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Live Sauerkraut


Timeframe: 1 to 4 weeks

Special Equipment:
Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket. 1 gallon capacity or larger
Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
1-gallon jug filled with water (or a scrubbed and boiled rock)
Cloth cover (such as clean flour sack dishtowel, pillowcase, or towel)

5 pounds cabbage
3 T sea salt

  1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. If you mix green and red cabbage, the kraut will be bright pink. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop.
  2. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also keeps the cabbage crunchy by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. About 3 T of salt is a rough guideline for 5 pounds of cabbage. Low- and no-salt krauts are also possible.
  3. Add other vegetables if you like – carrots, onions, garlic, greens, turnips, beets, seaweed, burdock root. Fruit (apples), herbs and spices (caraway, dill and celery seeds among others) can also be added. Experiment.
  4. Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack a bit at a time and tamp down as you go. Packing tightly helps force water out of the vegetables.
  5. Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock. Place a clean weight (glass jug filled with water) on cover. The weight forces water out and keeps the vegetables submerged under the brine. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.
  6. Press down on the weight to help force water out. Continue periodically every few hours until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to 24 hours. If the brine does not rise above plate level by the next day, add enough salt water to raise the level above the plate. Add about 1T of salt to 1 C of water and stir until completely dissolved.
  7. Leave the crock to ferment. A cool place will slow the fermentation and preserve for a longer period of time.
  8. Check kraut every day or two. Volume reduces as fermentation proceeds. Mold may appear on the surface. Skim it off. It is just a surface phenomenon due to exposure to air. The anaerobic process taking place in the brine is fine. Rinse off the plate and weight. Taste the kraut. It starts to be tangy after a few days, and taste gets stronger as time passes. In cool temperatures, this can go on for months. In warm temperatures, the life cycle is more rapid. Eventually the kraut becomes soft and the flavor turns pleasant.
  9. Enjoy. Scoop out a bowl at a time and keep it in the fridge. The flavor evolves over the course of a few weeks. The sauerkraut juice is a delicacy, and an unparalleled digestive tonic. Each time you remove some kraut from the crock, repack the crock carefully. Be sure the cover and weight are clean. If the kraut is not submerged below brine, add salted water as necessary.
  10. Try to start a new batch before the previous batch runs out. You can add the leftover old kraut and juice to boost the new batch with active culture starter.

Recipe from wild fermentation: The flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods By Katz, Sandor Ellix and Fallon, Sally.