that were passed from one generation to the next for two milllennia were nearly lost in just 150 years as people across the world embraced pasteurization, and later commercial food manufacturing. But the Internet has helped foster a new appreciation for old ways, and those of you who are missing the kinds of foods you ate as a kid can now make them for yourselves even if your grammy isn’t here to show you how.

So, what happens in sauerkraut and how do we know it’s safe? When shredded cabbage is mixed with salt at a ratio of roughly 2% (by weight), osmosis pulls the juice out of the vegetables, submerging them in a salty brine. Fresh vegetables, such as cabbage, are literally teeming with microbes both good and bad, but mostly good. Fortunately, it’s the good guys who love the salty brine – they quickly use up the available oxygen and the brine is then anaerobic, meaning it lacks oxygen. That lack of oxygen prevents the bad microbes that would spoil our food from taking hold. As the good bacteria multiply they create lactic acid, lowering the ph of the brine so that toxic organisms cannot reproduce. The lactic-acid bacteria thrive in this salty, acidic environment. They consume the starches in the cabbage, creating more lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and enzymes. Eventually they consume all the starches and their lifecycles are complete.

The final product is one that is tangy, fresh, and delicious, but also good for you in a number of ways. Firstly, the sauerkraut is extremely easy for you to digest, since the bacteria have essentially predigested it for you. All of the nutrients are readily available for your body to absorb with minimal digestive effort, and none of the unpleasant side effects one experiences when eating fresh or cooked cabbage. Second, the lactic acid helps to keep your stomach and bowels at the proper ph. Third, enzymes in the saurkraut help you digest your food without depleting your body’s own finite source. And last, the sauerkraut will be teeming with beneficial bacteria – you’ve probably heard them called probiotics – which improve digestion and your overall gastrointestinal health.

I hope I’ve given you enough reason to try making sauerkraut at home! Continue reading to learn just how easy it is. 🙂

 

Klassic Kraut
1 Quart or Liter

1 head cabbage, green or red – approximately 2lbs.
1T salt (see below)
1 jar with lid, either quart or liter (wide-mouth is easier to work with)
Optional spices*

Please note: I’ve used a mason jar for this batch, but you can use any lidded jar you have available, including an old pickle jar or a wire-bale European canning jar.

*Plain kraut is pretty awesome on its own, but dried spices are often used for flavoring. Try adding 1 teaspoon of your favorite whole spices such as: caraway seed, dill seed, celery seed, fennel seed, juniper berries, mustard seed, or peppercorns.

Just two ingredients.

Rinse your cabbage and remove and discard any blemished leaves, especially ones with black spots. Then peel off one whole leaf and set it aside. Cut the cabbage down through the core into two halves, and then cut each half again into quarters. Remove the cores from the cabbage quarters.

Quarter and remove core.

Place one wedge of cabbage on your cutting board cut-side down, and slice across the grain as thinly as you can. Don’t worry if you can’t shred it super-thin, it will still make really good kraut.

Shred the cabbage.

As each quarter is shredded, put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with some of the salt. Keep adding cabbage and salt in layers until you’re out of both. You now have a big, fluffy mound and you’re probably thinking “No way is that going to fit in one jar.” But it will! I promise!! 😉

Layers of shredded cabbage sprinkled with salt.

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. (But wash them first!) Reach in the bowl with both hands and toss the cabbage well to incorporate the salt evenly. Then squeeze and massage the cabbage a bit to work it in. Next you want to pound the cabbage to begin breaking down the cell walls and releasing the juice. For this you can use: your fists, a sturdy glass or jar, or a pestle. Pound it down flat, then toss it all together and pound it again.

Mix and pound the cabbage.

Keep pounding and mixing until the cabbage is wilted and juicy. I usually find that this takes about 5 minutes, or just a little longer. (When working with larger quantities, pounding the cabbage until it gets to this point is sometimes more work than I want to do. In that case, I pound for a few minutes, then put a plate on top and a heavy can on that. I then cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit for a couple hours so osmosis can do the work for me.)

Wilted cabbage ready to pack in jar.

If you want to add some spices, now is the time to do it. Sprinkle 1t on top and toss to mix. Then add a couple handfuls of cabbage to the jar and use your fist, a pestle, or anything you can fit in the jar to pack it down firmly. As you push the cabbage down the brine will rise up in the jar. Keep adding and packing down the cabbage until the jar is filled to about 2 to 3 inches from the top. DO NOT OVERFILL! Two pounds of cabbage fits perfectly into a 1 quart or liter jar. If you find that the jar is full but there are still a few spoonfuls of cabbage left, do not be tempted to add them to the jar. Sauerkraut is a very active ferment that bubbles vigorously and swells up in the early stages – if you add too much cabbage to the jar it’s going to ooze all over the counter and you’ll lose that tasty juice. 🙁

Firmly pack cabbage in jar, leaving a good 2-3 inches room at the top for expansion.

Now take the clean cabbage leaf you reserved and lay it flat on your cutting board. Set the jar on the leaf, near the top where it is more pliable. Use a sharp knife to cut a circle out of the leaf, exactly the diameter of the jar.

Cut a circle from the reserved cabbage leaf.

Place the cabbage circle on top of the shredded cabbage. It acts as a barrier to keep little bits of cabbage from floating to the top of the brine, where they could mold. Now you’ll need to put a little weight on top of the cabbage leaf to keep everything submerged. Some good options are: a small shot glass; a very small jar; clear glass marbles (like florists use); a clean, boiled rock; a small zip-top bag filled with a brine of ½t salt dissolved in ½c water; a small glass lid from a European-style canning jar, such as Weck or Fido. You don’t need to get fancy with this – just look around your home and use what you have available. The one exception is that you shouldn’t use metal, since sauerkraut is acidic and can be corrosive.

Add cabbage leaf circle and a small weight.

Now place the lid on the jar and screw on the metal ring. Tighten it all the way and then loosen it a half-turn. Fermenting cabbage makes a lot of gas in the early stages, and if the lid is too tight the pressure could build, causing the jar to break. (If you’re concerned about excess pressure you can also “burp” the jar occasionally in the first couple weeks by loosening the ring until you hear a “pffft” of gas escaping.) Write the date on the side of the jar with a marker and set the jar in a cool place to ferment. Cabbage is a cool-weather crop, and fermentation can proceed too quickly at temperatures above 75°, giving your kraut a “green” flavor and increasing the risk of spoilage. If you want to make sauerkraut in the summer (and I do) look around your house for some place that stays a little cooler, such as a closet or basement. You’ll also want to keep your kraut out of the light; if it’s fermenting on a counter, cover it with a towel.

Fermentation occurs under the brine, so it’s important to keep everything submerged. On the first day, your kraut may be a little dry on top. This is fine as the cabbage will continue to release more juice. Check it after a day or two: if there isn’t enough liquid then mix a brine of ½t salt in ½c water and add enough of that to cover the cabbage by about a half inch.

Day 1: Green and salty.

Within a day or two fermentation will begin. You will see bubbles appear and the cabbage will lose its bright green color. At this stage fermentation is very active – it bubbles all throughout, it may get a bit foamy on top, and it’s going to swell up almost to the top of the jar. This is why it’s so important to leave some space at the top for expansion. In the picture below you can see that the kraut now reaches the top of the jar after just a few days! At this stage it’s fun to check on your kraut regularly to see how it’s changing.

Day 5: Look at the bubbles!

Vigorous bubbling will subside sometime between 2 and 4 weeks. This is because the bacteria grow in different stages: as the kraut becomes increasingly acidic, some bacteria die off and others take their place. The early stage bacteria are very gaseous; later stage bacteria are not. Many people mistakenly think cessation of bubbling means the kraut is finished – it is not! At this point if you sample it you’ll find it is pretty tangy, but the cabbage still tastes raw and crunchy, and there might be noticeable saltiness. Give your kraut more time! Right now it is more of a lightly fermented salad – good, but not well-preserved, and still far from being a traditional sauerkraut.

2 Weeks: Vigorous bubbling has subsided.

Since it is done producing gas, the kraut may have settled in the jar a bit. At this stage it will also reabsorb much of the liquid that it had released earlier. This is why you must not overfill your jars – if the liquid oozed out your kraut will no longer be submerged. If you do find that the cabbage is poking up out of the brine, open the jar and push down gently on the top until the brine rises up to cover the veggies. If you have insufficient brine in the jar, mix ½t salt in ½c water and pour enough of that on top to fully cover the kraut. You may now tighten the ring completely for the remainder of the fermentation, as there won’t be any more off-gassing.

Sauerkraut fermentation is a process that takes several weeks. How long will depend on a number of factors including: the sweetness of the cabbage, ambient temperature, salinity, whether you’ve got the Fermentation Fairies on your side. . .  😉 A good general rule is to check your sauerkraut at 4 weeks – if it is still bubbling give it another week; if not, have a taste. The strips of cabbage should no longer taste raw or have any sweetness left, they should be fermented all the way through and translucent. The saltiness will also be considerably diminished. If you find that fermentation is not complete, give it another week or two. I live in a temperate climate so my house is fairly cool year-round, and I’ve found that 6 weeks is the perfect amount of time to ferment sauerkraut here. Below is a photo of the kraut after 6 weeks of fermenting – fresh and tangy with some nice crunch to it. Delicious!

Klassic Kraut is ready after 6 weeks.

At this point you should move your sauerkraut to the fridge to slow fermentation. Kept in a cold fridge it will stay tangy and crisp for many months. If you have a cool basement or cellar, that’s also a good place to store it. But I predict it won’t last long! Sauerkraut is so good with almost everything – sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, chili, pot roast, stew, salads, eggs. . . Pretty much the only food I don’t eat it with is dessert! (Although I’ve heard there’s a chocolate cake recipe that calls for sauerkraut, so you never know.) This jar is going fast, so I’d better get another one started right away. In fact, once you get the hang of making kraut you’ll probably want to start a new jar every 3-4 weeks. There are so many possibilities for flavoring kraut that you’ll never get tired of it. Experiment with different spices, or try adding thinly sliced onions, apples, turnips, or grated carrots or beets. The possibilities are endless! Or try one of my advanced recipes, such as Spicy Sauerkraut or Kraut-Chi. 🙂

Additional Information

Salt
Choose a pure, unrefined salt with no additives for your sauerkraut. Salt which has had anti-caking agents added to it might give your kraut an off flavor, or odd color. For best flavor and most nutritional benefit, purchase a salt that has some color to it – usually pink or gray. The color indicates that all the healthful trace minerals are intact. Popular choices are: Redmond Real Salt, Pink Himalayan, or Celtic Grey Sea Salt.

For best results, you’ll want to use an amount of salt that is equal to about 2% of the weight of the vegetables. If you have a food scale, this is easy to do. If not, follow this rule: For each 2 pounds of vegetables you’ll need about 1 tablespoon of fine grind (or table) salt. Weigh your cabbage at the grocery store or check your receipt if it’s sold by the pound. For each half-pound over that amount, add another teaspoon of salt. These are general guidelines and you don’t have to be too fussy about it, because anywhere from 1% to 3% salinity will give you a nice sauerkraut, so a little bit of fudging either way isn’t going to ruin things. Many people don’t measure their salt at all, and simply salt to taste. (This is, in fact, how it was done in the old days.) If you’d like to try that here is what I recommend: Start with a little less salt than you think you need. After you’ve mixed it in have a taste. The cabbage should be salty enough that you don’t want to eat a big bowl of it, but not so salty that you can’t stand to eat a little forkful. Add more salt if necessary, but remember that you can’t take it back out.

Yeasts & Mold
Although the brine is anaerobic, at the surface some oxygenation can occur and this is where spoilage organisms can sometimes take hold. Using a lid is the best way to prevent these problems, since they need oxygen to reproduce, and the rapid carbon dioxide production will quickly force oxygen out of the jar. However, even when using a lid you might find something icky growing on the surface. Most of the time what you find will be completely benign. Let’s discuss the two possibilities:

Kahm yeast is a colloquial name for an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast that can occur on the surface of fermenting fruits and vegetables. The technical name is pellicle, meaning a thin skin that has formed on the surface. It is white, and may be powdery or thready in appearance. Sometimes there will be bubbles of carbon dioxide trapped in it. Kahm yeast is really quite pretty! It may have an odor of fermenting beer or rising bread dough. Although it is undesirable, kahm yeast will not make you sick or harm you in any way. Since it needs oxygen to grow, I’ve found it is best to leave it undisturbed in a lidded jar – if you open the lid to skim it off you’re just introducing more oxygen, encouraging further growth. When the kraut is finished skim the pellicle off before transferring the jar to the fridge. Below is a picture of some kahm yeast that grew in a batch of beet kvass I made.

Kahm yeast on Beet Kvass.

Mold can be any of a number of multi-celled fungi that grow on food. It may be white, gray/black, blue-green, or pink, and could be furry, slimy, or might form little flowers. Some people are allergic to molds. Some molds can produce mycotoxins which result in a long list of ailments for humans and animals. (The big mold baddie is aflatoxin, which spoils grains that have gotten damp.) What you are most likely to encounter when making sauerkraut is furry white mold, sometimes with gray or black spores at the top, or little blue-green flowers of mold floating on the top of the brine. It’s important to note that in a soft food, the mold will have invisible tendrils extending down below the surface. According to the United States Dept. of Agriculture, if you find mold growing in a soft food (such as kraut) the entire batch should be tossed. (Read more here.) I can tell you that the traditional practice was to scoop and discard any mold growing on the top and eat the rest. But then, they couldn’t afford to toss their entire harvest of hundreds of pounds of cabbage. You, on the other hand, can drive to the market and spend a few bucks on a fresh cabbage anytime. I’ll leave it to you to decide what’s best, with a gentle reminder not to be “penny wise, but pound foolish.” 😉

Mold growing on Kraut-chi.

Starter Cultures
If you’ve spent some time looking at sauerkraut recipes on the Internet, you’ve probably encountered a few that suggest adding a starter culture such as: a dried bacterial culture, whey, brine from an already fermented batch of kraut, or vinegar. Please, do not try any of these things as you are more likely to encounter problems and be dissatisfied with your results. All fresh vegetables have ample bacteria on them for fermentation – they do not ever need a boost, a jump start, or speeding up. I know if you’ve never done this before it can seem like magic and you might be questioning whether the process will work – I felt that way, too! But I promise you that this will work without adding anything extra. Vegetable fermentation is actually very well understood, with numerous scientific studies, and even whole textbooks written about it and they have all reached pretty much the same conclusion: you need only vegetables and salt. Adding starter cultures will disrupt the natural process, shortening important bacterial stages or even bypassing them altogether. When that happens the kraut may become bitter and soft. The worst thing you could do would be to add whey – dairy cultures are quite different from the soil-based microbes that ferment vegetables and adding them is very much akin to introducing an invasive species that consumes resources and displaces the native organisms. Powdered starters are less likely to do this, but they are expensive and there’s just no reason for you to spend your money on that when people have been making fermented vegetables for more than 2,000 years without it. And if that doesn’t convince you, consider this: Every fall, tens of millions of people in Europe, Russia, and the Korean Peninsula ferment billions of pounds of cabbage into sauerkraut and kimchi, and they’re not using any starter cultures.

Produce
Green or red cabbages are your usual choices for making sauerkraut, but the number of other vegetables you can add is endless. All root vegetables (turnips, beets, rutabagas, kohlrabi, carrots) make wonderful additions to kraut, as do radishes, onions, celery, leafy greens (collards, kale, mustard, chard), and even some fruits, like apples or cranberries. Just remember to follow the basic recipe of ½ tablespoon salt for each pound of vegetables. Slice everything thin, or grate for large or woody vegetables. Although it’s fun to make sauerkraut all year round with green cabbages from the store, the best time of year for making kraut is in the fall. After summer is over, when the weather has turned cool, the cabbages will be very large and sweet and juicy. Shop your local farmer’s markets to find the big white cabbages grown just for making kraut. They are huge, dense, and with a sweetness like apples. They’re so juicy you’ll never need to add any brine. Fall is the time of year when it’s nice to have a large crock for fermenting. I always fill up my 3-gallon crock in October with kraut to give away as Christmas presents in Decenmber.

L – White cabbage from farmer’s market.
R – Green cabbage from grocery store.

In the photos above and below you can see the difference between white cabbages and green cabbages. The white cabbage weighed in at over 12lbs! It was so dense that my 8″ chef knife got lost in it, and hacking it apart required some serious muscle. The green cabbage was about 2½lbs. and much more manageable, but less sweet and juicy. Experienced fermenters can never pass up a big, white cabbage at the market!

The white cabbage is very dense, with less core.

I hope I’ve answered all your questions here, but if not just leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you out. Now go get started fermenting! 😀

Sarah

 

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88 Responses

  1. I wanted to know the way of making saurkraut and this being the best article with all the details given neatly, i wanted to thank u whole heartedly! Fermented foods alone will help us survive or thrive in the future. other foods have no self generated b vit. cooked and raw foods are now considered secondary to benefit our health! Fermented is primary health food! My site called sunflowerdance in facebook covers all health tips and discussions and advice ffor the benefit of esp health of Women &Children. I am a naturopath dedicated to finding ways of mitigating suffering humanity from diseases.
    – param

    • Sarah says:

      You’re welcome!

      • Hannah says:

        When making sauerkraut do you have to do the normal canning it? Like dropping it in boiling water and all that? I see in here you didn’t do that and you suggest opening it a few times checking for different things. Just wanted to make sure. I am new to making sauerkraut and canning haha.

  2. Andrea says:

    Thank you! I look forward to doing this soon 🙂

  3. Excellent article!! You did not miss a thing.:-)

  4. chagit says:

    Thank you so much for explaining it all so clearly.. Just wondering, how long do you ferment it for?
    Thank you!

    • Sarah says:

      I usually let my sauerkraut ferment for 6 weeks. At warmer temperatures it might be ready a little sooner. 4 weeks is the minimum.

  5. Greg says:

    i followed your recipe and made this a few days ago. i’m so excited to taste it! thanks for the detailed instructions!

    i used a fancy jar with a hermetic seal. so to let it breath, i removed the rubber seal, and i am leaving the top cracked open with a weight on top of the jar. at what point can i close the jar completely? (will it explode or ruin the batch if i seal it before the 6 weeks is up?)

    • Sarah says:

      I often use hermetic jars for fermenting and have found that they will release any excess gas via the rubber gasket, so it is OK to close it up from the beginning. Good luck!

  6. Debbie says:

    This was my first attempt at making sauerkraut and it was delicious … straight out of the jar! I used pink Himalayan freshly ground salt and only needed to add 1/2 cup more brine while processing. So thrilled I can do this in my 2qt masons … thank you so much for taking the time to write this up.

  7. Annie says:

    I have just been in AWE how much more delicious sauerkrauts are when made with extremely fresh cabbages. This should have been obvious but I’ve learned it first hand! xxx

  8. Kathy Mc says:

    I used red cabbage and kolrabi and carrots for my first attempt. It didn’t seem to bubble at all and after a couple of weeks I put it in the ‘frig. Should I take it back out and ferment it longer?

    • Sarah says:

      Some things bubble more than others, and if you aren’t using a lid the bubbling can be less noticeable. Sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the fridge, but at a much slower pace. If it’s been in there a while it may be fermented enough. If not, you certainly can take it back out and give it a little more time on the counter.

  9. Michelle says:

    how long will it keep in or out of the frig? months, years?

    • Sarah says:

      Out of the fridge: weeks, but it keeps on fermenting so the flavor will change. In the fridge: months or years. It does also continue to ferment in the fridge, but much more slowly.

  10. Phoebe says:

    The step-by-step instructions are just what I need, thanks! You recommend against whey for fermenting vegetables. Would you recommend the same (salt only) for fruit?

    • Sarah says:

      Fermenting fruit can be tricking because the high sugar content makes ethanol fermentation more likely, and also because most people wouldn’t enjoy the taste of a fruit-based ferment with the same amount of salt that is used in vegetable ones. In that case, adding a starter can be beneficial.

  11. Sheena says:

    Thanks! I have been looking for a great explanation to share with people, and this is spot on-simple, but covers all the bases. May I share this if I make sure to credit you include your website? I will not do so without permission, since I detest intellectual property theft, which is rampant online. Thanks again for such a great explanation. Would you ever be interested in writing up a measurement by weight recipe?

    • Sarah says:

      I’m perfectly fine with a share as long as I’m credited and links are included. Thanks! When you say write this up by weight, do you mean in metric?

  12. Wow, Thanks for all that info. You have just taken all of my confused brain away. I have read so much about fermenting it just all became mush in there. Thank you for the post. I have used a starter 🙁 but the next batch I make will just be salt. 🙂 Cheers Glenda

  13. Rena says:

    I made this kraut a couple days ago. There’s really alot of liquid! Even though I left a couple inches at the top, it’s already all the way there. Should I “pfft” the lid to release the gas and let some of the liquid escape on purpose?

  14. Rena says:

    Hi, just wanted to ask about the kraut I made almost 5 wks ago. I opened it today to look at it and there’s a white “scum”, I’ll call it, between the covering leaf and the stone I had holding it down. Is that mold? It doesn’t look like either one of the photos of mold in your article.

  15. Rena says:

    Ok, thanks much. Looking forward to eating this first batch!

  16. Rena says:

    One more question: It appears that the stones partially dissolved as there’s like a fine sand all through the kraut. If I rinse all the kraut which, of course, will get rid of the brine, should I just put more water in it or make more brine?

    • Sarah says:

      At this point it is not going to ferment further, so if you add brine it’s going to taste salty. I would maybe use plain water, or just find a way to eat up this batch quickly. You could add it to a casserole or soup, or make a warm German-style potato salad.

  17. Rena says:

    Thank you.

  18. Heddi Gambale says:

    I am using a crock. When the kraut is finished can I put it in mason jars with metal lids and keep it in the fridge. top it off with water? what is the best way to preserve what comes out of a crock?

    • Sarah Miller says:

      Yes, that is just what I do – ferment in a crock and transfer contents to mason jars when finished. Pack the kraut into the jars very tightly and you should have plenty of brine. If there was enough brine in the crock then there is enough for the jars. 🙂

  19. Shelly says:

    Hi Sarah! Awesome instructions and very informative. I just finished 7 weeks of waiting for my first ever batch of sauerkraut. I used the Gartopf german stoneware fermentation pot with weights and a lid. When I pulled to top off tonight, I noticed a small dime sized flower of mold with greenish-blue color sitting on top of the weights. Plus, 2 very tiny specs of something white on the weights (I suspect mold, but it was not colored. The weights didn’t have brine covering them any longer, but the brine was still covering the cabbage. I pulled the weights out and the 4 large cabbage leaves covering the top. Then, scooped all the sauerkraut out. It smells great, tasted great and didn’t show any other signs of mold, other than what was on top of the weights. Since this is my first time, I would love your opinion on why it might have molded on top and if you would have thrown it out or kept it? I kept it based on the fact that the mold was on top of the weights and not on the kraut, plus it smelled and tasted great. But, I always love a 2nd opinion. Thanks again!

    • Sarah Miller says:

      Personally I would not mind eating that and have done the same when there is a tiny bit of mold on the plate that doesn’t have direct contact with the food. It’s hard to say why it happened but I suspect the brine level dropped before it was fully acidified and that allowed some mold growth on the weights. Not sure what the best method is to sterilize the weights. I imagine a good washing, with a vinegar rinse, and dry them out in the oven.

  20. Natalie says:

    Hi, I made kraut with starter culture, cabbage, salt, one apple and herbs. I elft it one week due to the very hot brisbane heat in a Weck fermenting vessle with air lock attached, It had a weight on but strands of cabbage have still floated to the top and there appeared to be a tiny amount of slimy stuff on the top after the week (light coloured) and the cabbage at the top, is very grey, I scooped out the top inch of kraut and threw and the rest is in the fridge, had to top up with filtered water twice, will it still be OK too eat? Also how lng do you recommend in the fridge too ferment, its way too hot to leave out, it spent the first week with ice packs in a cool bag during the day as it was 30-40 degrees… Thanks

    • Sarah Miller says:

      I would leave it in the fridge for a full month or longer. If it doesn’t grow mold it’s fine to eat.

      • Natalie says:

        Thank you 🙂

      • Natalie says:

        Its been two weeks in the fridge now and 3.5 weeks since I made it and just checked it, even though there is still a few strands of cabbage above the weight, the rest is fully submerged and no signs of anything growing yet, slime or mold, smells good too, will leave it another month as I already have a fermented Jar done in the Pete evans fermenting jar too eat first, I made a week earlier 🙂

  21. Maria says:

    Hi! I was so excited to bravely delve into the world of fermenting with your recipe (which is beautifully presented, by the way). My kraut is on day 8, and I’m a little disappointed that I’m not getting the same results as yours. Very little change in color and volume. I’m keeping it in our “dungeon”–an indoor root cellar of sorts, dark and cool (around 50° F). Is that too cold? Should I bring it upstairs where it is warmer, around 60°? Do you think I may have used too much salt? (I wasn’t very accurate in my measurements.) I bought three more heads of cabbage tonight so that I could experiment more 🙂 and I’m excited to get this right so that I, too, can have yummy sauerkraut!

    • Maria says:

      It’s doing it! This morning brought about an overflowed jar! I took out the weights to allow more room for expansion and out brine in the overflowed jar to cover the cabbage. Was that correct?

    • Sarah Miller says:

      50*F is a bit cool for fermentation. If you bring it into the house it should start fermenting normally. Too much salt can slow things down, but you really have to use a lot. It’s good to sample as you’re mixing – it should be saltier than you would normally eat, but not so salty as to be offensive to the palate.

  22. Eric says:

    made my first batch 3/1. There’s hardly any liquid in the jar and I did not experience any bubbling or “rise” in the cabbage in the jar. What do you think I did wrong?

  23. tracy says:

    I’m using brand new food grade 4 gallon plastic containers with lids. My questions are:
    a. Should I keep the lids on tight? I
    b. I have plenty of brine and have bowls with zip locks full of brine but I still have a few “escapees” that have floated up…will this cause me problems?
    To this point all seems normal..its been 7 days, I have some bubbling, no scum/mold that I can see, the green color of the cabbage is weakening and I’m keeping it in a room at about 65-70 degrees. First batch & a bit uncertain!

    • Sarah Miller says:

      A. If the lids are tight they should have an airlock. If you don’t have airlocks then don’t fasten them all the way.
      B. A few tiny floaters are usually not a problem if there isn’t too much headspace in the container. The buckets should be about 75% full.

      Everything sounds good so far!

  24. Rena says:

    I made this last year and it turned out great. I’m trying it again this month and, after 9 days, there isn’t any bubbling. The brine is barely covering the top of the cabbage (with the weights off, it doesn’t cover it). Should I add more brine or is it too late for that? Should I just leave it and hope for the best?

  25. Terri says:

    I have fermented kraut for 10 weeks ( 6 on counter and 4 in garage) in a harsch crock. Then I transferred the kraut to smaller jars and put them all in the fridge. Some of the jars developed kham yeast after a couple of weeks. It does spoil the flavour. Is there any way I can avoid this? Even in ancient times they must have disturbed the kraut in order to eat it. Did they pick it out of their harsch crock and recover it with the weights each time? Either way, they had to have disturbed it. I am confused as to how to store it in the fridge without kham developing. I sterilise the jars and cover with kraut juice, even though it seems to absorb it! Advice please!

    • Sarah Miller says:

      I’m honestly stumped about why this is happening. :/ I always transfer my kraut from crock to jars for refrigerator storage with no problem. In the old days they would not have had Harsch crocks, and used open crocks covered with a cloth. The kraut would have stayed in the crock in the basement until it was all eaten. Maybe a splash of vinegar on the top of each jar?

  26. Maggie says:

    At what point would you remove the weight from the jar?

  27. I started my kraut in my crock on the counter June 4th. When its done I want to water bath method to can it. Any suggestions for the process is really appreciated. Like should I drain it and rebrine or leave the brine with the bloom and can as is?

  28. SherpaniKid says:

    Loved how simple you made the process!!! Thank you so very much!!! ***Wondering if the Kraut can be canned, providing one makes a large enough batch (those beautiful 12#ers of cabbage in a crock in the fall!!!)? Would love to do a large crock but would like to preserve it for the long winter. Thank you again!!!

  29. Geneva says:

    I’m the only one who eats Kraut in my house. There’s no room in the fridge. Can I simply make it and leave it in small jars? My house stays 69-70degrees year round.

  30. Kayla Wheeler says:

    I just did this recipe 4 days ago. Today I went to check to make sure too much gas wasn’t building up and there wasn’t any has or bubbles. Thinking maybe I unscrewed it a little too much from the get go…. Do I need to start over?

  31. Kayla Wheeler says:

    Oh and the top layer is starting to get a little brown :/

  32. JEANMARIE TODD says:

    Great job Sarah!

  33. Jennie says:

    Hi Sarah – this is a great tutorial! I found it searching for information to make kraut for the first time. I have the brand new pickle pipes that go on a mason jar and allow the kraut to breathe or self-burp (I’m not sure that’s the right terms, but…). Anyway, can I follow your instructions and just use the pickle pipe on top with a canning ring instead of a canning lid and ring? Thanks so much!

  34. Andrew says:

    So I started this 2 weeks ago, and I’ve had great success with your killer hot sauce recipe before. Followed things pretty much to the letter here. And started 2 jars, one fairly simple as above, and one with some garlic and ginger added. Within 24 hours got liquid coming almost to the top of the jars, although the plainer of yhe two had more bubbling action. After a week the color started to change, as did the aroma – my girlfriend said “it kinda smells like garbage” and it kinda does. After 12 days the liquid started to reabsorb, to the point I felt compelled to add a little brine lest the kraut stick out. I am using clear glass weights, and I can see in one jar that cabbage leaf underneath the weight has some whitish growth on it. I’d like to taste the progress to see where it’s at, but right now neither jar smells particularly good, and while i’m hoping they will taste better than they smell, I’m more concerned that maybe they’ve gone off somehow and that i shouldn’t. How does one tell if it’s off? What are the telltale signs?

  35. Rhonda says:

    I’m using a 3L Pickl-It Jar to do my first ferment of sauerkraut juice & think that the directions of your recipe are probably along the lines of how I should make it. My problem is where to do my initial ferment — my house is around 22-25°C (71°C- 77°C) in summer (& sometimes even hotter if I am out & the a/c is not on), so I can provide neither a cool enough nor stable enough environment for the initial ferment (& my garage is even hotter!). I understand that temperatures that are too high (above 22°C/ 71°F) can make the fermentation go to quickly/compromise the initial ferment, so I don’t think this is worth the risk. My fridge is quite cold, & certainly colder than the recommended 15-22°C (71°C- 77°C) for the initial fermentation stage, though I was planning to move the jar into the fridge, after the initial fermentation, for 2-3 months in the fridge to complete the fermentation.

    Do you have any suggestions on how I can manage the initial fermentation stage? Do you think I should just go ahead with fermenting on the counter top? Would greatly appreciate any advice, thanks 😊.

    Would also like to learn how others living in warm climates manage to do ferments!

    • Nikki R. says:

      Hi Rhonda,
      I live in the Phoenix, AZ area and have fermented year round although I try to do most of my fermenting in our mild FallWinter season. I ferment on the counter top until I notice the bubbling stop and then transfer to the fridge. I usually leave my ferments quite a while in the fridge since the fermenting slows down, but at least I don’t worry about them going bad! I would think with your temps that you could certainly complete your initial ferment on the counter top and then transfer to fridge as you were thinking. Hope it works for you!

      • Rhonda says:

        Hi Nikki,

        Thanks for your reply I appreciated it 😊

        I understand you are using the bubbling activity as your guide for when to move it into your fridge.

        Have you found from experience that if the bubbling is very active it could be a sign that the room temperature is too high, & conversely if there is no bubbling (just a few stationary bubbles) the room temperature may be too cold?

        Just trying to learn what it should look like in these first few days of the initial ferment.

        PS In case of any confusion the temperatures in brackets in my first post were Fahrenheit temps, not Celsius.

  36. Janet says:

    Dear Sarah, I started mind a few weeks ago…but I put a weight in and covered it with a cloth. ..not lid ..is that ok?

  37. Ev says:

    Thank you for this great tutorial! I’m making my first foray into making sauerkraut and am pleased to have stumbled upon your tutorial. You’ve explained the process very simply and well. Now to wait patiently for my sauerkraut to do its thing. Thank you!

  38. Wil says:

    Hi..started a batch with red cabbage…noticed the top inch is turning brown..should I throw out the whole thing or can I rehydrate and not have the whole jar spoil?

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  41. Cindy says:

    I packed my cabbage into a 1 quart mason jar to about two inches from the top. Brine covered over it an inch and the brine was one inch from the top of the jar. I put the weight on top of a cabbage round (a small ceramic dish), so the brine went to about a quarter inch from the top. I used a typical metal lid but left it loose. It is day three now and it has bubbled and some brine has spilled over. There are teeny tiny particles of something floating around in the brine at the top and in the spilled brine in the dish. What is this? And did I make my jars too full? Thanks.

  42. Cindy says:

    Also… I’m a bit confused about air in the jar. If the jar is only 3/4 full of cabbage and only has an inch of brine covering it, isn’t there too much air in the jar and won’t this cause oxidation for sure and probably spoilage?

  43. Kamalini Darling says:

    Mine has been fermenting for 4 weeks now, but it smells wicked bad. It is still bubbling a bit. Is that normal?

    • Kamalini Darling says:

      Now it has been 5 weeks. I used a crock pot and now I saw tiny white maggots on the inside of the jar. I don’t see any in the kraut. Yikes. Horrible.

  44. Maxine says:

    The chocolate cake is a moist and delicious cake. Just make it but don’t say what is in it until. after they eat it.

  1. October 17, 2016

    […] I found this amazing tutorial on how to make sauerkraut in small batches: http://www.killerpickles.com/klassic-kraut/ […]

  2. February 7, 2017

    […] in the dead of winter. All you really need is a jar and time. Here is a great recipe to follow: http://www.killerpickles.com/klassic-kraut/ One of my favorite variations is to add a few leaves of kale, curry powder and red pepper flakes to […]

  3. April 21, 2017

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